Monday, November 30, 2009

I didn't know personal growth could taste so good.

Well, folks, the moment we've all been waiting for has arrived:

I have officially outgrown my jeans.

I know what you're thinking: 'Really? In only a month on the road?' To which I reply, 'YES. Because I am THAT AWESOME.'

It turns out the road food of America is pretty kick-*ss. (That asterisk is for you, Grampa.) And I like to eat it. ALL of it. And then I like to get in my car after eating it, and drive for hours, and maybe at the other side, I like to sit on  my friends' couches and discuss what's for dinner. Because this is my life now. Just me, and the road, and our food. And this triumvirate of power is warming this cold winter in much the same way as my extra stores of fat. I feel like a survivor in the wilderness, stocking for winter. I feel like a grizzly bear. I feel like I can roar powerful roars into the world as soon as I lift my face from this bloody carcass demanding my attention.

Despite an increase in my body fat and a decrease in my cardiovascular fitness, I feel strong. Almost as strong as the elastic holding up my leggings, which are the only things I can fit into right now. I love you, leggings. You don't judge me. You accept me and envelope me and don't pinch my stomach in half when I sit down. I can't thank you enough for this. I think I want to marry you and bear your children.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go back to my journey of soul and self. And today this spiritual path is leading me right down to the cheese aisle of the Wisconsin grocery store. Dairy State, let us two be one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On the foods of St. Louis and Chicago

I think 'critters' is my favorite word. Either that, or 'victuals.' It's even better when I can use them together: 'They love their critter victuals in Louisiana.'

Speaking of victuals, St. Louis has four original food items unique to their city: a processed cheese called provel that's made of cheddar, swiss, and provolone (and according to Natalie, tastes like 'shit' and 'comes on EVERYTHING'), the Gerber sandwich, the Slinger (a hamburger patty layered with hash browns and eggs then covered in chili), and (drumroll please) toasted ravioli. Also called t-rav, toasted ravioli is breaded and deep-fried meat ravioli served in a basket as finger food with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. It is also so ridiculously good you will never eat regular ravioli again. They tasted just like pizza rolls except GOOD. Seriously perfect bar food. If one were to find herself at a bar. Which I obviously didn't, Grampa. Because you can buy it in the freezer section, in a giant bag. To bake at home and eat alone in the dark while watching the entire 3rd season of Veronica Mars. Which I also didn't do. Uh.

Chicago--where I arrived Tuesday night--has its own culinary delights: there is of course Chicago-style pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, both so famous they don't need description, but then--let's get down to business--we have the sandwiches.

I don't know where to begin to tell you about the sandwiches. So I will list them, because when I am in doubt, I always create a list.

1. The jibarito. Jibarito means 'little hillbilly' in Spanish--only the most useful word in the Spanish language I have EVER learned, which has now surpassed my OTHER favorite word in the Spanish language 'ronoso,' meaning 'mangy,' and now they can be combined into 'jibarito ronoso' to form 'mangy little hillbilly', which is really the only thing I can take from my eight years of Spanish learning with pleasure and awe--but ANYway, the jibarito is a puerto rican sandwich similar to a philly cheesesteak (thinly sliced skirt steak, sauteed onion, cheese), except it's bounded by two strips of fried PLANTAINS instead of BREAD. I KNOW. I'm speechless, too.

2. The Italian beef sandwich:  this treasure is roast beef seasoned with garlic and chile before being cooked in its own juices (making a spicy gravy jus), served up  on an italian roll with peppers--sweet or hot peppers, your call.  If you like, you can also order the sandwich 'wet,' at which point THE ENTIRE THING is dunked in the jus. I'm going to try this lovely at Al's #1 Beef, and I'm going to use ALL the right lingo like a total pro, since apparently you're supposed to order already knowing what you want (wet or dry, sweet or hot). Me, I'm going for hot and wet. Because that's how I roll.

