Thursday, December 31, 2009

Forecast: Full On Surreality

okra playing cards
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
For a day that began at the Buncombe County courthouse, it's not going too badly. We got out of the courthouse around 11 and when we got home my friend Adam was already here, mudding the walls in the part of the basement that I was hoping, someday, to turn into a studio apartment but that in the meantime is going to turn into another living room so Audrey can live upstairs and still have all her stuff, which we must move into the house soon. Sometimes I think Adam is more like a force of nature than a human being and that would probably explain why while I was trying to have a lengthy and fairly serious conversation with my son on the phone there were hundreds of gallons of water sluicing off the roof while Audrey tried to put the ladder back in place in front of the front door. Adam didn't quite fall off, though, and it would have been quieter if didn't turn out that Perdita has a strong aversion to men on the roof. What with the barking and shouting and all it was kind of hard to explain my parental point of view.

Then my brother showed up with 700 feet of Christmas lights, since they were throwing them away at his work and while I was thinking about that Adam brought out the chainsaw, which makes it difficult to think anyway, I find.

Then Adam and my brother left and Audrey and I settled into playing some Yahtzee and having a bloody mary to make up for our morning. That was peaceful, or as peaceful as it ever gets around here, what with the dogs and Okra and all, or at least it would have been except that then they came back.

They did not come back alone either: they brought friends. Piscine friends: specifically, the fishtank I got Annie for Christmas. She's returning it. The fish wouldn't stand still, she said, and they made her nervous. It came in a train with my brother and Adam all carrying bits and pieces and a tin bowl of water with two fish in it, now resting on the kitchen table. There are bits of aquarium here and there and Audrey is taking down the Christmas tree so we can rearrange the living room to accommodate this fishtank.

We're not going to think about the fact that Annie had eight fish four days ago and now there are only the two - god, I really hope she was kidding about taking them into the bathtub with her. But one never knows and sometimes it's best that way. Merry New Year! Put on your helmets and prepare for good times ahead!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


woodpecker 3
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
My staycation is so incredibly fun that I can hardly wait to get back to work, where hopefully I can rest and get projects done and not be freaked out all the time. Ha ha! Life is funny like that!

I have, among moments of quietly freaking out, been trying to help my daughter get through a rough patch in her life and simultaneously help my son buy a car. None of this is going very smoothly, alas, but I did end up yesterday in one of Swannanoa's more, um, picturesque neighborhoods, test driving a gigantic yellow Cadillac through a trailer park. Meanwhile, an entire bunch of strange and slightly scary teenagers were frolicking around this rustic village with their pitbulls and crack pipes and we were a bit concerned that Audrey's car would no longer be with us when we returned. The lady who was selling the car came along for the test ride and she was very friendly and talkative. I learned from her that she planned to keep the knocked off rim of one Caddy wheel as a souvenir (well, yeah, it is the kind of thing I personally would totally keep on the mantelpiece of my trailer too) and that her teenagers were driving her nuts but that she had cried when they went to preschool. Also, one time she raced her sister in this very Cadillac and left said sister in her Buick in the dust. Whooo eeee! The Cadillac was approximately the size and shape of the QE2 and had roughly the same steering ability and all in all I think just perhaps it is not the ideal car for my hilly neighborhood of narrow streets and sharp turns.

In other news, I've been having strange bird encounters. I was over at my daughter's old house helping her pack up the kitchen when I noticed a tufted titmouse sitting on the side mirror of my parked car. All was fine and cute until he looked down to discover that there was another bird inside that mirror and, worse, that that bird was clearly a nefarious enemy spy. For the next five minutes he waged furious war while Audrey and I laughed helplessly from the kitchen window. That was sweet, as is the woodpecker in this picture, who has taken to visiting my feeder once or twice a day, which makes me strangely delighted.

Audrey has gotten me addicted to Yahtzee. We've been playing a lot of games, which has given us the idea of starting a board game review blog. It will be beautifully designed and each entry will have a fantastically perfect moodily lit photo of a board game and a text entry which will read "This game SUCKS!" So far we have reviewed Life, Outburst and Scrabble, which doesn't suck but, hey, you have to be consistent.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Today is the first day of my staycation! Isn't that loathsome? Such a horrible word for such a delightful event: an entire week where I don't actually have to get up in the morning and go to the office. I do, of course, still have to get up in the morning and feed the dogs and, one of these days, walk the dogs and all that kind of stuff, though, which seems to be a kind of design flaw in the whole staycation ideal but it matters not: I have spent this entire day cleaning up and puttering around and it has been awesome. Although if I did it every day I would probably go berserk round about day 12 or so, there is that. I am reading Charles Stross' book Glasshouse, which is, among other things, about how sane people go insane when forced to live by the norms of the early 21st century, particularly if they're trying to be housewives, and I can see it. I actually have been a housewife once or twice in my long and checkered career and I believe I was kind of insane. On the other hand I suppose you could say that of most of my life, so the housewifing thing might not be the cause. Oh well! Some kinds of craziness are way underrated.

It turns out that the dogs, when left to their own devices all day with an obliging human to open the back door whenever necessary, have a nice sane schedule. About once an hour they are seized by the need to run frantically out the door and around the yard on a squirrel patrol. Then they come back in, bounce for a couple minutes and settle into comfortable naps for an hour before the possibility of a treacherous squirrel perimeter break or, heaven forbid, someone walking a dog down the street (an insult not to be borne) sends them back outside to bark and go berserk for half an hour. This goes on all day - it's actually not at all unlike the average American workplace.

In other news, I got Annie an aquarium for Christmas. I was planning to set the whole thing up at my house and carry it over to her house, ready to go, but that turned out to be a completely insane idea. Aquariums are sort of fixed points in the domestic universe: they do not move easy. So we took it over there on Christmas day and filled it up and left it for 24 hours without fish, which we were worried would be difficult for her to grasp, but she got it fine. She said that once she had the fish she would take them into the bathtub with her, too, but we're all going to overlook that part. It's logistically unlikely, after all, even if the comment did almost make lasagne come out Audrey's nose. I called her on Saturday and she was ready for her fish, so off we went to the Asheville Aquarium, which is a strange and wonderful place that not only has the fish and stuff in tanks you would expect, but also couches and a coffee bar. Annie was thrilled. I foresee many more visits and, thanks to a really nice, really knowledgeable guy, there are now some neon tetras and orange fish whose name I forget swimming happily about in a tank with a plant, a light and all those good fishy things.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Belated Christmas Post!

snow tree fixed
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Thanks to Jay, we haz internets again. Whooo! So here is the blog post I wrote on Christmas, only two days late.

We've had our fair share plus some of holiday trauma and drama here at Hangover Headquarters this past week. I'm not going to go into it for the most part, because it is not really mine to share. Suffice it to say that if you are looking for surreality in the everyday, going to the Buncombe County Courthouse two days before Christmas should definitely be on your lifetime agenda. There's nothing like trying to get to the clerk of court's office to do some important paperwork while the entire courthouse is having a Christmas party. Yep, there were tables of food and coolers of drinks (did you know that the registrar of deeds department boasts not one but two coolers, both labeled in giant letters as their property?) and karaoke carolers and children running amok in festive Christmas clothing. The clerk of court who gave us our paperwork was eating deviled eggs while in the background, amplified by two stories of marble echoes, a tribe of county employees mangled We Three Kings.

But! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that good cheer! We are all good here. Audrey & her cat Okra have moved in at least for the nonce and so it is all magic Santa cheer, since Okra is not used to dogs and the dogs are not as enthusiastic as one would think about welcoming their old pal Pebble's sister into the house, so we have caroling animals and crashes as our background music this fine Yule morning. Theo is eating wrapping paper; Django is running in circles with his Christmas squeaky and Perdita and Okra are locked into a battle of wills on the stairs. Audrey got a laptop from Santa, who also kindly provided a router, but of course the whole thing crashed this morning, so I've already been on the phone with Charter tech support for an hour. Yay tech support from Mumbai! We didn't even have to have that awkward Merry Christmas conversation!

Santa brought us all new pajama pants and socks and underwear - young Miles comments that perhaps he has, finally, reached full sock saturation point and maybe he doesn't have to get socks and underwear every single Christmas? Ha ha! Ah, the naivete of youth! As it was then, is now and ever shall be, my children: Christmas is about socks, underwear and pajamas. Also, calendars. Audrey gave me a great one that she has helpfully filled out with housekeeping tasks, a brilliant idea. No, really, I like it. And Miles gave me a wonderful piece of local art: a print with flying saucers attacking City Hall, which goes beautifully with a print my friends Tom & Linda sent me from Tucson: a woman saying Fuck Off, I'm Smoking in large cartoon letters. Hurray for art for Christmas! And candy. It's amazing how the kids' stockings were stuffed with my very favorite candies in the world - to wit, chocolate covered espresso beans, candied grapefruit slices and Swedish fish, but Santa is wise that way. Santa also is eating his way through the Pepperidge farm entertaining assortment of really good cookies that I bought for him yesterday in a moment of sugar deprived weakness.

