Wednesday, November 26, 2003

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

Tomorrow, of course, is Thanksgiving, and as usual, I'm the one in charge of Pies. This year the Pie Commitment has been reduced, I'm only doing 2 pumpkin and no fruit pie. Still, to accomplish the task I needed to borrow a pie dish from my mom, since I only own one; I also needed to borrow the two-level pie carrier she inherited from her grandmother (affectionately known as the "Port-O-Pie.") So this morning I'm down in their basement, unearthing the Port-O-Pie from where it's been sitting since last Thanksgiving, and I'm suddenly confronted with one of those deja-vu, childhood comes rushing back to smack you in the face moments.... in the form of a small red paperback book titled Roughing It Easy, by one Dian Thomas.

Now, I've never actually read this book, mind you. I think my mother purchased it when she was the leader of my Girl Scout troop in elementary school, and she felt that she should take us camping despite her own general dislike for the rugged life. It's a cookbook of "things you can cook over a campfire," and so far as I remember it was only used once--but that once is indelibly inscribed on my brain. When I was a kid, we'd go up to my grandmother's house on Lake Wawassee in northern Indiana for about a week every summer. Our family friends the Hoskins from Kentucky would join us, and it was the high point of the summer for me. The summer that Roughing It Easy came into mom’s posession, she decided we should try it out before unleashing any of its recipes on the Girl Scout Troop (we were a little squirrelly, after all.) So one morning, bright and early, Mom announces that we kids are not to have our usual cereal and toast, but should wait for the completion of a camping delicacy called “BREAKFAST IN A BAG.”

Yes. Breakfast in a Bag. A brown paper bag, with strips of bacon laid across the bottom, an egg or two cracked into the bag, and then you put the whole thing on the Weber grill. Oh sure--you say you see the flaw here, and so did we.... But Dian Thomas said it would work! It was in Roughing It Easy! We trusted Dian not to lead us astray. Which is, of course, why it was so shocking and heartbreaking to us when the bag burst into 3 foot high flames on the grill. My father and Mr. Hoskins had already clearly stated their refusal to be a part of this project, so it fell to me to run for the hose. Mrs. Hoskins was our camera operator, and the whole thing was immortalized in slide show format:
SLIDE ONE: My mom proudly displaying the contents of the bag
SLIDE TWO: Bag sitting on grill
SLIDE THREE: Bag looking slightly blackened on one corner
SLIDE FOUR: Weber Grill engulfed in flame
SLIDE FIVE: Charred bag dissected to reveal solid rectangular mass of burned egg and bacon at bottom
SLIDE SIX: Mr. Hoskins sitting in a lawn chair covering his eyes with his hands.
As I said, the whole thing is a fond childhood memory of family bonding. And burning. It’s just as well that no one is here at my house with slide film for the making of the pies every year.

Friday, November 21, 2003

The Pot Calling the Kettle Pork.

I was in the corner grocery store at 11:30 tonight buying breakfast cereal and milk. I love going to the store that late because there’s a sort of surreal quality to walking up and down the spotlessly mopped aisles, all alone... But more surreal than the clean floors and the canned Neil Diamond playing on the overhead speakers this evening was the fact that a featured product in the frozen foods case was the Large Bucket O' Chitterlings. Each door panel of the freezer cases had a single large bucket right in the middle of it, prominently positioned in such a way that someone reaching in for non-chitterling frozen food might still stand a good chance of knocking it off the shelf and onto their foot, causing a grevious chitterling injury. And it occurred to me that despite living in Indiana for the bulk of my lifetime, I’m still not entirely clear on what exactly chitterlings are. I mulled this over as I picked up milk and corn chex, and strolled to the canned foods section to get some quick and easy dinner. I mean, they’re pig parts--but what part of the pig exactly are they? They’re not like pork rinds, I don’t think... Maybe you could tell by looking at them; but hell if I’m going to open one of those tubs. (This is sort of like when I was living in Chicago and found myself confronted with menudo blanco for the first time. Shudder.) So I’m thinking about how some people will eat anything... and then I look down at my hand and realize I am carrying a can of Franco-American Spaghetti-Os, with “meat” balls, up to the counter. Do I have room to be critical of the chitterling eaters of this world? No, my friends, I think not.

Oh yeah, the reason I was at the store so late was because I went to hear Emily, who was opening for Vienna Teng. I missed Em’s part of the show, thanks to my Thursday class; disappointing. But there was Guinness on tap, and the main act was excellent, y’all check her out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Progress Is Progress