3. And now...the mother-in-law. I feel like we need a moment of silence before I begin.

* silence * * moment * * silence *

Okay, we're ready.  Pay close attention here, because this is (I hope, anyway, dear God) like nothing you've ever seen before. Okay, close your eyes. No, figuratively speaking. I need you to read this. Okay, now with your eyes figuratively closed, picture pork or beef. Now take this pork or beef, and stuff it into a tamale. Got it so far? Pretty straightforward, yes? Now take this tamale. And stuff it into a hot dog bun. OH YES. A HOT DOG BUN. Okay, so now we're feeling a little funny inside. A little weird, a little alarmed, maybe in equal parts slightly repulsed and fascinated. Now take this bun-with-tamale in it. And cover it in chili. * another moment of silence * And then--OH THERE IS A THEN--you cover this entire thing in the toppings of a chicago-style hot dog: mustard, relish, onions, sliced tomatoes, pickles, hot peppers, and a dash of celery salt. And now you have a mother-in-law sandwich. How do you eat this? Like a hog in a trough. Or with a fork, like the weakling I am. And APPARENTLY there's a place here in Chi-town that even does a FATHER-in-law, which is the same thing as a mother-in-law except with LIQUID CHEESE instead of chili. Is your mind not blown? IT'S SO BLOWN.

So this is what I sought yesterday, this wet, messy mother-in-law. It took some research to find a place that had it--the sort of place that serves this doesn't have a website--and found three. Three places in all of Chicago. There may be more, but if so, I couldn't find them. They probably exist in dirty sandwich places or ghetto dog stands. I decided on Johnny O's (it was a toss up between that and Fat Johnnie's Famous Red Hots, which is where you can find the father-in-law) on 35th.  And it was INCREDIBLE. As was Johnny O himself, with whom I shared a booth in the stockroom (turns out Johnny O's is a convenience store--read 'no seating unless you ask, at which point they show you to the back and allow you to sit among boxes of beer in a ramshackle, abandoned booth with the store's owner, which will turn out to be the greatest treat of your life'), and here Johnny O told me story upon story of the neighborhood's history (turf wars between the Polish west of Halsted and the Italian-Irish mafia/politicos east of Halsted, with some peace-loving Lithuanians smack dab in the middle making their living as undertakers--of course my people are undertakers--and about how Bridgeport is now home to the artists of Chicago), and all of these stories rolled over me as I ate ate ate. He told me of singing the national anthem at a professional baseball game under the name 'Johnny Power' as a young man--there was a black and white photo on the wall to prove it--and about  how his old school friend Norbert 'Lefty' Mikalonas was Lithuanian like me and how there were so many of them they got their own street, Lituanica, just four blocks away, and how he opened his first hot dog stand in 1959, even though he sold them out of a cart when he was a young boy...and as these stories flowed over me, the mother-in-law flowed down my arm, and I was in heaven.

Johnny O's, ladies and gents. Johnny O's:

After all this bliss, I went down the street to Zhou B. Cafe, a free art gallery opened by these two Chinese guys with a built-in cafe/bar, where locals were spending a quiet evening playing chess and reading and working on their macs.  Zhou apparently has a late open house the third Friday of the month that's supposed to be RAD, but I missed it by a week. I ALWAYS miss things by a week.

Bridgeport Chicago, at a glance:

Monday, November 23, 2009

A little bit of Memphis and my favorite Memphibians

As per usual, I'm posting my pictures about a week late. This time, Memphis shots as I'm leaving St. Louis. Which means you'll see St. Louis roughly as I'm leaving Chicago. And so on, and so lovely forth.

Every morning during my stay in Memphis I woke on my living room futon to the sound of a tiny voice in the kitchen: 'Where's Sharona?' 'She's in there, on the futon.' A few seconds later I would hear the same small voice, this time much, much closer: 'I want a hug.' He didn't shake me, or pat me, or even bother to find out if I was awake. He just stated  his desire and simply waited. As a result, I got out of bed every morning in pretty much the greatest mood humanly possible. He was impossible not to love instantly.

Introducing Elek, the precious precious PRECIOUS three year old son of Diana and Peter, my Memphibian hosts. Diana (or 'Dinana,' as I like to call her) and I go way back to our college days, and Peter is her esposo, who had the good sense to escape for work before this photo shoot. His son, however, LOVED the camera. He did everything I asked for, and in spades: 'Elek, give me post-apocalypse angel!' and he'd gaze tragically toward the heavens. 'Elek, give me 'I live in a forest!' and he'd stand in a V with arms outspread. 'Give me rockstar!' and you'd get KISS. He'd stand anywhere he was asked, in whatever posture you asked for, and would patiently make whatever expression you could possibly desire: happy! sad! depressed alcoholic! He was a genius. I've never photographed anyone like this in my life. And he's THREE. He's obviously inherited his mother's modeling gene.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the chosen king of the fairies

