Be it resolved

January 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

Obligatory New Year’s resolution post! I always want to make them, and then formulate amorphous, half-hearted ones in my head (Eat…more? Run places! More friends, fewer enemies!) which I always fail to follow up on. The problem is that New Year’s eve is a terrible deadline to make life-changing decisions, at least for me. I’m too addled by sugar cookies and Scotch to envision my future clearly.

So! Beyond finishing my BA, graduating from college, and learning Old English (not in that order), I’ve decided that 2012 is Year of the Author. I am Making The Transition. I am Taking The Next Step. I am Being Intentionally Vague Because I Don’t Know Exactly What It Will Entail. If you know me, you know that I write, want to write, and love to write. And I don’t trifle with any of that “aspiring” nonsense. I’m a writer, period. But now that I’m about to finish school and enter the “Real World” (read: the one where no one cares if you can sing Ce Fu En Mai or wax philosophical on the Carolingian renaissance), I think it’s Put Up or Shut Up. And since shutting up has never been in my skillset, I’m going to do this thing. For real for real.

What does that mean, practically? Well, I am probably going to get myself a fancy domain name and possibly relocate this blog to there. I am going to present myself (professionally, casually, frequently) as a YA author. I am very probably going to go to the Romantic Times 2012 Convention, even though it’s 500 bucks, because it’s in Chicago and when will I get this chance to workshop and network again? I am going to take seriously my parents’ offer to take the summer (or longer) off, not worry about a career, and follow my heart.

Also, I am going to write like a motherfucker.

There is no other way! I am going to crank out words: some here, some elsewhere, some in private, and some that I’ll eventually share. I am going to plot, draft, and edit. I am going to sink in time and sanity and lots of keyboard abuse to do what I want to do, which is share stories with people.

For those of you that read this who know and love me: thanks. Your encouragement and support are wonderful, and it keeps me going. But I love most that you want to read what I have to say. And if you don’t know or love me, and you’re still here, that’s even cooler. Somehow, I have pulled you in, not because I’m your daughter/niece/high school buddy but because what I made entertains you. This is great, this is so great, and this is all I really want.

This blog’s a year old. A year! At the very least, that’s a lot of output. And I wrote a novel (again) in November! Words come together! I am a writer! 

In short, I can, evidently, see things through, and this has got to be one of them. It’s resolved. Happy New Year, y’all! Let’s rock!

Everybody Must Get Pixie Cuts

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Remember when I got my hair cut before? Well, if my prior attempts at chopping my locks were dips in the baby pool, my current hairstyle is a dive into the deep end*. I went from looking like that crazy Food Network lady to post-HP Hermione. My hair is gone.

And guess what? It’s the best thing ever! Scarcely two weeks in to being nearly bald, I am going to come out with the bold recommendation that everyone cut of all their hair. Seriously, get rid of it. Long hair is for children in beauty pageants and D&D enthusiasts.

1. Easy maintenance. Like, the easiest. My attitude towards beauty regimens is dictated by laziness (cf. my affinity for tinted chapsticks and shaving my legs once a quarter**), so this fits perfectly. Taking a shower is now a matter of minutes. Minutes! Your hair dries on its own and doesn’t usually look weird. You can even use the bottom-shelf, 2-in-1 shamditioner and it will still look okay! (Bonus: you will smell like Suave Ocean Breeze, which is delicious).

2. Hair in your eyes. Hair in your eyelashes. Hair in your food. Hair in your mouth. Hair in your boyfriend or girlfriend’s mouth. All of these are no longer things. Victory!

3. Exercise. Do you do this? You should. And having short hair makes it less painful! You can run without a stupid ponytail and do yoga without hair flopping all over your downward dog. And cleaning up afterwards is easier (see #1). Don’t tell anyone, but you don’t even really have to wash your hair if you don’t want to. No one will notice! Tell them it’s product!

4. Super-cute bedhead. All day err-day.

5. A drastic haircut basically puts you in incognito mode forever. Spot a high school classmate on the train home and don’t feel pausing your audiobook of The Hunger Games to go have an awkward hey-how-are-you? They have no idea who you are, so who cares! Feel free to sit back and observe them casually pick their nose, feeling superior all the while.

6. Okay. I’m hardly qualified to make any statements about outward appearances, but I’m pretty sure that people take short hair more seriously. If you’re a girl, having long hair is the default. It’s pretty, mostly, but unremarkable. Just typical. It’s like a choice of inaction. Short hair, on the other hand, is this crazy breaking away. You did something with it. You’re different! You’re defiant! You don’t own a brush!