Here is hoping that your holidays are just as full of sugar and love as ours.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not Eaten by Abominable Snowman Despite Evidence to the Contrary

Christmas is over! Awesome! It's been a little grueling around Hangover Headquarters this holiday season, y'all, and the gruelingness of it all includes trouble with the internet, so if you have been attempting to reach me through the tubes, well, you have not been able to and you are still not able to, although perhaps that will change this evening when my talented and brilliant friend Jay comes over and sees if he can force the small blinking box that contains the internet to play nice.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowpocalypse Continuing

pack square walker
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Driven by the desperate need to get Christmas presents - also, the desperate need to get the hell out of my house, ye gods - I shoveled out my car and went shopping yesterday. I also took Audrey up to the Long Shoals Road Waffle House where her car had been languishing since Friday morning. The roads were not wonderful, but they were not terrible either, although there were a ton of assholes in SUVs zipping around being all, Hey, look at me! I have never used this car in 4 wheel drive mode before! Now I can cut you off and lurch unevenly onto the plowed highway without looking just as effectively than I did last summer! Even the strip mall parking lots were pretty clear, which was handy, because it turns out that my nifty short fuzzy suede boots are completely useless in the snow, unless, that is, you enjoy wet feet. In which case, you are a duck and my brother wants to have you for Christmas dinner.

Thus I was surprised when I came to work this morning only to discover that a) I live on the high priority side of Riverview as far as plowing goes and the low priority bit, which is how I get to Clingman and thence to work, is, um, low priority and mostly a skating rink and b) most of downtown is apparently also low priority. It was less plowed than West Asheville, which I found surprising, but there you have it: Asheville isn't really used to big snow and given that it only happens every 16 years or so, that is fairly understandable. Baltimore, on the other hand, where it snows every single year and yet the entire city reacts each time as if it had never seen snow before, used to drive me nuts.

But fuck the snow! Let's return to the Christmas dinner controversy! I offered my entire family a choice of 3 possible entrees: standing rib roast of beef along with Yorkshire pudding, which is what my mother used to make and thus hallowed; crown roast of pork, which I have never made but which I thought my son might like, also, my mother made it occasionally, so, you know, hallowed or lasagne, which is what we used to make every Christmas when we were hippies and is thus not hallowed but, let me tell you, is a shit ton cheaper and easier than the above options.

Nobody wanted roast beef. That's okay; it is sort of, well, beefy. Nobody wanted lasagne, which wasn't surprising: nobody ever wants lasagne. Nobody wanted pork roast, which was surprising: I thought the novelty and the pork-ness of it all would make it the winner. So much for my suggestions: what they do want, it turns out, is duck. Perhaps a l'orange, or Peking, or curried. Annie says she used to make duck all the time in New York when she was young and it was easy and delicious. My brother waxed enthusiastic over Peking duck form Chinatown. My son remarked as how Thai duck curry, which he had for his birthday, was about the best thing ever. This was helpful and it caused me to think to myself, where the hell do I get a duck? Just sneak on over to the park and strangle one? Are they hibernating? Do ducks hibernate? I haven't seen a duck in a couple of years, come to think of it, but there are a lot of geese. Do they taste the same? Can I train the dogs to catch me a goose in four short days? Do I even want a duck or a goose or a platypus for that matter, if we're going semi aquatic? I have never yet tasted duck that I liked - and besides, even if I can get one, duck probably costs something like $24.99 a pound.

That is why, fuck it, I'm making lasagne.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I started writing more about the SNOWPOCALYPS #AVLSNOMG etc. etc. last night but then the power flickered and went out briefly and so I gave up and went to bed with a book and a flashlight. We never really did lose power, although my brother did and then my aunt. I know this because my brother called me at around quarter to one in the morning to tell me that they had no power and in my sleepfuddled haze, I thought he said they were coming over to my house. I got out of bed (realizing as I did that that yes, I have in fact caught Miles' sore throat and cold) and made up the bed in the computer room and the one in the guest room downstairs and dragged a space heater downstairs and then I went back to bed to commence worrying that my brother and aunt were stuck in a ditch. Finally I figured out that if they were dumb enough to leave Annie's house in the middle of a blizzardy night then it was not my fault if they went into a ditch and what would I do about it anyway besides walk down there and say, hmm, yes, you are indeed in a ditch? Still, I woke up every couple of hours to see if they had showed up, which they finally did around 9:30 this morning, having sensibly stayed put last night.

There were weird people out walking around late last night. There was a kid with a snowboard around 2 am; a snowboard and a friend who had sat down in the snow and was burying his legs across the street. I am the kind of person who gets all fond and sentimental over stuff like that - oooh, sweet, look, they're on drugs! - but it was 2 in the morning and I went back to bed. My brother says that when he went by the Admiral last night late, after his power went off and before Annie's died, it was packed. I bet it was. I bet it was fun, too, but I am old and have a cold and on my leg my tooth is gold, or something like that.

I'm surprised we didn't see more cars in ditches or kids on drugs yesterday from Audrey's porch. I walked down there in the wild snow and hung out for a couple of hours, happily measuring the snow by her back door every hour on the hour. There was very little traffic, which is not surprising - Audrey's car is at the Waffle House on Long Shoals Road, actually, because that's as far as she could get from work yesterday morning - and mine is in front of the house, indistinguishable from a snowdrift and likely to remain that way. There were several dogs investigating the snow and stopping by, but hardly any people.

My dogs have been having a great time. Perdita clearly didn't remember ever seeing snow before - she is very young, still - and first thing yesterday morning she was horrified. Django and Theo went dashing down into it while she stayed on the porch and barked, "You're in terrible danger! Come away from the white stuff!" but a few hours later she was bouncing around like she was training for the dog fun Iditarod, in which people pull dogs and the dogs get to leap off and chase snowballs now and then. Ah the dog fun Iditarod!

Anyway, I'm home and probably staying right here. I think I will make soup and keep on hoping that the power keeps on keeping on.

Friday, December 18, 2009


snow and branch
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Snow days are the fucking bomb. I'm sorry to be so vernacular, but there is just no choice when you are faced with a snow day, which, let me reiterate, is the fucking bomb, y'all. It's merrily snowing away outside and warm inside (yeah, it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye the electric bill comes, at which point there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth) and I am still in my pajamas. And home, relaxing into a three day weekend and beginning to seriously contemplate slipping some Irish whiskey into a cup of coffee and taking the dogs and camera for a walk down the street. Or not - it is, as I mentioned, cold out there and warm in here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Air Freshener

speed limit 5
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
I have a new air freshener in my car. I bought it at some checkout or other in one of those consumerist fogs that are no doubt brought on by the buy buy buy drugs they pump into the air handlers. Yes, those drugs, the ones originally invented by the CIA and rapidly coopted by various Marts - you know those drugs. They're the reason you end up coming home from the superstore with seven plastic boxes in various colors, three sets of nail trimmers and a bead curtain you will never hang up.

Ordinarily I scorn air fresheners - they give me headaches. This one, though, is shaped like a little flower and made of translucent orange flexible plasticy stuff; it said on the packaging that it sparkled in the sunlight so I was all, ooooh, yes, I need a sparkly orange flower that emits sweet aromas in my car, right now. Well. When the sunlight hits it it - looks like translucent flexible orange plastic in sunlight. Could you call that sparkling? Not really, but I would forgive the lack of glitter if it smelled okay. Unfortunately, what it smells like is a tangerine. And not just any tangerine but a tangerine that some child has partially peeled and hurled deep underneath the car seat, where it has been lurking for several weeks. Every time I get into the car I want to dive under the seats with rubber gloves and extract that goodie because believe me, whether you call it a rotting tangerine or a rotting clementine (let's all face it: clementines are tangerines in fancy boxes, okay?) I know that smell. I did not drive a mini van decorated with plastic dinosaurs, peanut butter and jelly sandwich crusts and eternal jelly beans throughout the nineties for nothing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekend Survived

perdita sleeping
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Here is a picture of Perdita sleeping by the Christmas tree. Yes, the tree is up and thanks to my wonderful friends, it is even decorated. (Helpful hint! Put up the tree and the lights, then leave the box of ornaments right by the tree and throw a party. During the party say lugubriously several times that you just don't have time to decorate the tree, oh, how much you wish somebody would decorate it for you. Leave the room. Tree will get done! Yay!)