“Old Ralph Rinkelmann made his living by comic sketches, and all but lost it again by tragic poems. So he was just the man to be chosen king of the fairies…” --George MacDonald

It's time to hit the road again, folks! I know what you're thinking: 'Did you just spend three days in Memphis and not tell us a thing about what you did?' Why yes, yes, I did. But I WILL be sharing with you photos of my wonderful Memphian friends and tales of all the wonderful food we ate (Peggy, I want to marry you), oh so very soon. Oh! But before I forget, I need to print a correction from yesterday's post: it turns out my use of 'memphisian' was appallingly incorrect. They are 'memphians.' Like 'amphibians,' except not. Or like 'Memphibian.' MEMPHIBIAN. Holy cow. I'm so using Memphibian from now on. You do it, too. It's the only way we can make this take off.

So as I was preparing to leave my Memphibian friends for the next great adventure (St. Louis hooooooooooooo!), this morning became Library Fox scan time for more free audio books!  And what did I stumble upon this round? GEORGE MACDONALD. Oh, yes, my friends. ONLY THE GREATEST SCOTTISH FANTASY AUTHOR WHO HAS EVER LIVED A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. I totally forgot he existed since college--which seems to be an alarming trend--but then just now I was cruising the Library Fox catalog and saw his name and right away I KNEW he was going to be the storyteller on my next leg. I mean, this guy was Lewis Caroll's MENTOR, he was all bff's with Tolkein and crap, and he's like the FATHER of effing fantasy as we know it. Oh! And per my wiki hit on him just now, he founded the kailyard school of scottish writing! I don't even know what that MEANS! Man, George. You're an outta control hot mess that is not apologizing for it. Seriously. I love you. And that wacky crazy beard. Is that to stay warm through the Scottish winter? Because otherwise, WHOA. People probably crossed the street when they saw you coming.

I'll see you all again in St. Louis, where once again I'll be posting information relevant to days past and struggling to keep up with the present. But then, that seems to be the story of my life. Will I ever enter the future on time?

Hugs and kisses,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ramblings unrelated to N'awlins, Nola, or the Big Easy. And some photographs that are.

This is the fourth blog post I've started today. I keep getting about two paragraphs in, then I wander off to switch a load of laundry, or refill my coffee, or eat a tomato, and then by the time I've returned, the moment is lost, the thread is gone, and I can't reclaim it or even remember why it seemed relevant at the time. Or somehow my opinion would change on the topic while I was away and I'd come back and be like, 'I wrote THAT? I don't even BELIEVE that,' at which point it would all have to be tossed, because one should only post absolute truth when possible, or absolute untruth, but certainly not something wishy-washy in between.

I lost my favorite chapstick today and so after lunch I went to Whole Foods to pick out the cheapest one I could find to tide me over until I get to Chicago in two weeks (where I can get it again). Except I didn't bother to read the label on the tube, and now my lips taste like patchouli and I can smell hippie everywhere and it's like the Haight just walked across my face. I'm also feeling a strange desire to burn incense and hang blankets on the wall and replace my couch with floor cushions.

Also, it's a whopping 46 degrees in Memphis today. For those of you from Scotland this is child's play, but for Memphisians (and myself), this is intolerably frigid. As Diana so eloquently put it, 'This is why I'll always live with black people. And mosquitos.'

And now for some New Orleans pictures. Not the bayou ones, they're not ready yet (and by 'ready,' I mean, 'even looked at'), but a couple others.

The French Quarter

The 9th Ward rebuild

The food! Over the course of five days, I had crab cakes benedict with creole hollandaise, biscuits and gravy with boudin (pronounced 'boo-dan') patties (a local spicy sausage with rice in it)--both breakfasts courtesy of Surrey's Juice Bar, which was one of my greatest finds while there--beignets and chicory coffee from Cafe du Monde, and fried eggplant with crawfish au gratin from Cafe Des Amis. Cafe Des Amis was actually located in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a couple of hours west of Nola, where I passed through on my way into town. It was absolutely worth the detour. And apparently they have a Saturday morning Zydeco brunch complete with live music and dancing! When I heard that, I felt my heart hesitate with a pitter-patter: 'Maybe we should just stay HERE instead of going all the way to New Orleans...'