Hooray for Massachusetts, whose Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday that the state must offer the right to marry to single-sex couples. It's been quite an eventful year, legally, for the gay community.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled. It baffles me how states that recognize common-law marriage (which I'm not sure if MA does or not) can justify discrimination against same-sex couples in similarly long term yet not legally formalized partnerships. Two things worry me, though. One is the term "marriage." Apparently a large segment of the American public declares itself to be opposed to "gay marriage," and asserts that a "marriage" should be defined as involving one man and one woman. But another good size chunk of the American population believes that workplace benefits should be extended to people in same-sex relationships... So it strikes me here that a lot of the resistance to this concept could be neutralized if the word "marriage" is taken out of the equation. Fine, call it "legal partnership"--hell, call it "Grbzniak." We're getting grbzniaked, want to come? But if this makes more people comfortable with the concept, it seems like a small concession to make. I bring it up because someone on NPR this morning was expressing dismay that the MA ruling did not completely shut out the possibility of legislation to strictly define marriage (which several states have already done.) Getting bogged down on the technicality of what to call it when gay folks git hitched seems to me to dilute the impact of the real progress that's being made here. It's not that I don't see their point, but if you can get around the people legislating "marriage" by calling it something else, I say do it. That's part of my second concern, which is that this is an election year, and this has the potential to be a rallying issue for a lot of people. If there are folks out there who are unhappy with Mr. Bush's handling of the Iraq situation and unhappy with the economy, but still want to express a strong opposition to gay marriage, this could be a big stumbling block to the push for change in the White House. The thought that we could win this battle but lose the war is a frightening one to me....

Ok, back to writing papers. Stupid school, cutting in on my blogging time.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

I'm Nothing If Not Responsive To My Public

Halloween Photos, including the now-famous Demon Bunny of the Mexican Apocalypse, are here. Note that even Mighty Cthulhu himself is learning at the feet of the true Master.

For anyone interested in heavy theological discussion, you can check out my questions to Tripp and his responses on his weblog.

Butler seems to be having some sort of event today; I'm guessing football. A booming loudspeaker voice is audible through my closed windows... it's sort of Orwellian, for all I know he could be saying "Big Brother Is Your Friend! Trust the Computer!" and it's all just subliminally seeping into my head. "George Bush Is Your Friend! Drilling in the Alaskan Reserve Is Good! Iraq Is Not a Quagmire!" Yeek. I sure hope it's just football.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Doing My Civic Doody

If you had said to me, "Gosh, Cathy, which day of the week that you've been summoned for jury service would be the worst possible day for you to actually get called in?" the answer would certainly have been "Thursday!" Without a doubt. It's the day I volunteer at the zoo, and also happened to be the one day this week when I actually had meetings scheduled at The Children's Museum to try to accomplish something meaningful for my internship. Naturally, well....

First I was late. Because I'm always late for things. I made it to the City-County building, suffered through the "why you should feel guilty for wanting to skip out of here" video (for the fourth time, I get called for jury duty like clockwork every 2 years or so,) filled out the paperwork, and eventually got called to one of the criminal courts. I sensed doom when I was jury # 9 out of the 32 of us in the room.... and while an astonishing 7 jurors got recused, I did not. Time to cancel all my appointments. Got to go for lunch at the City Market, which is always a happy thing; I love the food, I love the architecture, I love the ambiance. I had Jamaican for lunch, headed back to the CC building and got to spend about 30 minutes listening to evidence, and 20 in deliberation, trying to convince 2 obstinate people that it's fair to say the legal definition of "operating a motor vehicle" is "behind the wheel, with the engine running and the car in gear, applying pressure to the gas pedal so the car moves forward." I mean, come on.... if that's not operating it, what is? Still, after 20 minutes we came around to a unanimous verdict. I got to be the foreman, but I didn't get to say "Your Honor, we the Jury find the defendant guilty of the charge of Driving While License Suspended For Life," which I'd kind of looked forward to doing. In Indiana, you hand a piece of paper to the judge, and she reads it. Oh well. Being a jury foreman isn't just about the glamour, you know. It's about civic duty. And about $40 plus mileage.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Trials and Tulips

On the one hand, it was a bad weekend in that I did almost nothing of an academic nature. November is ticking away, like sands through the hourglass (or maybe, like ticks through the hourglass full of ticks? Ugh) and I'm as usual behind on the semester's projects. To increase my sense of impending doom, I managed to totally blow an assignment--was supposed to attend one lecture, movie, or event at the Eiteljorg Museum's new exhibit opening...which I thought was this past weekend....only it was the weekend before. The only thing I could possibly have still attended by the time I found out I'd gotten the time wrong was the $50 a head gala opening dinner. Which required reservations. Doh, doh doh doh, DOH! Doh.

On the other hand, I got to spend a day in Terre Haute, IN, planting tulip bulbs for my friend Emily's mom. This came about rather suddenly:
I'm in the slowest line ever at the post office at 11 am Saturday. Glaciers move faster than the Broad Ripple postal clerks. Suddenly, my cell phone vibrates, causing me to react like someone just slipped an electric eel down my pant leg. I manage to fumble it out of my pocket, trying to look cool and sophisticated, like I get calls on my cell all the time.
ME: Uh, oops, dammit--Hello?
EMILY: Hey, what's up?
ME: In line at the post office. What's up with you?
EMILY: What're you doing today?
ME: Other than waiting in this line, not a lot, why?
EMILY: Good. Come over, you're going to Terre Haute with me.
ME: OK, I--I'm what?
Sure enough, a couple hours later I was planting about 200 tulip bulbs in Mrs. W's front yard, after which I was fed almost to the point of explosion, and got to watch a lovely clear view of the lunar eclipse over their lake. Not a bad tradeoff, really. I'd like to think there'll always be room for spontaneous tulip planting in my day-to-day life. The papers will get written eventually, regardless.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

...DRINK 3097 IS ON ITS WAY!...