I got the tree again this year from Enron, who is this guy at the Gas Up. Should you also wish to purchase a very West Asheville tree, stop at the place next to the Admiral on Haywood. The sign on the gate says, If Nobody Here Go to Gas Up and so you must do that. Then the Gas Up lady will call out for Enron and he will disappear into a back room and the other lady will say, "Go on back over to the lot, sweetie. He'll be right over there." Do that and voila, there he will be, perhaps along with an English guy who is also buying a tree and there will be a cute moment there where Enron will think you are together and you will both chuckle and say no, no, separate and you, at least, will think that if this was a movie or a pop song, the consequences of this chance meeting would be clear. However, since it's real life, you will never see this guy again. Oh well, pick a tree, give Enron $35 and the tree is on the roof of your car. Most excellent.

The party was lovely - we did Dirty Santa! Everyone wanted the remote control helicopter and the turtle slippers! I got a large croaking toad plus everything everyone left in my house, ha! - but I'm still recovering from the hangover. As my age advances my hangovers seem to be getting exponentially worse, which is why I rarely drink too much anymore, sigh. No, seriously, it has gotten pretty rare. Or comparatively rare, I guess. Compared to, like, Brendan Behan or someone. Whatever, but old Brendan would have enjoyed himself on Saturday night, which is why I spent Sunday in bed. Without Brendan Behan or a chance met British guy of any kind, which is kind of unfair, but there you have it and at least I had Juliet Marilier to keep me company and very good company she is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holidays Ahoy!

stilt houses
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Did you realize that there are only something like nine or eleven shopping days until Christmas? Yes, isn't that depressing? I don't know what it is about this year but my internal calendar is no longer working. Instead of being all "Holidays, ah yes, make cards," I'm more like "Holy shit how can it be December already?" which is following nicely right up on my panic of last month, "Holy shit, how can it be November already?" Apparently, in my mind it's July. Or possibly last March.

So I am not ready for Christmas and since I'm hosting a holiday party tomorrow night, that's a problem. I have not made a single holiday craft and I have not even considered doing Christmas cards. The nativity scene is languishing away in the garage with all the holiday ornaments (the outdoor lights are up but I haven't gotten around to running an extension cord to Frosty yet - that would be because I suck) and the dogs have not even eaten a single cheap Santa hat yet this year. Up until last night I had bought exactly two presents and one of those only became a Christmas present because I found something far more awesome for my son for his birthday.

Ah yes, the birthdays. Why are all my friends and relatives either Sagittarians or Capricorns? As I do every year, I will hereby advise all parents to be that having both your children born within three weeks of December 25 sucks donkey balls in hell. Don't do what I did! Double wrap that sucker in the early spring! Otherwise, you will suffer financially in no uncertain way every winter solstice for the rest of your life, not to mention the general calendar induced frenzies.

Due to birthdays, procrastination, work and other perils of modern life, I have managed to thoroughly doom myself. Tomorrow, I have to go buy a tree, set it up, at least light it and haul the baby jesus out of hibernation for his starring role on the coffee table along with the various Buddhas and pagan deities I like to include in my nativity scene. Then I need to get a present for the Dirty Santa party I'm having that evening (get your mind out of the gutter. Alas, it is not a dirty Santa party in, you know, that way. Pity. I think I'm getting old enough where I find Santa attractive, which is kind of alarming.) and a present for my metafilter secret quonsar person and, and, and - eeep. I have to go shopping. Oh god. I probably ought to bring baby jesus along for the ride.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Photos of the Oven

Of course I took pictures of my mangled and melted oven element. You know I did. Here they are, for your edification. I actually kept a couple of parts of it: it's kind of freakily beautiful in its own peculiar way. Look how it broke and that weird core. I might make jewelry out of it, although I'm way more likely to just put it aside to make jewelry and then do nothing. As has often been pointed out, I mean well, but I'm essentially lame when it comes to getting things done.

As a side note, the only tool I needed to fix the oven was a pair of pliers. Naturally, I left them right on the counter by the oven, where I made those death by chocolate brownies and equally naturally my pliers got partially covered with melted chocolate, which meant that I ended up running them through the dishwasher. For some reason, this struck me as hilarious.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

red light at morning

red light at morning
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
My youngest child turned 18 today - well, if we want to get all specific, he'll turn 18 around 9:00 tonight - and I feel a little bereft and stunned. That's it, really: the kids are grown. I always thought I'd join the Peace Corps when that happened but somehow it no longer sounds all that appealing - if I want to dig a well or something, I can do it in my backyard, which boasts that authentic third world ambiance. Besides, the dogs at least need me. And the grown kids do too, I think - without me, who would buy them Thai food on their birthdays? Or spend hours making insanely complex cheesecake layered marbleized brownies that use 16 eggs and a pound and a half of butter?

Now my son is too old to acknowledge. I never bring up my daughter's age, because I am vain and do not want anyone to realize that I have a daughter that old. Occasionally I try to pass her off as my sister, but this annoys her (for good reason, okay) and she usually glares and makes some kind of cutting comment, so I don't do it much. I used to not worry so much about my son: I was altogether a more socially acceptable age when he was born and it seemed normal to have a kid his age. Now, though, I have to admit that if it seemed normal then it means that I am in fact old enough to have an 18 year old kid. Yikes. I am old and he is going to get a motorcycle and register for the draft. On the bright side, however, I suppose I get to stop feeling guilty for everything my children do - clearly, it's their own fault now when they get into trouble. I suspect, however, that I will still feel vaguely that it is all probably because of something I did wrong. Well, that's parenting in a nutshell, right there.

In other, less brooding on mortality news, I fixed the oven. I went to Cashwells and bought an oven element and put it in all by myself and it works just fine - see brownies comment, above. Truly, I am mighty. Old and mighty.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Quiet Weekend

anson st church
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
I was looking forward to my quiet weekend, in which I planned to clean the house (this cleaning the house thing never seems to stop. Something should be done about that.) and think about painting the blue room and think about putting up Christmas decorations and, also, use the oven a whole lot to keep the house nice and warm. This was an excellent plan and I stopped at BJs last night to get some beer to help me on that whole thinking about doing stuff project and then I came home and started to make a roasted winter squash soup. That is an excellent soup and I will give you the recipe at the end. However.

I put the soup ingredients in the oven and settled down in the big chair to read, firmly determined to ignore the shredded stuff on the carpet and the disastrous state of the kitchen and all was progressing nicely when I glanced over at the stove and noticed that the oven was illuminated like a Christmas tree. Holiday spirit! I must not be all Christmasy yet because instead of inspiring me, I found the light show alarming. I went over to the oven and lo, the heating element on the bottom was white hot in one place and emitting festive sparks and small, cheerful explosive noises, not to mention the three or four inch white flames that were shooting out of the element and lighting up my tin foil covered roasting dish most admirably.

Well. I turned the oven off and then I started to open the oven, which naturally encouraged the fire. I'm not completely devoid of sense, so I closed the oven quickly and then I grabbed my mother's fire extinguisher (I inherited many useful items, such as boxes full of antique batteries and peculiar light bulbs that fit no known fixture on this planet) and the baking soda out of the cupboard and then I stood there, baking soda in one hand, fire extinguisher in the other, glasses on the counter so I could put the extinguisher right up to my eyes and actually read the directions and freaked out. The fire extinguisher directions were daunting, involving as they did pulling a ring out like a grenade and I was reluctant to surrender my roasted vegetables to an oven full of foam, so I waited. I thought about running into the computer room and googling oven fires but then thought that it would probably be better if I stayed there and freaked out instead. There were more small explosion noises, like Jiffy Pop gone way out of hand, and more flames and then the whole thing died down and the element went from white to red to black and I felt it was safe to move away from the stove and call my daughter.

The timing was right, because the vegetables were all done, and so I had the soup made by the time Audrey came over to exclaim. That was nice and then everything was settling down and I was smoking a cigarette on the porch when Theo started barking. This isn't unusual - Theo pretty much barks 24/7, given half a chance, and one of these days the neighbors will be coming over with torches and pitchforks - except that he sounded as if he was at the bottom of a well. I don't have a well that I know of but it's completely not without the bounds of possibility that the former owners might have decided to dig one some merry day, just for shits and giggles, so we were a bit concerned. Theo, as it turned out, was under the garage and so, apparently, was some kind of monster. I don't know what it was; I never saw it and neither did anybody else, but Theo was bound and determined that it was in fact in there, hiding, and by god he was going to bark at it until the end of the world or it came out, whichever happened first.

We, or rather Joey, Audrey's boyfriend, got Theo to come inside and then they left and I settled back down while Theo barked and scratched at the door for the next three hours. Sigh. So that was fun and I went to bed and this morning I got up and took the element out of the stove. Get this: it broke off in chunks in two places when I touched it and was all melted with little bobbles of melted metal all over it. That was freaky, but taking it out made me feel macho and cool as using tools successfully always does and I went on over to the used appliance store on Haywood Road for another element. They did not have one and therefore I have no oven and that is why tomorrow I have to go over to Audrey's to make the complicated and delicious marble cheesecake brownies that Miles has requested for his birthday on Tuesday.