I passed Grit's Bar (though didn't actually go in) when I was wandering through a residential neighborhood looking for Domilises po'boys, which was a mega-ghetto old school po'boy shop and fabulous. In the same neighborhood I also stumbled upon McKeown's Books and Difficult Music, the greatest used bookstore on the planet where I totally nabbed a Thurber anthology for fifty cents, and last but not least we have Juan's Flying Burrito in uptown, a 'creole taqueria' that I couldn't resist because it combined two of my favorite elements: 'creole' and 'taqueria.' I had the super shrimp burrito and am STILL dreaming about it...

oyster gravel, a st. charles plantation, surrey's breakfast, and a hurricane evacuation route

And lastly we come to the Preservation Hall, one of the jazz meccas of New Orleans. (For tourists, at least.) The two photos on the right were taken with my iphone since my camera batteries died soon after arrival, an action which caused the band leader--Mr. Leroy Jones, bottom right--to announce to the very large crowd in the very small venue in which I was sitting in the very front row of three, 'No taking videos with your iphones! And I know you can do it, because I've GOT an iphone!' (The small matter that my little 3G has no video capability whatsoever was not taken into account.) However, as I was the only one poised with my iphone in the air during this announcement, I felt a * little * self-conscious. The crowd murmured agreement and disgust over such gross and disrespectful bootlegging, and I slunk out after the show with an internal protestation of my dignity. But before I left, I had the loveliest conversations with the members of the band and they were wonderful, charming fellows all. They also mentioned that I should look up a fellow musician friend of theirs who plays in San Francisco now--a funk drummer named Zigaboo Modeliste. Which I totally will.

Monday, November 16, 2009

a crazed out black cat of a city

New Orleans is a city of drunken dreamers. A night out means a host of new friends, new adventures, and hundreds of dreams and promises made to be broken. As you go out on the town with these new companions on an evening--them excitedly pointing the way at every step--you remain discreetly sober, because this is the only way to remember it all. They don't notice--they're getting more and more generous and distracted as the evening goes on--but you're making mental notes and pictures and praying you don't forget a thing. You spend all night loving them as they put on their technicolor dreamcoats and twirl madly through the broken streets, and while you end the evening with plans plans plans to see each other again, you know it was for one night only, a vaporous and fleeting thing.

My five days in New Orleans was a whirlwind. It was melting sun and sagging porches, weeping willows and oyster po'boys, cracked sidewalks and cascading flowers, wrought iron courtyards and mosquitos mosquitos, boudin patties and alligator sausage, turtle soup and biscuits and grits, jazz and funk and rhythm and blues, and hey darlin' hey baby and you havin' a nice day, and chintzy wallpaper and tassled lamps and crawfish etouffee.

I have photos for you. In the hundreds. In the eights and nines and tens of hundreds. I'll be spending my day going through them all, attemping to process and sort and develop. I'm slightly overwhelmed: I've got so many I don't know where to begin. There are photos of the 9th Ward and the French Quarter and the food and the jazz musicians and the food and the Garden District and the food and then a dusty used bookstore in the middle of a lost nowhere that makes one want to read read read again and a roadside market on a tiny riverside highway with oh more food and then there's the bayou--OH THE BAYOU.  It's vast emptiness, it's nothingness as far as the eye can see. It's a barren, alien landscape. It's different from the swamp, which is where people usually go, on airboat tours with guides who drop marshmallows into the water to draw the alligators near for viewing and oooohs and ahhhs and faux shrieks of terror. The bayou is--for the lack of a better word--a community. People live in houses on the water and get around by boat, and back Before Katrina all the kids got picked up every morning by a school bus-boat, and there was a store out there, too, and a cemetery with white white gravestones, glowing in a landscape of browns and greens and rust reds. And for a living they harvest shrimp with giant nets, and sit on their docks with poles and lines catching red fish and speckle trout, and the boys slip in and out of the water like bronzed fish, and this is them. And the bayou stretches and stretches and stretches into nothingness all the way to the horizon.

So as I settle into my new perch in Memphis--where I arrived late last night--to get started on the hours of work before me processing these photos, let me leave you with some pics I took early last week of a lovely girl in Spring, Texas. I'll see you again tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gaining weight faster than my pregnant girlfriend; the library fox begins a revolution

So currently my best friend is like a kazillion months pregnant and we spoke today and it turns out she just weighed in at 117 pounds. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN POUNDS, PEOPLE.  THIS IS HER GAINING. So yeah...I don't think we're going to be friends anymore. I haven't weighed a hundred and seventeen pounds since I was FIVE. And on top of her teeny tiny-ness, she's all TALL and BEAUTIFUL and crap. I seriously can't handle it. Thank GOODNESS she's carrying my new nephew, or we'd have words.

