Archive for May, 2010

Move over J. D. Salinger

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Or not, seeing as you’re in a grave now, and there probably isn’t much room in there for someone else.

However, in terms of famous recluses?

Move over, because I’m starting to dig the idea.

I need to work on making this face. (***cross eyes, clench fists, wrinkle brow***)

I think I would make a good recluse.

I would.

Find a nice place by an ocean, and hole up, and write my books, and think deep thoughts, and create elaborate conspiracy theories about the reasons for my self-imposed isolation and leak them to the press here, and there and putter around an oversized house carrying a cat under each arm, and wear my bathrobe to dinner parties, and do whatever else eccentric recluses do.

I can see it.

I’m feeling it.

Especially the bathrobe part.

Maybe I’d occasionally hire some trustworthy local children to mow the lawn and fetch my weird list of groceries (artichoke hearts, Wasa crackers, almond butter, and Jack Daniels), but I’d chase them off with extreme prejudice if I thought they were loitering or eyeballing at my stuff. You can’t trust children, you know. Sticky little thieves, all of them.

For hobbies I’d complain about the government and drink absinthe and read the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge aloud and muse about obscure and asinine things and tap my nails on the table in a nerve-wracking manner and grow my own bonsai trees.

Mansinthe image

Maybe I'll start drinking Marilyn Manson's absinthe, Mansinthe?

And why not?
I’d have the time.

And no real rules or obligations standing in my way.

Just the books (handsomely rewarded, of course, as being eccentric is often expensive, or will be in my case. Artichoke hearts ain’t cheap.) and the absinthe to answer to.

And between you and me, this is sounding better all the time.

A permanent mental vacation.

Just write and write and write.

And what better way to feed the muse than to go totally nuts and do nothing but write and feed the muse?

The muse needs feeding.

She’s a hungry lady.

And she loves artichoke hearts.

And them bastards ain’t cheap.

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The Candy Stick

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Apparently and allegedly, once upon a time, a friend of a friend had a blog called The Candy Stick. I have searched for this purported, supposed blog – both to give it it’s due and to make sure I had the precedent right – to no avail.

Barbara Fritchie Candy Stick

I think this is the same Candy Stick in question., now known as Barbara Fritchie's Candy Stick

Regardless, the mythical The Candy Stick blog was evidently spawned after a particularly disappointing visit to a restaurant called – you guessed it – The Candy Stick. From what I can glean, it is a diner in Frederick, Maryland that had received such glowing acclaim that the future blog writers made a special trip just to try it out.

As the story goes, not only was the meal terrible, but it gave them food poisoning.

Thus The Candy Stick blog was begun to provide a forum to bitch about things that you expect to be wonderful, but end up sucking.

Like flavored marshmallows.

And Ghostbusters II.

And George Washington.

Case in point: during my time in DC last week, my friend – who has lived there for more than a decade – was in a mood to do some touristy things she’d never done before. I wasn’t so much for riding The Duck (those amphibious sightseeing buses that seem to exist in far more towns than warranted), but when she suggested we tour the Mount Vernon Distillery outside Alexandria, Virginia, it sounded good to me. As she explained it, for a mere $4.00, we would learn about the whiskey-making process (yawn) AND GET TO TASTE THE WHISKEY!

You know how they say enthusiasm is contagious?
Clearly they are right.

This guy's lack of enthusiasm is also contagious.

The thought of drinking whiskey at noon actually made my stomach do a “Oh no, you didn’t” flip flop of protest, but I still couldn’t shake the irresistible feeling that this was a marvelous idea that was going to be all kinds of amazing fun.

Yay! George Washington!

Yay! Distillery!

Yay! Whiskey Tasting!


After no less than an hour of pre-planning and enthusiastic musing the night before (technically the wee hours of the same morning), we had a firm strategy.