After I left the appliance place (which was cool and full of old appliances including one of those ancient washing machines that looks like a white enamel butter churn or possibly a funerary urn from a hitherto unsuspected civilization where they take their appliances seriously) I went to Lowes to get some keys made. Made the keys, went to Goodwill, scored some books, looked at some unhappy sweaters, went to Kerr Drugs, which I do not like so much since it has decided to reinvent itself as a combination pharmacy and bad health food store, and then went over to Annie's. It was hot at Annie's, because she is 80 and always cold, which explains why she had the damn stove on full tilt.
"Annie," I said, "You cannot use your stove as a space heater. This is a really bad idea."
"But it's cold in there," she said, and I looked at her in her coat and winter hat as I was gasping for air and throwing off garments so I could breathe in the tropical atmosphere.
"No it isn't," I said firmly, and then I gave her some soup and came on home to find out that none of the keys I had made at Lowes actually work and now I have to drive back over there to get them redone.

And there's still a night and a day left in the weekend.

1 butternut squash
1 acorn squash
1 apple, largish
1 onion, I used Vidalia
1 1/2 cans chicken broth
1 stick butter
brown sugar, salt, pepper, thyme, sage

Wash the squash, then cut them in half, scrape out the seeds and put them in a big glass roasting dish thingie. Put butter in each open squash along with a little brown sugar. Peel and cut up the apple and the onion and put them in the roasting dish too. Put the rest of the butter in there, sprinkle with salt and pepper, pour a can of chicken broth over the whole thing and cover it tightly with tin foil. Roast at 400 degrees until done (about an hour) or your oven explodes, whichever comes first. Let cool a bit, then scoop the flesh out of the squash and put it through the food processor in batches, along with the apples and onion and broth from the roasting pan. Put it all into a saucepan as you go, add more broth until it is at your desired soup consistency, add some thyme and sage and reheat it, yum. It is done unless you are having someone over who you wish to propose to you, in which case, cook up some bacon, stir some heavy cream into the soup and top with cooked bacon.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
I have no heat. That is, I sort of have heat as long as it's sunny and/or I cook something in the oven for an hour or more, as I have been boasting ad nauseam for a while right here but, alas, as it has actually gotten cold outside, the sun and the oven are doing less and less and it would be nice to have some kind of baseline heat. Like, you know, a boiler, possibly the boiler that I contracted to pay MULTIPLE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR last summer. I do have my old boiler, but it's broken again, or I used up the remaining 20% of the propane tank in three days in October when I absentmindedly turned it on. I think it's broken: last fall when it broke the first time the Russian repairman who came to fix it got all nostalgic and dreamy eyed when he saw it. "Reminds me of home!" he said Russianly. "Many boilers like this one!" I thought perhaps he would break out the vodka and smoked fish right there but instead he just sort of fixed the boiler (something else broke on it ten days later) and charged me $165. Still, having a boiler that reminds a former denizen of the Soviet Union of his childhood is not really a good sign.

Therefore I am supposedly getting a new boiler. To this end I hired Crazy Furnace Guy - and, because I am so deeply damaged, I hired him not despite his insanity but because of it! Yes! I thought he was charmingly wacky and I like to hire the charmingly wacky because they're just more entertaining than the efficient corporate types. Besides, the only other people who do boilers in Asheville are a chain and I have this thing about chains and, well, stupid endless summer me, I went with Crazy Furnace Guy. Big surprise: crazy furnace guy is crazy and it's way less entertaining in December than it was in August.

Today when I called his cell to inquire politely as to the status of my boiler, I got to hear a five minute monologue on the complete incompetence of every other driver on the road, which was actually quite enjoyable, since I was expecting the brake squeals and impact and screaming at any minute. This would not have upset me as much as it should have, because interspersed with the traffic commentary was the admission that my boiler will not even arrive in Asheville for another two weeks. And I know that by two weeks, he means four. Possibly six.

In other news, we're at that post Thanksgiving point where we ask the eternal question: how old do turkey leftovers have to be before they kill you? Wheeee!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Seventies

Fueled by some mild nostalgia and my continuing quest to avoid finishing the Thanksgiving cleanup (I mean, it's so much fun. I just want it to last forever and, thanks to the dogs, who have been helping with chewed up sticks on the rug and muddy pawprints in the kitchen, it looks like it will!) yesterday I scanned a couple of old pictures and put them up on flickr. This is the sort of project where I have these huge plans to digitize my entire photo collection but when confronted by the reality of sitting there with the scanner for a week or two, I cop out and upload 2 or 3. And here is one!

That right there is me and my brother, in front of the Lorenzo Ghiberti bronze doors in Florence, Italy, sometime in the early 70s, as you can tell from the hair, the clothing and, well, the general 70sness of it all. Or, you could have used MATH! I am apparently unable to use MATH, myself, because not only can I not for the life of me figure out when this or my school pictures were taken, but during Thanksgiving I had a bad minute or two when I was convinced that the turkey would have to cook for 1500 hours, which seemed a little excessive and caused my daughter to laugh at me very excessively.

I only remember bits and pieces of the once in a lifetime (of course it was, alas. I have not had the kind of lifestyle as an adult that includes trips to anywhere more exotic than the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont which admittedly is pretty damn wonderful, but sorely lacking in Renaissance art.) trip to Italy when this was taken. We also went to Venice and there is a wonderful picture of us surrounded by pigeons in Piazza San Marco, which I will scan someday, along with the one of my teenage grandmother in the same spot 60 years earlier. And then, I think, we went to the south of France, although perhaps that was another trip? There were several in those couple of high living years in the wild and woolly seventies.

Definitely, this was the trip where my brother decided that he would open his mouth for every picture, which made him far more adorable than I was, which may account for the mildly peeved expression on my face. It was also the trip where my Aunt Ginny went to mass every single day, which I thought was really a little much but my mother considered a great chance for me to bond with Aunt Ginny. It had nothing to do, I am sure, with her desire to get me out of her hair for an hour or two each day. I remember kind of liking church in Italian or Latin or whatever it was - it made it easier to space out, although harder to know when you were supposed to stand up or sit down or kneel. The iron hand of the Aunt took care of that issue.

The perspective of the child tourist is different from that of the adult. I remember that there were one hell of a lot of steps in Italy, and it seemed as if we had to climb them all. The Italians had apparently also cornered the world market on things made of marble, including statues of naked people, which I tried furtively to examine but which my mother whisked us away from as quickly as possible. They were far more interesting, I thought, than the endless stupid flying babies and buildings, of all the boring things, that we were supposed to look at in awe and reverence. My mother was a prude and she knew kids all too well. She would not even allow me to buy a postcard of Michelangelo's David for all that I insisted I needed it for the trip journal I was theoretically keeping for school (this journal never materialized, much like my scanning plans of today) and she pulled us away from the souvenir stand where they had floaty pens of wonder and joy. The lady's black bathing suit fell off when you tilted the pen! We were riveted! To be fair, my mother, after whooshing us away, admitted that the floaty pen was in fact incredibly cool and she bought us each one in Venice - with a gondola going up and down a canal.

And I remember picking the red vinyl off that raincoat, bit by stealthy bit, exposing the white material underneath. By the end of the trip it was pretty close to bald and my mother was not pleased. So I remember church, a raincoat, my brother making faces, steps, floaty pens, pigeons and naked men of marble. Not too bad, I suppose, thirty five (I think) or so years later.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

thanksgiving toast

thanksgiving toast
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Well, I'm still cleaning up. I estimate that I will be cleaning up until the day after Halloween, 2010, which is known as White Halloween, of course, because that's the day when your plates are all clean from last Thanksgiving and you can start getting ready for the next one. I have threatened yet again to order in Chinese next year but I know that I won't and anyway both the kids just smirked at me when I said it. "You say that every year, " they said smirkily, "and you freak out, but you aren't going to stop."