I just made that up. Not about her weight gain--that's just too unreal to be fiction--but the nephew part. We don't actually 'know' the gender yet. But I'm still going with nephew because I already have two nieces from my sister and it's time to mix this bag up. Plus I'm like a gender savante. Like those old witchwomen that drop newts' organs into teacups and divine your future.

Other tales of back home: remember my super-rad downstairs neighbor of yesteryear? Well, per a  recent conversation with my sweet-sweet old roommate, he's now opened a cafe on Baker and McAllister! Can you BELIEVE it? My favorite handyman-neighbor is now a successful business owner! HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN GONE?! Also the kitty my roommate got after I left turned out to be a Killer Death Kitty and she had to sleep with a spray bottle for self-protection and then he tried to take her vet-dad's eye out and so now he is living in a safe place while they look for a nice farm that NEEDS a Killer Death Kitty, because he is very good at hunting and killing, you just don't want your small dog or child around him. So if you've got a place like that, you let me know.

On related news, I rolled around in a field today. And on a railroad track. But not in a dangerous way, not like I was tying myself down and waiting for rumbling earth or anything, but because there were photos to be taken from down there.

Other ways in which people are making my life more wonderful by the second: Treena Balds (a.k.a. TB, a.k.a. my jamaican honeybun) gave me a link to the raddest online audio library EVER. And do you know WHY it's the raddest online audio library ever? Because the readings are FREE. And why are they free? BECAUSE OF MAGIC. I call this service the Library Fox even though it's LibriVox because once my mind catches a glimpse of something and assigns it a value, that value is fixed. And I don't even bother trying to correct it, because there's really no point once my brain has decided to file something under the label of its choosing. This service will always be Library Fox, and in my mind he will always wear a black eye mask and a  black cape  too and be my little fox bandit. That's just the way it is. Plus Library Fox's byline is 'the acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.' THE ACOUSTICAL LIBERATION OF BOOKS. Does that make anybody else imagine books being freed by the Library Fox from their paper prisons with Jerichoan shouts? Did I just make up the word Jerichoan? According to these red squigglies, I did.

I selected for tomorrow's journey the following from Library Fox's bounty: 

2 B R 0 2 B by Kurt Vonneget, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass), and a handful of Fitzgerald's short stories. My drive tomorrow is going to be a TRIP. Which is important, because this is the longest leg of my journey yet: Houston to New Orleans. Six hours of hot, stretching highway. Six hours of eyelid-propping, leg-pinching, heat-induced mellifluous madness.

If you don't hear from me by this time tomorrow, just wait longer.

"There's no reality except the one contained within us. That's why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself." --Herman Hesse

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saturday, Day 8: the Boggy Creek Farm and my arrival in Houston

My last morning in Austin found me at the Boggy Creek Farm, a recommendation I got from Saveur, which has yet to lead my road trip dining astray. It turns out this farm has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal as 'Where Whole Foods Shops' and they were on Rachael Ray last Friday night. And let's also not forget their food blog on The Atlantic Monthly. All this coverage is shocking when you get there and realize: this farmer's market is actually A MARKET AT A FARM. It was tiny--there weren't dozens of tents and food vendors and flowers and fancy coffee stalls. It was so different from my love affair with the San Francisco Farmer's Market. This was the EPITOME of straight-from-the-source shopping and as fresh as fresh could be. And it was so peaceful I never wanted to leave:


The actual, lived-in farmhouse of the Boggy Creek Farm.

And the owners! Don't even get me started on the owners. This is Carol Ann Sayle and that's her husband, Larry Butler, on the tractor in the background.  He was tilling the earth in preparation for their winter cabbage, which is apparently gorgeous and tissue paper thin and so super delish that Carol can't wait. I love her. I also got her cookbook and she signed it for me and she spelled my name right. That was when I decided to erect a tent and never leave. In fact, I'm blogging right now from the bushes.

Okay, so I couldn't justify carrying a bag of organic radishes on a road trip, but I COULD justify a bottle of honey! This is Gause Yaupon, named from the local yaupon flowers that the bees go nuts for. Apparently a host of Austin chefs use it in their recipes because of it's 'signature flavor.' Alison, we'll put this to good use when I arrive in San Francisco. And by 'good use,' I mean, 'we can eat it by the spoonful.'