Are there downsides? Probably. Since I’m six feet tall and curveless, I am easily mistakable for an adolescent male. Short hair can also imply a kind of Lilith Fair vibe, if you know what I mean (though card-carrying Grace says this is not true, since I can’t do a remotely convincing lesbian nod). And I’ve been told that with my glasses on, I look kind of like Stephen Colbert.

Bottom line, hair grows back. If you hate it, you’re only two years and some awkward semi-mullets away from the way your hair used to look. I’m sure your Dungeon Master will save your space until then.

*This metaphor is especially apropos if you keep in mind that I can’t really swim
**For tax purposes

The Best Time I Ever Got Trapped At Medieval Times

December 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

You need two things to enjoy the Medieval Times experience: a liberal attitude towards historical accuracy and a willingness to waste money on ridiculous shit. Being both a Medieval Studies major and a congenital dork, I am a prime sucker for their brand of schlock, and I refused to go anywhere else for my birthday. I recruited four friends, and despite varying levels of enthusiasm, our spirits were high as we piled into my ancient Volvo to head for the castle in nearby Schaumburg, IL.

“I went to the New York Medieval Times when I was six,” my friend Briseida was saying. “You eat with your hands. And it was the best fucking chicken I have ever eaten.”

“I looked it up on Yelp,” my friend Eli said. “A lot of people give it one star.”

I was incredulous. “Who would give Medieval Times one star?”

“They said the food wasn’t good,” he said. “And that the acting sucked.”

The turrents of the giant, fake castle shone from I-90 like a beacon.

“That’s not the point,” I said. “It’s about the experience.”

A costly experience, to be sure: 45 bucks admission, 20 bucks for our souvenir photo, and 24 more for fishbowl-sized cocktails flavored with massive amounts of grenadine. But it was all worth it. In the giant front hall, I was giddy, drunk on anticipation and overpriced alcohol, and could not resist yelling Actual Medieval Poetry at passersby.

“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, amirite, guys?” I called to a group of thick-necked guys in polar fleece. They seemed unfazed.

“I just want to eat that motherfucking chicken,” Briseida said. “Best chicken I’ve ever had.”

Seated in our color-coded section, we watched as multicolored lasers shot across the ceiling. The transportation to the past had begun, and there was no going back. The hissing sound in the arena wasn’t just a fog machine, but the mists of time. We went from ordinary people with no particular alliance to bloodthirsty supporters of our red-and-yellow champion. It was like a monster truck rally, but with more horses and only slightly fewer mullets. Our knight lost in combat about as convincing as the dance-fighting in West Side Story. One lapse in attention earned him a poleax to the stomach.

“I bet it’s rigged,” Eli said. “The section that spends the most money gets to win.”

And before I knew it, I had gnawed through all my chicken and the house lights came up. Dazzled, I gathered my many souvenirs and headed out. I felt like I never wanted to leave.

“I’m writing this up on Yelp when I get back. Five stars,” I said. Lexie looked at me, her face uneasy.

“Blair? Don’t get mad, but I just broke your car key.”

Just like that, my birthday celebration had gone from the ultimate wish fulfilment to a kind of Ye Olde Monkey’s Paw. Lexie handed me the twisted remains of my key. The rain got harder. Someone wandered off to get the attention of a cop car parked in the corner. I fumbled in my coat for my cell phone and dialed AAA.

“Are you in a safe location?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m at Medieval Times.”

“What?”

“Medieval Times,” I repeated. “It’s a giant fake castle. I was there for my birthday and now my car key is broken and I can’t leave.”

I was informed that AAA could not let me in my car since it was technically registered to my father. I felt a stab of desperation. I was stuck with a broken down car and a beer glass with a knight on it and I had no idea how to get a car towed. I felt a sob escape.

“What is your address?”

“I don’t know,” I said thickly. “It’s Medieval Times. As far as I know it’s the only castle in the greater Schaumburg area.” The departing crowd had thinned, and now we were the only ones left in the exit area. At least no one would see me having a breakdown in a red and yellow paper crown.

I hung up with the assurance that a tow truck would be on its way within the hour, and we’d retreated to the inside of the castle with a lanky night manager named Matt, the first Medieval Timeser we’d seen without a period costume.

“Hope you didn’t have Saturday night plans,” Lexie joked.

“I mean, I get paid as long as you guys are here,” Matt said. “So it’s no big deal.”

The overhead lights had been shut off, and the great hall was now decidedly eerie. The badly-painted peasants dancing in the murals grinned demonically, and the suits of armor by the bathroom cast a menacing gleam.

“Did the cops help you?” Matt asked.