It was a lovely dinner though and a wonderful evening and I spent all day yesterday doing absolutely nothing, which I felt I was entitled to, after starting in on cooking Wednesday evening and then continuing for the entire day on Thursday. We had:
* roasted turkey, a 16.33 pounder from Earthfare. That's a small turkey for me and there are not as many leftovers as I wish. On the other hand, I could lift the damn thing and I managed to brine it in the stockpot, not the mop bucket.
* mashed potatoes, an entire bag of Yukon golds, boiled and then mashed with roasted garlic and butter and cream and milk and cream cheese. Yum. Roasting the garlic gets added onto the cooking time, however.
* creamed onions, which are my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, but which are a pain to fix, since the devotion of those little pearl onions to their skins is touching and strong. Also they make me cry.
* stuffing, my mother's classic, refined by me over years to include a bag of pepperidge farm stuffing mix, raw apples, cooked bacon, sauteed onions and celery and garlic, raisins, an assortment of fresh herbs, chicken broth and, naturally, butter. Lots of butter.
* two kinds of cranberry sauce, the one Noelle makes which is a bag of cranberries cooked in a can of frozen apple juice and the one my mother used to make which is cranberries and apples and oranges (peeled, membranes removed, another pain in the ass) and honey all whisked through the food processor.
* wild and basmati rice with three kinds of sauteed mushrooms, garlic, roasted winter squash and slivered almonds: the token New Dish, loosely based on a classic of Noelle's. Next year I'm leaving out the squash, because chopping it and roasting it and scooping it into the rice was a time consuming royal drag and the texture was wrong with the rice.
* green bean casserole, the trashy kind with the cream of mushroom soup and durkee's french friend onions
* apple pie, which I made and pumpkin pie, which Audrey made at my house on Wednesday night, which was the most exciting night of the whole holiday weekend.
And Jodi brought sweet potatoes and a key lime pie and Kyle and Jen brought delicious cranberry bread. There was lots of beer and some champagne and I served my homemade pickles and hot pepper jelly with crackers and cream cheese for starters. Everyone had a lovely time and pictures of the whole thing can be found here.

But why, you say, was Wednesday so exciting? Well, we nearly burned the house down during the pie baking, which is always entertaining. The oven began smoking after the apple pie came out and before the pumpkin pie went in and I started cleaning up the spilled burning apples on the bottom of the oven (while it was still on, naturally) with paper towels. Turns out that if paper towels touch hot oven elements, they burst into flames - it's sort of arson 101 but I was tired. As the paper towels caught on fire I threw them into the sink, where Audrey, shouting, put them out with the faucet. This was not really a good idea and it became an even worse idea when the sprayer on the sink stuck and sent a fine mist of water into the hot oven, which promptly erupted into an epic but fortunately not all that deadly fireball. I was right there yet my eyebrows through some miracle are not singed. We had to turn the oven off and go out on the porch for a beer and a cigarette at that point.

Anyway, we survived. Young Miles has a bad cold and I have a mild one, which is somewhat annoying, since I would prefer to schedule my illnesses when I can take time off work to deal with them, rather than wasting three day weekends, but oh well, it is not so bad. Happy Belated Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tomorrow is the Big Day

Every year, I swear I run a marathon. It starts tonight with brining the turkey (thank you Jim for reminding me about the mop bucket! You are a genius!) and then continues through the ritual making of pies and cleaning of the bathroom (what do you mean you want to take a shower? No showers until after Thanksgiving! The tub is clean.!) Tomorrow, of course, I go into full overdrive mode. Miles bitched a little this year about the food - why, he asked, does it have to be exactly the same year after year?
"Because," I said, "That's what Thanksgiving is all about."
"I thought you said it was about family and friends," he said (child is too damn smart for his own good) "And our family and friends would probably rather have something different."
This was of course a way to talk me into deep frying the turkey, which is not going to happen, but even leaving out the frying, he has a point.

I don't know why I feel as if everything must be the same, year after year, life without end, etc., but I do. I think I'm afraid that if the rites are not properly observed, the monsters will get us. I mean, you just never know. They could be waiting for the year that I branch out and try a different stuffing. I have eliminated, over the years, the stuff that became leftovers which got thrown out instead of eaten - sweet potatoes, I'm sorry to say, and carrots; we must just not really like orange things - and the world has not ended in fire and dismay yet, but you never know. My mother's stuffing and creamed onions might be the only thing keeping us from apocalypse. And I'm thankful that worked out, because I love creamed onions.

SO tomorrow, as always, I'll be cooking like a maniac and flying around and, quite possibly, tweeting it all. You're invited. Cocktails at 5:00; dinner at 6:00. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I almost forgot. Around this time of year I like to give my readers a little gift, something to help them while away the lonely hours until the turkey is done. So, here is Drench. Click on that link and watch your productivity plummet; your life go down the drain and your arm seize up hopelessly clicking on the pretty colors. What on earth did we all get addicted to before the internet?

Oh and hey, happy belated big blog birthday to me. For five long years, give or take a couple of weeks, I have been toiling away here in the blog mines, writing up whatever it is that I write about. Five years! Holy shit! You would think by now I would have figured out some way to cash in on this phenomena but instead it just keeps on keepin' on. Which I think has some kind of value, somehow.

Let's see, in the last five years, I've moved twice, changed jobs twice and reverted to my usual single status more times than I care to examine. My daughter graduated from college and has left home and come back several times; my son grew up, moved off the traditional academic track and is working full time. Several dogs and cats and at least one fish have come and, lamented, gone. I believe I have lost and gained the same 15 pounds approximately one thousand times and I'm still wearing mostly the same sweaters and, despite all advice to the contrary, my late 80s leggings. Along with everyone else in my general generation, I got broadband and an iPod and gave up the landline for good. I think I have become a better writer and I know I have become a way better photographer and I still, occasionally, make strange art. And I still have hangovers. So, hey, happy blog birthday to me!

that time of year

green and brown
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Audrey has a cold; Miles is walking around saying "You will contract zee swine!" in an exaggerated accent and I am tired. Nobody has heat, except me, and my heat is either solar or magical, because I have no propane and no furnace either. It doesn't matter: my house stays in the high sixties for no apparent reason and now I understand why the people who lived here before me never bothered to replace the old furnace or buy propane. This is wonderful - I have never had a warm house before and I am all about it - but I sort of wish I had figured the magic out before I got into an expensive contract to buy a new furnace. Still, it's nice that I'm not freezing as I wait for the new furnace, which, according to the furnace guy, I should definitely be getting someday, perhaps when the cows come home.

Audrey has no heat because she, like many, cannot afford to buy oil. You may or may not be aware that if you rent or own a house in Asheville, as opposed to an apartment, you cannot pay as you go for heat but instead must buy at least 100 gallons of either heating oil, propane, or, more rarely, kerosene. That is around $300 - $400, which is a more or less insurmountable sum to accumulate if you're making regular twenty (or, let's face it, forty at a nonprofit) something wages here in our lovely mountain city. Therefore, she is spending a lot of time at my house, sniffling. I have just erased a rather lengthy rant about the war on poverty that is always being waged in this country; you're welcome.

In other news, my friends Anthea and Tony, who now live in Portland (Oregon, not Maine) called up on Sunday. They were driving a car cross country and wanted to stop by. I told them about the rock slide, which is more than the Tennessee highway department had bothered to do, yet they persevered through Hot Springs and come to stay with us on Sunday night. So that was lovely and also a big surprise: Anthea, who has always been willowy slim, is still very slim but now is sporting a large bump in front. Sometime in February there will be a new kid in Portland; this is awesome although I must say, these kids growing up and having kids, good god, it seems like just yesterday she was 11 and torturing Audrey in Barbieland.

And, as time flies, so Thanksgiving is the damn day after tomorrow. We still have room and turkey for a couple more people, so if you find yourself at loose ends or inexplicably turkey free, come on over.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Annals of the Dull

Another exciting Friday night around here, where I have just grumpily accepted the inevitable truth that my phone is not going to ring, taken off my work clothes, put on yoga pants and settled down with a beer and the internets. Bah. I am drinking something called Slim Chance. I keep trying new light beers lately which has made me consider occasionally running Light Beer Reviews around here in the faint yet constant hope that a beer will suddenly appear that has hardly any calories and lots of taste. So far, I'm striking out. Unfortunately, the reason nobody ever reviews light beers is that the reviews are always so short: in a word, UGH. The name of the stuff is cute and the label is not objectionable but, well, UGH. The irony does not escape me that the beer I adore is called FAT tire while SLIM chance is completely godawful - you can see the result of this dichotomy in my ever increasing, Humpty Dumpty like girth. Well, it's either that or the stress baking.

I have also been considering writing a book of advice for the Young. It seems to me that the Young could use some advice and who better to dispense that than I, the Old? I have absolute tons of advice floating around in my head, running the gamut from the useful: Peel hard boiled eggs under running water, unless they're fresh eggs, in which case, you shouldn't have hardboiled them, idiot. to the slightly more recondite: The dark lord doesn't really expect you to sacrifice an entire goat. A hot dog will do. Not only do my children not show the slightest interest in any of this advice, alas, they even have been known to say actively mean things about my advice, much like my directions. Everyone, actually, says horrible things about my directions, which pains me deeply. I am firmly convinced that I give the best directions in the whole world, but everyone I give them to, no matter the destination, gets lost, which clearly means that I am giving directions to the wrong people. I mean, I never get lost, myself, so they must be good. Right? Therefore, I feel that it is time I unleashed some advice on the general public. They had better watch out.