Thus, on a particularly wet and thus gloomy Monday afternoon, we found ourselves driving the 45 minutes out to Alexandria, Virginia and then nine miles beyond to Mount Vernon. We handed over our $4.00 in the weird gift shop, which appeared to be selling bottles of non-alcoholic cider, commemorative historical crap, and Christmas ornaments…and nothing else, and after a polite once-over of said crap, we were on our way.

Still excited at the prospect of non-existent whiskey.

I have a belief that if I bring an umbrella with me, it won’t rain, but I somehow managed to forget the umbrella on this journey and thus, it has rained on me A LOT. Yes, my post-La Paz bragging has backfired most spectacularly. To quote my dad when I arrived on an unseasonably freezing day, “I thought you brought HEAT.”

Anywho, standing outside in the rain waiting for someone to open the doors of the big barn-like structure in front of us – stop #1 on the Whiskey Trail –  double-reinforced my forgotten umbrella lament. While standing outside the corn gristmill getting drenched, I thought the wetness was the worst of it.

Once inside, the harsh reality became clear: we were the only people there, and this was a lengthy and monotonous historical tour not intended for the comfort of small audiences. Nonetheless, the show would go on with or without our rapt attention or whether or not we gave a damn. I spaced out for the great bulk of it, concentrating instead on taking super unflattering photos of the authentically dressed escort. Despite my efforts to stay uninvolved, I heard something about how the width of the space between the granite wheels determines the type of product you’re going to get – corn meal versus grits or whatever – obviously – and started laughing hysterically. After being scolded by my friend (who was fighting – with more success than me – to retain sober self-control), I mentally checked out anew.

Mount Vernon Grainmill

It's almost like you're there. No really, it's like you're there. And whether you're giving the tour or listening to it, you kind of want to put your face in your hands and have a little cry.

Eventually, we were released, and it was time for a pit stop in the bathroom, where we noted that they were really putting us through the ringer to get to the whiskey. I also stated my firm intent to drink $4.00 worth of whiskey (whatever that means), whether they liked it or not.

No pun intended, but spirits were high as we walked into the Mount Vernon Distillery, which I remarked smelled old and then learned was built in 2007.


So much for my sense of smell.

The 2007 construction date was the first big clue, and it was sometime around the hot water bath that I knew.

I just knew.

There was no whiskey here.

This was a sham.

A ruse.

A double-cross.

A swindle.

No whiskey for you!

I was almost this upset when I learned The Olive Garden didn't actually have a salad bar with unlimited black olives. I mean, it's called the OLIVE Garden!!!

We were enduring a painfully long $4.00 apiece story about slave owner George Washington’s reluctance to get into the whiskey business and how he made his (probably slave) farm manager ‘prove’ to him the value of making whiskey, which was all being made by slaves anyway and obviously, in that case, for nothing. Pure profit, baby.

Meanwhile, as feared, we were eventually released from the fake whiskey distilling demonstration and sent on our own through a boring display of old whiskey bottles and quotes about George Washington’s liberal attitude toward drinking and some recreated old fashioned bedrooms, probably once for slaves, but no doubt much nicer than they actually were at the time.

My friend was hilariously (in my humble opinion) outraged as she had clearly seen photos of people imbibing and happily enjoying shots of whiskey.

“False advertising!” she bellowed.  ”False advertising!”

(I have looked for these photos on the Mount Vernon website  and would have pasted them here as proof, but I can’t find them. I’ll let that fact pass without further comment.)

Alas, there was no one to hear our complaints as the end of the tour is self-directed, no doubt on purpose to muffle the complaints of the disgruntled would-be whiskey drinkers.

At the same time, the argument could probably be made that if we really wanted whiskey, we should have just gone and bought some whiskey. With $8, we were halfway to a bottle (or all of the way into a few airplane size testers or whatever those little plastic bottles are supposed to be used for).

Ground corn Mount Vernon

I took this picture of the corn they ground as a demonstration to be polite.