“They were here for an asthma attack,” my friend Kathy said.

“Oh, yeah. We always try to warn people, but then they still come in and can’t breathe. Happened a few nights ago too.” He shrugged. “I guess you guys can go in the torture museum if you want,” he said. We followed him around back and shuffled in front of the recreation iron maidens and spiked collars, halfheartedly absorbing the instruments of pain and punishment.

“So the winner is fixed, right?” Eli asked. Matt nodded.

“Yeah. The green knight always loses. And the other knights switch colors so that they can learn all the different fight moves. Which one did you guys have?”

“Red and yellow,” I said. “Do you know him?” I showed him a picture Kathy had taken.

“Oh, yeah. Eddie. Cool dude.”

Our noble champion and defender was named Eddie. The absurdity of it all had compounded.

“I can’t believe we’re stuck at fucking Medieval Times,” I said, and made a noise that was half laugh, half desperate wail.

We moved from the torture museum and gaped at the depressed-looking horses in their glass stables. The three girls decided to catch a taxi back, and I decided I would sit in the throne since no one was there to stop me. At last, my phone buzzed.

“Hello?” I said breathlessly.

“Yeah, uh, we’re coming to tow you and uh, our truck broke down. So it’s gonna be another forty-five, fifty minutes. An hour, tops.”

I set my jaw as I hung up the phone.

“Was that them?” Eli asked.

“We’re going to die here,” I told him.

Matt apparently did have Saturday night plans, and so we had become the wards of a hefty bear of a man named Ivan who led us back to the offices to hang out. We passed by a huge room, full of racks of identical puffy blouses and doublets (“So this is how the sausage is made,” Eli said) before settling in a back office. A faded VHS of Home Alone lay on a counter, offering an ironic mise en abyme of our fate.

“Yeah, the horses sometimes get all fussy at night, so I have to take them out and walk them around the arena,” Ivan was saying. “They have four stomachs, you know, and they can get all knotted up if they get stressed. They work here like twenty, thirty years. Must make ‘em crazy.”

A light flashed on the CCTV and a grainy truck pulled in the lot. We trailed back out, past the costume shop and back out into the main hall, rounding Merlin’s Green Screen and the motionless frozen daiquiri machines to where our glasses awaited us and out into the parking lot.

A short man in a hooded sweatshirt was waiting for us. “This your car?”

“No,” I said. “I’m just hanging out in the parking lot of Medieval Times at midnight for no reason.”

“People do that,” Ivan said. “Come out here to offroad. I chase ‘em off.”

After a few minutes and much clanking of chains and scraping of steel, my humble Volvo was heaved onto the flatbed of the truck, a time capsule from a different era.

“I bet this is one of the weirdest pickups you’ve had to do,” Eli said as we got in the cab.

Our driver shook his head. “Weird, maybe, but not the worst.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked.

“Worst is fat people. And people who smell. Je-sus.”

My ability to make small talk had finally run out.

An hour later, dropped off by the tow truck and walking back to our apartments, Eli tried to patch together the tatters of my birthday celebration and console me.

“Look, it was awful. But it was also kind of awesome. And you get a great story.”

I opened our souvenir photo and looked at our faces: innocent smiles beneath our paper crowns, so unaware of the fate that awaited them back in the modern age. The inscription below seemed taunting. A Knight To Remember, indeed.

“Yeah,” I said. “It is about the experience, after all.”

Author’s Note: This story is entirely true and I have only witheld it from my blog readers for this long because I thought it might get published elsewhere. But that never happens, silly girl! So here you go. Happy My Birthday to all!

Holiday Cocktails from Your Parents’ Liquor Cabinet

December 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The “Dad”

  • 1 oz. Jim Beam
  • splash tap water
Combine in repurposed Pokémon-themed jelly jar. Add ice to taste while complaining about lack of proper barware.

 

The “9th Grade Sleepover”

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. flat Diet Coke
  • 2 oz. water

Combine first four ingredients in mostly-empty Diet Coke bottle; replace missing gin and vodka with water. Serve warm and furtive.

 

The “Company’s Coming”

  • Box wine, to taste
  • Glass decanter

Pour wine into decanter; serve with dinner. Feign ignorance when asked about varietal or provenance.

 

The “I Think This Is How You Make a Mudslide”

  • 1 oz. Bailey’s
  • 1 oz. Kahlúa
  • 2 oz. 1% milk
  • Vodka?

Combine. Wonder if Bailey’s has curdled. Garnish with sugar cookie and drink anyway.