In other news of the crashingly dull, I finally got a Sams Club card in my own name and I'm unspeakably pleased. Already, there are giant bags of onions and potatoes and diet crackers (not bad if you eat about 30 of them with cheese) sitting around my kitchen, to say nothing of the dogfood that was my gateway Sams Club entry drug. I had been going mostly just for work with my boss' card (which always made me feel just slightly, tinily illegal, which is probably the reason I liked it there) and, while I was there, naturally, buying cases of Faygo and bags of deep fried ultra seasoned frozen processed vat meat for The Hungry Thing who lives in the basement. Then I discovered that their brand of dog food, while not perfect, is actually not all that damn bad. It has meat as the first ingredient, which I have on good authority is what you are supposed to look for in dog food. For the record, you are supposed to look for cat food that is pretty much all meat, but good luck with that. Now I have to go there every other week or so (3 dogs eat a lot of kibble, let me tell you) and so now I have my very own card and soon, according to the Sams Club plan of world domination, my whole house will be knee deep in Giant Economy Sized Vats of Everything. Yay. I think.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Weekend Eve thank the spaghetti monster

geese morning 6
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Well, I buried Pebble on Tuesday evening in the front yard. It was dark and windy with occasional spatters of rain, which is highly appropriate weather for gravedigging, so that was good. I hadn't dug a grave in some time - not, you know, that I go around digging graves a lot or anything. I can see where it might make a suitable Goth exercise video and all but it's just not my favorite activity. I'm just hoping the grave was deep enough and we don't have one of those awful zombie episodes. Hate those.

After the grave digging, it was necessary to wake her thoroughly, to which end Audrey and Joey came over with a twelve pack. Yeah, it never occurred to me before that the "Wake" is kind of a very deeply weird term for that activity. Are we really trying to wake the dearly deceased up? As in, we'll get so drunk that we'll wake the dead? Nobody wants a reanimated corpse, even of the most utterly loved departed, lurching around their wake - see the point at the end of the last paragraph. I mean, it's just creepy.

At any rate we told a lot of stories of cats past and drank beer and so on and perhaps Pebble would have liked it, although, given that it did not involve cans of Fancy Feast for her to either gorge on or sneer at, depending on her mood, probably not. I am thinking of getting another cat, even though I know it is too soon and even though my son has sat me down and said, gently, "Mom, you know, three dogs is probably enough animals for any one house." He is right but I miss my cat. Tempus fucking fugit and ars brevis and all that latin shit: pro patria mori, I suppose, given our uniquely American relationship with our precious automobiles. I wonder if cats were ever run over by oxcarts?

I have gotten a shipment from the aptly named Do Your Own Pest Control and when I get home tonight, I'm looking forward to spreading toxic chemicals around the house. Whee! Hippie that I am, I read the ingredients list on all of their offerings and settled on the ones that sounded the least deadly, which probably means that any living bugs will scoff at it. I did, however, get diatomaceous earth, even though I have a vague memory of using it for cockroaches in Baltimore who were completely unfazed by the stuff. Baltimore cockroaches are of course immune to pretty much everything except 3 megaton and above atomic devices, so there is that and maybe it will work better on these bugs. One can but hope.

Next week is Thanksgiving! Have you gotten your invitation to the umpteenth Thanksgiving dinner for waifs, orphans and strays yet? Do you want one? Then email me and it shall be yours.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pebble: March 2008 - November 17, 2009

Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
When I first moved in two of my neighbors came over to introduce me and warn me not to let my cat out of the house because the lady who lived here before me lost three cats on Riverview Drive. I tried to listen to them but I am weak and lazy and the dogs go in and out, in and out, all day long and so did Pebble. I thought perhaps it would be okay.

I was wrong and sometime last night the road claimed another victim and I have lost another cat.

I had no intention of getting another cat because my luck with cats has been terrible over the last ten years.My cats have all died young, ever since Andy Warhol, insane orange and white cat, the vomit comet, cattus horribilis, finally died after 15 years of generally being a pain in the ass - but a uniquely weird pain in the ass. Andy's death was followed a couple years later by Fred's, who will forever be known as the Greatest Cat Ever, despite his sinus problems (six years after Fred died, there is STILL cat snot on some of my things.) Fred, despite his intimidating 17 pound size and general air of insouciance, had many major health issues already in place by the time he turned up half dead in my Baltimore county basement and that he made it to age 6 at all was some kind of feline miracle. After Fred came Barbieri and Mr. Bill, feral gray and white brothers, ferocious and dedicated hunters, both of whom went untimely early: Barbieri victim of a car on Swannanoa Avenue and Mr. Bill just disappearing one day and never returning, never found.

I said then that I would have no more cats and I should clearly have stuck to that, but Audrey's cat had kittens and I am a sucker and so Pebble came to live with me and now Pebble, who was a darling, a sweet and lovely and funny smart talkative cat, is no more. God DAMN, I hate this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Update

john payne bird 1
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
On Saturday morning I got up early and took the dogs for a hike in Bent Creek. Theo got into a small fight; Perdita vanished for 10 minutes and I was forced to be slightly rude to a jogger (just because I'm a bitch sometimes) but other than that, it was lovely. Afterwards, I took Annie to W.Izzzys for coffee, where we ran into my brother and a friend of his who were caffeining up before getting on their motorcycles to ride to Helen, Georgia. "What's Helen, Georgia?" I asked. "Sort of a Gatlinburg wannabe," said my brother.
"Excellent!" I said.

Then Annie and I went off to the studio stroll. The studio stroll is good with Annie, because she can only do one building and thus you don't go into art overload, which is otherwise a real danger. We did the Wedge building and Annie saw John Payne's bird, pictured here, for the first time. She was enthralled. She also stopped my flirtation with a tall and handsome artist cold, alas.

Me: "Wow, nice work."
Him: "Thanks!"
Annie, pointing to painting: "What is the owl thinking about? Where does he live?"
Him: "Um, well, I think he lives over here."
Annie: "Did you hear they've found water on the MOON?"
Him: "Why, uh, yes, I did hear that."
Annie: "We'll all be living there soon. They're going to move us all to the moon. Are you ready to move to the MOON?"
Him: "No, I don't think I want to live on the moon."
Annie, darkly: "You won't have a choice."
Me: "We have a lot more to see now! Thanks so much!"

The studio stroll was inspiring, actually - I went home and painted. This is what I painted - yes, I am aware that it is in fact pretty damn weird! I am getting weirder and weirder, apparently - it's one of the perks of aging. Still, it was fun and it was such a beautiful day that I painted on the porch, steadfastly ignoring the many fallen leaves on the front lawn. Fuck the leaves! I hate raking leaves. They look beautiful right now on the ground and make that great shuffly sound when I walk through them, so the hell with bourgeoisie values, I'm not raking. Take that, The Man!

Yeah, okay, I'll probably rake them at some point soon. I can take on The Man but withering looks from my neighbors fill me with guilt. It's a terrible thing to have been properly raised.

Last night my friend Jay and I went out to dinner. We tried to go to Cocina Latina but it is inexplicably closed on Sundays, as is Nona Mia. Jesus, you have a lot of Sunday evening West Asheville dining sorrow to make up for, here. We ended up at Papas and Beer, though, and that was excellent. I am very fond of Papas and Beer, from their wondrously descriptive name to the large purple birthday sombrero that gets trotted around the dining room. And the food is cheap and good. Anyway, Jay has published another book! You should go and buy a copy! I took the author photograph, so this marks my first published photograph, too, whoooo for me.

If you would like to come over for Thanksgiving dinner - turkey and all the fixins, a traditional if somewhat boozy Thanksgiving dinner - email me and I will send you out a super groovy invitation.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Motel Adventure

first frosty leaves
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Last night I stayed in a motel all by myself. That is the kind of thing that normal people do all the time without thinking about it, I know, but I just sort of never have, except possibly maybe once, long long ago in a galaxy far, far away. You see, I had a child when I was rather young and then another one some eight or so years later and thus all my motel visit memories seem to include small children jumping on beds and the glory that was the Cartoon Channel to kids who had never seen cable TV before.

The exterminators came yesterday and, based on my previous I-nearly-died-of-the-fumes experience with fumigation, I reserved a motel room with Priceline. I never use Priceline anymore because you can't change anything, but, hey, this time, I figured, nothing would change and I got a good deal, so, what the hell. Naturally, I didn't then need it: the exterminators just did not exterminate as vigorously as they did in August and so the house smelled more or less fine. My son, who was supposed to accompany me on this motel adventure, also decamped for his friends', which is completely understandable (I personally would probably have preferred to hang myself rather than share a motel room in my home town with my parent at the age of 17.) So there I was, motel room reserved and paid for but house totally habitable. What do you do?