More stuff I wanted but couldn't get...check out those ancho chiles!

And the japanese radishes!

And the gourds!

And the shopping baskets!

And the craft stall!

This is Buddha Hill, the winner of the Austin Chronicle's best mother-daughter design team award last year. Try as I might, I couldn't find a website or Etsy page or anything for them, but if you're ever planning on being in the Austin area, you should definitely track them down. They made gorgeous, functional things--totes, aprons, wrist-warmers, purses--and with really good, quality materials. These bags were STURDY. And as someone who compulsively buys tote bags, I'm a pretty good judge of what's crap and what's not. Because I own a LOT of crap.

Speaking of compulsively buying bags...I COULDN'T STOP MYSELF. I HAD TO BUY THIS BAG.

Okay, and this--THIS I WILL BE ORDERING AND SHIPPING UNTIL THE DAY I DIE. I will not live a life that does not include Herbs de Tejas from here on out. I got the spicy one (they've also got original and orange), which has organic oregano, thyme, lavender, basil, sage, savory, rosemary, garlic chives, and jalapeƱo, all of which they grow themselves (with the exception of the basil, which they get from the boggy creek farm). And OMIHEAVEN. I've been making scrambled eggs with it the past three days and there's an explosion of happiness with every single bite. It's supposed to be great on chicken, too, which is next on my list. Along with salmon, and potatoes, and anything I will ever throw on a grill. (Before I forget--they don't have a website, but you can email them at laketravislavender at waynegibson dot com if you'd like to find out more. They ship!)

And then I arrived in Houston on Saturday afternoon! I kid you not, this is where I'm staying. I KNOW. I think they're part of the Kennedies or something. They're currently pretending they don't know what I'm talking about, but luckily I can see right through their protestations, which is why I'm selling  personalized tours of the house everyday while they're gone. * cha-CHING *

And the winner of Friday's ornament contest is...!

JESSICA! You must send me your address, because you're getting a gem of a covered wagon! I fully expect this thing to adorn your tree in Ireland EVERY YEAR. No matter HOW many times you have to explain it. In fact, start now by explaining it to Garrett. It will be good practice.

And Katy, I know you only guessed the same thing as Jessica to avoid getting an ornament in the mail, but little did you know, I got an extra just in case! Check out the beauty you get to look forward to! (P.S. I'm going to be driving through Colorado the second week of December--will you be going home for Christmas? If so, I'll totally drop it at your parents' door and ring the doorbell and run. Then spend twenty minutes at the front curb trying to get my grampa's oldsmobile to start while looking frantically over my shoulder.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I have a confession to make.

I have a confession to make: when I stay at your house, I use your shampoo. And your conditioner. And if your soap comes in a bottle that I can squirt into my hand and it smells a little fruity, I probably use that, too.

You have to hear me out. I am on a lifelong QUEST here. I’m convinced that somewhere out there is the perfect product for my hair, and all I have to do is FIND it. And I’ll know when I’ve found it, because heavenly angels will shine upon me and a chorus will soar and my locks will turn lustrous and bouncy and shine in the glow of light surrounding my blessed countenance all day long.

Because of this quest, at any given point in time I have a half dozen unfinished bottles falling all over my shower. But don't think I LIKE that. I don’t mean to be that person. It’s just that about halfway through a bottle, it becomes clear that this is Not the One. And so when I’m strolling through the drugstore, my eyes start to stray. I’m caught by a shiny new bottle, a new scent, a promise to fix whatever I feel is ailing my hair that particular day. Too limp! Too frizzy! Too dry! Too oily! Why can't I get a combination of them all?? Next thing you know, I'm completely absorbed. I’m just LOOKING, mind you. I’m not going to TOUCH anything. After all, I've got all those other bottles at home. can't hurt to pick up this one and just read the label....not because I’m going to BUY it, but because I’m curious about its ph balance. And maybe…OOOH! Is this scented with lemon verbena orange blossom bergamot with essence de pinecone?? Will those mint leaves tingle my scalp?? I love that!

Next thing you know, I’m bouncing home with a spring in my step and bottles in my bag. But that’s okay, because I NEEDED these, this could be the ONE, and besides, I was almost out of those other bottles, anyway! What am I supposed to do? Add water to them to extend their lifespan? I’m not my gramma.