 

The “Training Wheels”

  • scant 1 oz. vodka
  • full glass orange juice
Pour vodka into orange juice. Complain loudly about how it tastes awful and everyone else gets to drive alone with just a learner’s permit and THIS FAMILY SUCKS

 

The “World Tour”

  • 1 oz. duty-free vodka (Russia)
  • 1 oz. Johnnie Walker (Scotland)
  • 1 oz. Campari (Italy?)
  • 1 oz. Coyote-themed Tequila (Mexico)
  • 1 oz. mystery liqueur, left over from reception from a wedding that has since begotten two children (Texas)

Combine in highball glass, stir gently. Family member with the most passport stamps drinks.

 

The “Nightcap”

  • 2 oz. expired Children’s Dimetapp

Serve at room temperature, neat.

A Child’s Compendium of Illustrated Dido Suicides

December 5, 2011 § 8 Comments

Finals week is here and, like it always does, everything is falling apart. My weekend was equal parts awesome and flat-out horrible (more on this later. Though I will say it involved sobbing on the phone while wearing a paper crown in the rain).

Doing “research” for my Medieval Studies papers, I came across a collection of illustrations from the Romance of the Rose. Naturally, I looked for my favorite subject: Queen Dido. Dido, for those of you whose education is not as useless as mine, is the ruler of Carthage who offed herself when her boyfriend Aeneas left to found Rome. Life’s tough. And right now, I so get Dido. I mean, no one’s abandoning me to go marry a Latinine Princess, but the misery part is kind of there. Let’s empathize, shall we?

Wait, Dido, that's a sword!

This one doesn’t get the concept of proportion exceptionally well. Dido’s crown is approximately twice the size of her head, and the sword is a full 2/3 the size of her body. Also, why are those guys just waving their ginormous hands around instead of stopping her?

Whee! Falling on swords is SO MUCH FUN

Another gigundo sword, combined with Dido’s jaunty wave, as if to say, “Hey Reader! Just spearing myself through the kidneys over here!” Also: great hairstyle.

HURRK

This Dido gets a more reasonably-sized crown, and a nicer dress, despite being cursed with the face of Winston Churchill. She’s also just kind of poking herself in the boob, rather than doing a full-on kabob-ing. I can’t say I blame her; I’d hate to ruin that dress too.

This term paper is NEVER going to be finished

The facial expression. JUST LOOK AT IT. This is the look of a girl who has six more pages on Jean de Meun’s translation of the letters of Abelard and Heloise to write while her car is stuck in Schaumburg. Who are all the randos? I couldn’t say, though I like the baby’s raised eyebrow as if to say, “Seriously, girlfriend? Stabbing yourself over him?

Swipped on a banana peel, methinks

Another groovy dress, but with more dramatic projectile bleeding. Dido’s face makes it look like she just tripped and fell on the sword and is now yelling “OH SHI-” And again with the passive onlookers. Their eyes are practically glazed over. Were medieval people so jaded that even suicide was a boring spectator sport?

Just hangin' out in my play castle, u no

“Comment Dido se tue” indeed. This Dido apparently needed to climb into her childhood Play-Castle and light it on spidery orange fire before enswording herself. Also: neck length.

DON'T LEAVE ME GODDAMMIT

Again with the hanging. Here we actually get a sense of some narrative drama, what with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria about to carry Aeneas off to Pride Rock in the background there. But again: that castle is the same height as a full-grown woman? WHO IS BUILDING THESE THINGS

Obviously, there’s a moral here. As Dydo (the medieval version) said herself: “Mal fait amer hom Troyan.” Trojan guys are dicks, no pun intended. As modern women, let’s be glad that the only problems we have are getting our term papers done and finishing our Old French finals and oh God I just spent an hour looking up manuscripts for NO REASON

De Gustibus

November 14, 2011 § 5 Comments

I have a theory that there are two major, opposing areas in which girls become obsessed: food and fashion. There are a select few who can manage and foster a full-time interest in both, and they’re doubtless more interesting and more actively involved on Pinterest than I am, but generally, I think it’s either/or.

See, devoted involvement in either of these things requires an investment. Sure, you can get away with the basics when it comes to bodily coverings or nourishment. But why stop there, the fashionista/food geek will argue, when you can have hand-tooled leather boots from Anthro or artisan emerald Ostrich eggs? Thus, the expensiveness necessitates a choice. As does the expansiveness, for that matter. If most of your disposable income goes to artisan maple syrup and lavendar macarons, you probably aren’t going to fit in a sample size.*

If you know or stalk me, it’s pretty obvious which camp I fall into. Even the a casual observer can look at my secondhand J. Crew blouse that’s missing a button and smells like the church basement I bought it in and discern my level of involvement with my clothes. My requirements for vestments are 1. is it warm and 2. does it cost less than ten dollars. My closet is utilitarian and also a huge mess.