I went to the motel. Well, first I considered auctioning the room off on Craigslist or giving it to my daughter and then I got all angsted out about it. Maybe the fumes were stronger than I thought, because then I went to dinner with my friend Charles at Sunny Point and realized that I was a) just hungry and b) acting like a world class idiot. I mean, motel room! What's not to like? And it was pretty damn cool, if a little nervewracking: I forgot the bottle opener and was forced to watch TV. The bottle opener was a problem because I, like an idiot, have never learned to open beer with a lighter and you have to drink a beer when you're all alone in a motel room like a grownup. Then you have to go outside in your sweatpants and bare feet and sneak around the balcony to an unobtrusive location to smoke your sinful cigarettes, too, which is somehow a little less fun, although I did make several tourists jump.

The TV was worse. I very rarely watch TV so I don't know what to watch when I do and also, the ads get to me. I sat there and stared at the pretty glittering people on the commercials and all the graphics oozing around everything and the colors and lights and just sort of went whooooooooom whooooom and before I knew it almost an hour had gone by. In between the ads was Mythbusters, which I do really like, so that was good, and they had explosions, which is always pleasant. After that I could find nothing to watch - why is there never anything to watch? There are like 40 bajillion channels out there nowadays and all of them are showing either sports, infomercials, "documentaries" on gangs or horrible rich people doing horrible things to other horrible rich people and whining about it. I had to put on the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe and then the Christian allegory got to me. TV is overwhelming. If I had one in the living room I'd get even less accomplished than I do now.

In the morning I had coffee from my motel coffee maker and a motel shower with motel towels, all most satisfying and then went down to the lobby for the free breakfast. This was a classy motel - they had a lot more than stale danish and weak coffee. There was a waffle iron! And biscuits! And strange microwaved omelette thingies. I ate one of those on my way home, where, despite the lack of motel towels, built in kleenex dispensers, TVs and tiny wrapped soap, I was very happy to be.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bugpocalypse, Round 2

Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Hi there. Guess what I've been dealing with! The hint is in the title - yup, the bugs are back. Back with a vengeance: I have huge welts up and down my throat and face - it's very attractive. And, just like the last time, every single piece of clothing, every sheet, dishtowel, pillowcase, porch chair cushion, old dog walking jacket and silk scarf have to go through a hot dryer for an hour and then be sealed in plastic. My room has been dismantled; my bed is in the center, with double sided tape on every leg so nothing can climb up. The exterminators will be back tomorrow to completely fill the house with poison again and I'm taping plastic up over the kitchen shelves and putting every food item that's not fully sealed in a giant tupperware bin out on the porch. The dog beds are going to the dump, this round, as is the papasan chair downstairs and, hell, me.

Sometimes I think I pissed some small but powerful deity off but good one day without thinking about it. I'm lucky - except for 2008, nothing THAT terrible happens, just an endless round of really pretty fucking bad stuff that's almost but not quite apocalyptic. My son and I have been talking about gods, lately - he is tending towards belief, while with every go round of nightmare, every year, I go further and further away.

"What have we done to deserve this? We should pray, maybe," he said,
and I said, "to who? The bug god?"
And he said, "What kind of sacrifice would please the insect god?"

Which is a damn good question. The answer, alas, is probably something like kittens, although I was thinking perhaps huge heaps of fiery dung. Either way, I think the insect god is getting his sacrifice in the form of a few more of my wool sweaters and a shitload more of my sanity. It's hard to sleep when at any moment you may be attacked, even though we're both redolent of Deep Woods Off as we crawl under the covers.

Friday, November 06, 2009

And So On

There are a whole lot of lost tourists downtown. I'm thinking that next time, we need to dump giant boulders on both sides of I-40 instead of just the one. Like zombies mindlessly beating their way into the Wal Mart (as everyone knows, Wal-Mart is the best place to hole up for a zombie apocalypse) the tourists are still getting through and they cannot drive worth a good goddamn. Of course, we in Asheville refuse to mark our streets, so there is that. However, all that will change now that Gordon Smith is our newest benevolent overlord! All Hail! Bring us sidewalks or bring us death, dude.

Highland Brewing has released this year's version of Cold Mountain, their winter beer and I went and bought two bottles on Wednesday. It is so delicious that all other beer will forevermore and henceforth taste not as good. However, do not listen to me! You will hate it! Don't go buy any! It is all for meeeeeee! Or, so I wish. Fortunately for my liver and my waistline but causing me to weep bitter tears of rue, it is not all for me, no, it will sell out soon (so get yours now) and I will not be able to find any more until next year.

In other news, I have not a damn thing planned for the weekend except attending a metafilter dinner party on Saturday, which should be fun and, of course, cleaning the entire house, which should not be fun at all. My friend and handyman Adam has been back in town from Baltimore and he has done all kinds of work around the house over the last week - there is a door to teenage wasteland! The downstairs toilet is rebuilt! the hose no longer leaks! the gutters are clean! and etc. Home ownership is a fucking pain in the ass, let me add, but Adam makes it doable. Therefore, if you need any home repairs done, email me and I will give you his phone number. He is awesome at everything.

In other news, there is no other news, except that it is actually supposed to not rain this weekend. Whoooooo!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

a murder of crows

a murder of crows
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
There were about eleventy million crows at Richmond Hill this morning around 7:15 or so. I like crows for the most part but I was also permanently scarred by watching The Birds on TV when I was 11 or thereabouts so the constant cawing and swooping and taking up of the entire top of the forest was a mixed blessing. I harbor no illusions that my dogs would be any good whatsoever in the face of a sustained crow attack; besides, they would probably set it off by chasing them out of the parking lot in the first place. Dogs, I have noticed, enjoy a lot of completely futile endeavors, like chasing crows and barking at squirrels. Hint to all dogs: it is way easier to catch a squirrel that you haven't barked at yet and running into a flock of birds is a damn good way to get yourself shat on. But who am I to talk? The dogs feel the same way about all the time I spend sitting in the big chair (the really comfy chair they want to sleep on, at that) constantly turning over pages of paper. And then I get upset, too, when they try to help by chewing up those pesky paper objects.

I have managed to walk the dogs every morning so far this week since I like colder weather - it chases off most of the joggers - and I like being able to see. It was particularly easy this morning, because the gas company minions arrived at 7:00 with large yellow machinery. The guy who seemed to be in charge had a white ponytail and intricate blue tattoos all the way down his neck. He was very friendly and I understood very little of what he said. "We're just putting in the dpiojerlsnjfi," he said cheerfully. "Then the other guys will aoijwrfekm with the soinfaieonffewion in about two weeks or maybe longer, depends on the weather and the poiajoiewrm."
"Great!" I said, smiling back and looking a little mournfully at what used to be my lawn. (Surprisingly enough, there was some damn good dirt down there.) "Do you need me to be here?"
"Oh no," he said, "We'll just fix the woirjerl to the wpoiremr and you'll be all set."
So I should have gas in a month. I think. Or maybe this was some kind of random yard digging up heavy equipment crew of performance artists: you just never can tell.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Faux Fisheye Thingie AND bonus Edgar Allan Poe stuff!

In my continuous camera frenzy, I ordered this nifty thing. I thought it would give me groovy distorted circular images and be so unbeatably cool that I would finally, finally join the ranks of the cool kids. Or something - hell, I don't know, I figured it was thirty bucks and worth a shot. Now I have owned it for slightly less than 24 hours, I am not entirely sure if it was worth thirty bucks. Perhaps twenty four ninety five. Anyway, the picture on the left was taken without it while (you guessed it!) the one on the right was taken with it on. As we see, it definitely widens the angle but it would appear to lose some focus, which in some cases is fine, i.e., here, where it makes my house look super trippy and bizarroid, as befits it's sixties style. Further experimentation will be necessary but oh well, what the hell, new toy! And it makes my camera look intimidatingly professional, so there's that.

In other news, Theo let me vacuum him last night. I think it is highly inefficient of collies to lose last year's winter coat mostly in the fall in preparation for the new one to come in but alas, in this universe of unintelligent design, that's how it works. If I had designed collies the whole thing would come off in one piece like a snakeskin instead of clumping off in awful chunks that clog up the vacuum cleaner and make Theo look motheaten and even more pathetic than usual. But as we know, they did not call on me to design the universe, more fools they.