That was the message scrolling across the little LED screen on the coffee machine as I stood in the basement of Cavenaugh Hall waiting for it to pony up my 50 cents worth of caffienated beverage. I don't know about you, but getting a message like that increases my excitement about the beverage experience by leaps and bounds.... It's not even just "YOUR COFFEE IS ON ITS WAY!" It's got its own little ID number; presumably now, DRINK 3097 is immortalized forever in the memory space of the coffee machine as having been strength 2, whitener 1, sugar 0, small. Call me crazy, but I feel just a bit more special knowing that! Hmmm, maybe it's just that DRINK 3097 is finally kicking in....

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Stretch Before You Vote...

The democratic process remains alive and well here in Rocky Ripple, Indiana; I myself hopped on my bicycle at 10:45 this morning to pedal squeakily over to the Town Hall to cast my ballot. Unfortunately, as this is the first time I've hopped on my bike for several weeks, by the time I got to the polling place (a mere half-mile from my house) my thighs were burning and I had to walk it off for a minute before going in. (Pathetic. To think I used to be a collegiate athlete--albeit a pretty lazy and ineffective one.)

Rocky Ripple is a town of about 300 residents, encased within metropolitan Indianapolis but cut off from the city by water on all sides; two small bridges are all that prevents us from having to swim to the grocery store. Well, no--you could also hike through some scrubby woods and escape that way, if you had to. Anyway, so it's like living in small-town America, except we don't have a Wal-Mart--just houses. Everyone knows everyone, for the most part.... And Election Day is a major event. This is a Town Council election year, and like all small towns we have candidates on the Democratic ticket, the Republican ticket, and the Nutjob ticket. It wasn't possible to vote straight Nutjob this year, as they'd split their forces between Democrat and Republican. So I opted against voting for people who I believe to be certifiably insane, and instead carefully split my vote between the two major parties' uncrazy candidates. My first observation at the polls was that one should never vote straight party anyway; I saw two people in great consternation because they realized (after marking their ballots) that since there is no Democratic contender for Town Treasurer, a straight ticket vote means they cast no vote for that office at all. (not that it's going to matter, as the same lady has been town treasurer for about 20 years and it would probably take a demolition crew to remove her from the office. Hell, she knows what she's doing, I cheerfully voted for her.) My second observation is that the new scantron voting system sucks. Indianapolis used old-style lever machines up through last year, and it was a lot less nerve-wracking. Observation #1 would not have been an issue with a lever machine, it's instantly clear with those things who you've voted or not voted for before you register your ballot. Now mind you, I'm not entirely clear on what happens after you pull the curtain lever in the old machines; maybe they never tabulated my votes correctly, and they were prone to getting jammed and needing emergency fixes on election day. But somehow it still seemed more decisive and reliable than filling in bubbles and feeding my ballot into the orifice of a faintly malevolent-looking machine. So I'm a Luddite. So sue me.

Monday, November 03, 2003

For God So Loved The World....

I have, once again, been shown God's greatest gift to the world. It's not the light of His Love...nor is it His only son, placed on this earth to suffer for our sins.... No, God's greatest gift bestowed upon mankind is The Mulching Mower.

It's true. Anyone who has ever spent all of fall struggling with rakes, leaf blowers, and bags, only to discover the power, ease, and speed of a mulching mower will be with me on this theological bandwagon. Mine happily self-propelled itself all over my yard with only a gentle guiding hand from me, chopping leaves into powder at my command. Two hours and a minimum of sweat later, I was done. Yes, the Lord is good.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Mixed Emotions

Well, I found out yesterday I didn't get the job at the zoo. My efficiency, "can-do" attitude and cheerful demeanor were trumped by someone who was actually--get this--QUALIFIED for the job. Can you believe it? Really, though, I don't blame them.... It's disappointing in that I'd like to have my foot in the door at the zoo (gardening job now, exhibit developer sometime in the distant future? ok, so it was a long shot) and in that I really enjoyed working on the Hort Staff this summer; it would have been fun to keep that up. But when you come right down to it my knowledge of basic horticulture is spottier than a cheetah's backside. I pretty much knew if they could get someone with a solid hort background to accept the modest salary, I'd be out of the running. And so it went.

Naturally, I'm feeling sad about this. No one likes being rejected, even when they understand why it's happened. I look forward to feeling this way again in a few weeks, when I don't get the two jobs I've applied for at the State Museum. But Halloween cheered me up, of course--sugar, gaming, more sugar, beer, sugar. Then today I got a package in the mail from Mil Millington, whose "Things" page is linked over on the left there. (He's sent me a copy of his book, also coincidentally called "Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About," and I highly recommend it. So far, anyway.) So that lifted my spirits further. And THEN, to bring me almost entirely out of my dark jobless fog, in the paper today I read this, followed immediately by this. At least when I drop my eventual cell phone down a public toilet, I won't be the first to make national news doing it.