But my pantry? Well, it’s also a mess, but also full of the fruits of my labor. I don’t mean the purple potatoes and the farm-fresh eggs (though I buy those too, duh) but the various appliances that chop, blend, bake, and store comestibles. When I got a grant to cover my rent in New York last summer, I dropped $30 on a pizza stone, just because. A half-off Amazon gift card became an immersion blender. I whined and complained about our family’s charcoal grill until my dad trucked out to Jersey for a Craigslist gas-powered number. I smuggled a fancy 60-Euro knife back from Paris and treat it to regular sharpenings by Dave at the Farmers’ Market. Lately? 46 big ones for a multicompartmental, vacuum-sealed, Bento-style thermos. It came with a spork. I literally squealed when it arrived.

One day, maybe, I’ll have world enough and time to pay attention to what I’m supposed to wear. But I’m just going to get barbecue sauce on it anyway.

*Unless, like me, you’re on the anxiety diet

My Apartment Is Trying To Kill Me

November 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

As a nominally healthy 21-year-old girl, you can probably guess how often I 1. like to bake food and 2. worry about dying in my sleep. However, as a tenant in a cardboard deathtrap of an apartment, I must tell you that your guess is wrong, at least as of last night.

But let’s back up. My charming coldwater flat has mice. Or perhaps it’s just mouse; I’ve only ever seen the little vermin in a singular state. It’s always when I’m in the kitchen, innocently chopping up an onion or something, and I hear that telltale squeaking scurry of little feet. I freeze, holding my knife like the Baker’s Wife from the nursery rhyme, waiting. And then! The damn critter scurries out from under the radiator and into another hidey-hole before I even have a chance to cut off its tail.

Despite my best attempts at cleaning, after spending pretty much every waking hour in the kitchen mixing, kneading, sautéeing, and swearing when I burn myself, there are inevitable chunks of food, scraps of pie dough, and other culinary effluvia that escape my notice and probably provide adequate sustenance for a tiny creature.

Yesterday, after whiling away the afternoon dicing apples and working a pound of butter/lard into flour*, I ignored the sounds of scurrying and plugged into my laptop to bang out another thousand words of miserable drivel for my novel-in-progress. For the literal and metaphorical fruits of my labor, I decided that I would bake one of the tiny pies I had constructed as a bribe-cum-reward. I set the cantankerous oven to 400 (it runs cool), popped in a pie on one of those awesome nonstick sheet things, and went back to pepper my story with a few more adverbs.

Not twenty minutes later, I smelled something, and it was not pie. It was distinctly gassy. Panic set in instantly, as per my special talent for Freaking Out, and I sprinted back to the kitchen, which was suspiciously devoid of mice. There were flames in the oven, which I figured was a good sign that things weren’t about to combust, but also a strong odor of Not Good. I shut off the oven, put the pie in the toaster oven, and proceded to fling open every last window in the apartment. The temperature that could charitably be called “rustic” now plunged all the way to “Little Match Girl,” and I huddled in a blanket under the ceiling fan, breathing slowly and wondering if the fatigue setting in was normal end-of-day exhaustion or the gradual effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Two hours later, I’d finished dessert, called my mom twice, and summoned my upstairs neighbor-dudes to see if it really smelled like gas. “Maybe?” they said, sniffing up and down the hallway. I diligently Googled the signs of CO exposure: a hypochondriac’s nightmare of the nonspecific headache, fatigue, nausea. I looked up CO detectors: legally required, so naturally our building doesn’t have any, and unfortunately not even obtainable by Amazon Prime. At long last, I went to sleep, knowing full well that it could be the last time I ever closed my eyes. I wondered how long it would take anyone to find my corpse. “She died doing what she loved,” they would say, “having a panic attack while eating pie.”

I was never so glad to hear my alarm go off at seven this morning. Or, at least, I thought I would be. Actually, I felt groggy from staying up late worrying and freezing from the window letting in all the cold air in Chicago. As I stumbled to the kitchen to make some coffee, I heard the scrambling noise of rodents heading for the hills, and had a brief moment of symbiosis. Mice can only survive if there is breathable air, I assume. They could be the canaries in the coal mine that is my apartment! We could get along and eventually they would walk on their hind legs and sew me a dress like in Cinderella!

Until we get the oven fixed, anyway. Then I break out the snap traps.

*It makes the best pie crust and you’re wrong if you disagree

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