In other other news, it's only the third day of November and I'm already like 2000 words behind in NaNoWriMo. This does not bode well but I keep thinking I will sit down momentarily and whip them out in short order. Ha! We shall see. Also, since it is the third day of November, that means that YOU (and I, I'm going after work, I promise) must exercise your right as a citizen and GO OUT AND VOTE! It only takes a minute, really, and they give you a free sticker. Free sticker! How can you possibly resist? Vote your pants off, Asheville. Vote like . . . like. . . like something or someone who votes extremely seriously and intensely. Like Edgar Allan Poe on a laudanum binge.

There is some rumor I read somewhere once that said the final consumption & pneumonia that killed Poe was due to his having been abducted by scurrilous vote getters in Baltimore while he was on a laudanum & whisky binge. These vote getters were hired thugs who went around grabbing derelicts and forcing them to vote. This tactic has fallen into disfavor, recently, although perhaps, Gordon, if you're reading this, you might want to give it a try! Not that I would ever advocate such a thing. I'll vote twice for laudanum, though.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Another Halloween Survived

Phew. It's a good damn thing I don't have to worship the Dark Lord every weekend or I'd be undead by now. I seem to have been ridiculously busy these past few days and also I had a couple of minor mood meltdowns, attributable no doubt to the influence of a malign star or possibly dehydration. Or maybe it was that trip to Starbucks on Friday - if, by the way, it ever seems to you that a large bold roast with a shot of espresso is a good idea on a day that you're going to spend in a waiting room, think again! It doesn't even taste that tasty.

On Wednesday night we duly carved our semi stolen pumpkins; much fun was had; several awesome pumpkins were carved and painted (it turns out that warty pumpkins, which seem so awesome, are actually made of wood or steel or some other uncarveable substance.) On Thursday nothing much happened as far as I can remember, although I did my civic duty and went to the neighborhood association meeting. Helpful community note! There are going to be speed traps on my street beginning right away, so if you are illegal in any way, take another route. Also on Friday my good friend Jay had surgery on his knee and I accompanied him through that entire fun filled day at Knee Surgeries R' Us, which was much more enjoyable for me, Starbucks notwithstanding, than for him.

Friday evening, after delivering the aforesaid jack o'lanterns and stabbing myself in the hand (it is not advisable to try to saw frozen basil in oil out of a plastic container with a sharp knife in your right hand while you are holding said container in your left, let me tell you) and then ruining dinner (Sam's club ravioli sucks and falls apart when you boil it) I retired to my bed insisting that I was not going to the party and was in fact planning to sleep out the next several months or possibly years. However, I eventually came out of it and made it over to spookyblogapaloozathan, where I was impressed and abashed by the many, many wonderful costumes. Also, thanks for the votes: you are right now reading the Blog Most Likely To Make You Laugh Out Loud - for, I think, the third year in a row or something? Thank you! I will now say something funny! A ghost walks into a bar! But he goes right through it! Ba dum boom shish! Or, okay, not.

Friday ended up at the Admiral which was lovely as always and then Saturday, the actual Day, the Sacred Holiday, I did pretty much nothing except complain and wander about aimlessly in my slippers. Whining can also be a religious observance, hey. Then as evening fell I transformed myself into the Bad Hair Fairy, picked up Susan and Laura and headed on over through the rain to the Haen Gallery where my friends Katherine and Kate were having their engagement party. The costumes there were also spectacular and the zombie brides to be looked very happy and beautiful despite their deadness.

We then moved on to another Halloween party with some extremely cool people who are actually neighbors of mine I have long wanted to meet, so that was excellent. They were off on other adventures which we graciously declined as being too damn rainy and cold (Wimps R Us) and instead trick or treated for beers at Zen & Helen's house - they were surprised and seemed even pleased. The weather, however, was unchanging so we gave up on the rain, the cold and the Halloween and hung out at Susan's drinking beer. I do that a lot so I kind of forgot it was Halloween for a bit until I looked down at my legs and thought momentarily "What the hell? Why am I wearing a satin miniskirt?" Words to live by!

SO that was Halloween and it was all in a all a great one. Yesterday I took down all the decorations in record time and breathed a sigh of relief right up until the point where I realized that the Other Holidays (insert sound of doom, like the drum scene in the Mines of Moria or perhaps the Carmina Burana, here) are coming up now. My plan to sleep for a few months sounds better every minute.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkins and More

I have been indulging in way too much retail therapy lately. Both the kids needed new clothes and so I worked out a deal whereby I would pay for half their clothes (the left half) and thus there was a flurry of ordering stuff online last week (my son, never having known life without the internets, is shocked and horrified at the thought of actually going to a, gasp, store and, oh god, trying things on.) This would be not particularly noteworthy except that of course I had to order myself stuff too - otherwise it's just no fun - and thus I ended up with a flame orange lace trimmed camisole and a pair of plaid ballet flats that would have brought my mother to tears of preppy joy. I'm returning the shoes - fortunately for my self respect they don't fit - and I have convinced myself that if perchance I am ever down to my lingerie in the woods again (a girl can dream) then at least I won't be shot by hunters.

However, buying all these things was simple and painless compared to the problem of purchasing pumpkins. You can't order pumpkins online unless you're way more organized than I am. The one pumpkin I grew turned to mush about ten days ago, alas, and I somehow managed to volunteer to bring jack o' lanterns to the unpronounceable blog party on Friday, therefore, I needed pumpkins. I have arranged for my friends to come over tonight to carve said pumpkins (you can come too, if you want, email me) and thus I really needed pumpkins and soon. So, I went to Sam's Club on Monday (and got a bunch of large size prints done from photos that turned out really well - cheap! Cheapcheap! Now my daughter's house has groovy art!) and discovered that they were out of pumpkins. Okay, no pumpkins; I left there and went to K-Mart to get frames for the aforementioned photos. The Patton Avenue K-Mart has reinvented itself as a downscale Target, by the way, and everything has been moved around, but somehow it's still depressing. They really need to burn that place to the ground; I think it's over a Native American burial site or maybe a portal to hell. Could be, though, that the faint screams of the damned that always echo through the air there are just employees or maybe it's a corporate provided soundtrack, who knows? Anyway, they didn't have pumpkins but then I didn't really expect them to so I left with my frames and as I sat in traffic on Louisiana Avenue I noticed people with signs on the corner.

I couldn't read the signs but I wondered what they were doing, muzzily assuming that perhaps it was a carwash, although 6 pm on an October Monday seems like a weird time for a charity carwash, but, you know, whatever. They looked like they were having fun, though, handing each other their signs and clowning around so I was predisposed to view them fondly until I actually drove into the intersection and realized that they were protesting Halloween on the grounds that it leads people to devil worship. I flipped them off. I have never flipped anyone off before in a car - seriously. Never before. - but I did it this time. Fuck you, insane Christians. I am tired of your stupid antics. You don't get to take my Halloween away or even try, lameasses. What would Jesus do? He sure as hell wouldn't be out there holding an anti Halloween sign.

Well that was Monday and then yesterday I went to Ingles because I have a teenage son and thus I must shop for junk food almost daily. Ingles too was out of pumpkins. This was getting serious. Also, it was raining.

The checkout clerk, my daughter via text message and my son via a phone call told me to go to the church across from the funeral home on Patton. I knew about this church, because I have bought pumpkins there many an October before. I got to the church in the rain and hopped out of the car in the rain and started wandering around in the mud looking at wet pumpkins.
"There's nobody here." said a young woman in black.
"You mean you aren't selling the pumpkins?" I asked,
"No, there's nobody here."
This proved to be true. There was a zipped up tent, but not a person around.
"Is there an honor system box?" I asked, "I really need pumpkins tonight."
"No," she reported dismally.
"Look," I said, "I'm going to steal some pumpkins. I know that's wrong and I'll come back by here in a couple days and pay them, whatever, but I'm having people over tomorrow to carve pumpkins and I have to get these pumpkins now."
'I'm having people over tonight," she said forlornly.
"Well then you have to steal pumpkins too." I said firmly. "It's a necessity; it's like stealing bread or something."

Several more people showed up at this point to slop around in the mud and heavy rain for pumpkins and a quick council was held. "I'm leaving money on this table in the tent," said one man decisively. He didn't want to spend any more time in the rain than he had to. We all decided to do just that and by the time I left with my pumpkins there was a considerable sum on that table in the tent. More, I think, than there would have been if there were people actually collecting payment. The church may be doing it on purpose.

I'm glad we went with the table compromise. Even though I hate the kind of Christians who protest Halloween (and everything else fun in the universe, as well as basic human rights; those kind of Christians can go straight to their own invented hell as far as I'm concerned) I still didn't want to steal from the church. That's one of those setups for bad karma that I refuse to get entangled with. Besides, I'm already half convinced that I'll be struck by lightning if I ever walk into a church and that's just for sinful thoughts (mostly thoughts, okay) imagine what our Lord God Jehovah would do to a confirmed and unrepentant pumpkin thief?