And so when I climb into your shower, and I see a host of untried products, I get REALLY EXCITED. A chance to try even more! For free! With no commitment! It’s like a shampoo orgy!

In my defense, if I’m staying with you longer than a day, I probably won’t do it twice. This could be partly due to the fact that I only shower a couple times a week--and the odds of a shower day falling again while I’m with you are slim to none--but I also like to think it’s because of my integrity. In addition, I won’t use your products if they’re expensive. Because I can’t AFFORD to get attached to your Bumble & Bumble. Also I’m worried that because the bottle is so tiny, you’ll notice a dollop missing. A dollop that ounce by ounce probably comes to about 26 dollars. In the same vein, I won’t come near any product that’s Japanese, or has a cow on the label, or is by Aveda. But if you’ve got a product in the category I call Honda-level Haircare, I am POUNCING, and that's all there is to it. And yes, I run the risk of you noticing that I now smell JUST LIKE YOU, but I'm hoping you'll think that's an indication of how much we have in common.

Please don't kick me out. I love you. And there's just one more bottle I have left to try...

Friday, November 6, 2009

I didn't know it was possible to be so happy.

As briefly mentioned in yesterday's post, I have developed a personal tradition in which I allow myself the purchase of one (1) special Christmas tree ornament each year. I can spend an entire season looking for just the right one--the one that's so wonderfully tacky I take one look at it and think, 'dementia, you are mine.'  The benefits of this little game are multi-fold:

1. I get excited when I see Christmas decorations in the shops. Which--if you aren't typically into a holiday that celebrates by putting plastic, glowing reindeer on one's front lawn--means a lot.
2. I get excited when I see tacky Christmas decorations in shops. Which, you will notice, is most of them.
3. I don't go nuts buying Christmas decorations because I'm limited to one. This is actually a key limit in any shopping venture I take.
4. Each ornament on my final Christmas tree is special. And I DO mean 'special.'
5. My Christmas tree ends up the equivalent of a happy, glittery, insane asylum. Much like the way * I * am during the holiday season.

So you can imagine my thrill when TOY JOY! last night yielded the world's loveliest, most tasteless, most fantastic tree ornament selection I have ever seen under one roof. They had a Sherlock Holmes tree, with pipes and cigars and magnifying glasses, a futuristic tree with freeze ray guns and planets, and an 80's tree covered with dangling converse sneakers and round bulbs filled with neon fiber optics. And these were only one fraction of the wonders. I was tortured by euphoria. And shortly before midnight, after agonizing for nearly two hours, I found the winner.

The ornament I chose is one of the below. Try and guess which one it is! The first person to get it right will also get one because I bought an extra. Oh! And there's one clause to this game: if you win it, it must go on your tree. So 'win' could be a bit of a loose term here...

Oh, and family, you can't win because I already have specific, holiday-related tortures in mind for you. You're welcome.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gourdough's and TOY JOY!: two reasons to come to Austin. And stay here.

Welcome to Gourdough's, the best donuts in Austin. And I can say that having had NO other donuts in Austin, because just LOOK at this place. I have no words to describe the many forms of greatness present here, so let's just sit in silent reverence:

* bowing * Thank you, Gourdough's, for making the world a better place.

And now...the best late-night activity in Austin: TOY JOY! It's not actually titled with all caps and an exclamation point, but I really feel TOY JOY! is much more suitable for the wonders of this toy shop. It was chaotically messy--toys crammed into every available space, cascading onto the floors, overflowing the countertops--and while the staff kept apologizing profusely for it, that just made it even better. It was like walking INSIDE of a toy box. It was like your room as a child. It was a WONDERLAND. A wonderland that is open until eleven p.m. EVERY NIGHT. Except for the weekends, when it's open until MIDNIGHT. Oh, yes, my friends. That board game/smurf lunchbox/deck of cards/rubber doll you desperately need at ten p.m. can be YOURS.

We're going back tonight because today's the day they launch their Tinsel Trees and Ornament show and it's going to be BEDAZZLING.  I will definitely be picking out my annual Christmas tree ornament, which is a personal tradition I started in San Francisco in which I allow myself the purchase of one (1) ornament a year that I hand-pick carefully from a local boutique and rate for qualities like 'uniqueness,' 'awesomeness' and 'I-can't-believe-somebody-came-up-with-this-ness.' One year I actually made my own, but I don't like to talk about how that turned out.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for my big night out.