But that would have been beside the point. It’s about wanting to go and have the experience and have it be all that you’ve dreamed. I remember a million years ago I saw this ad for The Olive Garden (back when those restaurants were actually something of a new phenomenon, and I’d never been to one before). From the ad, I had the impression that there was a salad bar in which you could indulge in unlimited black olives.

This sounds super insane now, I admit, but at the time, I was smitten. I wanted to get at that salad bar.

Somehow I wrangled the guy I was dating at the time into taking me there, and when the waiter came with the big bowl of salad for us to share, my date noted my disappointment. I could be wrong, but I think that when I calculated that there were only four black olives in the entire bowl, I may have even said something disillusioned or slightly bitter.

What I do remember clearly is that my fellow diner caught on that I had drug him to this sub-par Italian chain restaurant because I wanted black olives, and I remember him scolding me in exasperation, “If you’d told me that’s what you wanted, I could have just gone to Costco and bought you a giant can of them!”

But again, that wasn’t actually the point.

Thus, flash forward to May 2010, sober and disillusioned, we drove back to Alexandria with absolutely no fear of getting pulled over for a DUI, and carried on with our day, a little poorer, a little more knowledgeable, and most likely none the wiser.

Such is life sometimes.

You keep hoping the next Candy Stick is going to be the one.

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Nothing doing

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Blame it on the rain.

Or the editing.

Or the fact that I’m not allowed to blog about my dad (which really is a crying shame, because I have got some delightful, whimsical anecdotes I could share. At least in my opinion. He may not find them quite as delightful or whimsical or anecdotal as I do, which is why the general embargo is imposed with respect to utilizing him or any of my loved ones as blog fodder. I just don’t go there, no matter how hilarious or  absurd or humiliating it might be…)

Thus, my principles firmly in place, there isn’t much to report.

Me. On a day warmer than today. A day like yesterday. Which today is not.

I am currently sitting in a Panera Bread in Chevy Chase, Maryland enjoying a vanilla latte and a sesame bagel sandwich while my beloved friend teaches a class that I think started out as English lessons but has become a discussion of American cultural oddities like monster truck drives, plastic surgery obsessed reality TV “stars”, and hoarding.

Maybe I should have gone and listened in on that?

Instead, I’m eavesdropping in on these blowhards at the table adjacent to me planning (what I have extrapolated is) a radio news show. I haven’t been able to determine the station, but fortunately I don’t live here, so avoiding it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Some of the highlights:

“You are wrong. That idea is idiotic. It’s total bullshit.”

(The one guy doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s incredibly rude.)

“What is this show ‘Lost’ really about? What is the deal with Jake? Why doesn’t that one guy have a name, but he can smoke cigars? What’s his name, Cigar? Hahaha!!! Seriously, can we find an ersatz scholar to discuss all this on the show?”

“Ann Coulter will play. I guarantee it. In fact, it might be interesting to have her come in and talk about moss.”

“Every segment I will tease. That will be my goal in life. I’ll spend half the show teasing. It’s all about the teasing. Teasing is what I must do.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Teasing is what we all must do. That and talk about moss. And Lost. Although I’ve never seen a single episode of Lost, so I probably wouldn’t qualify as the ersatz scholar they’re looking for. Want to talk about Project Runway or True Blood, however…and let’s talk pay rate.

Perhaps this break from editing to listen in on this nonsense will come to be recalled as time well spent?

We’ll see how my new, stolen lost moss teasing programming goes over and judge then, shall we?

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My diva demands

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Although I believe anyone has the ability to lose their grip on reality and slip off into diva-istic behavior (and that includes you males), I like to think I never would.

Maybe that’s because I got close enough for a little while there, lost in the world of corporate careers and related paychecks and the belief/hope that if everyone else was impressed with you, you were pretty impressive.

Kool Aid guy

Oh yeah!

They’re drinking the Kool Aid.

I made the Kool Aid.

I must be the Kool Aid guy! Oh yeah!

(Or something like that.)

Thing of it was, it didn’t work. Not really. Not deep down where it matters. In fact, such a belief system only opens an impressive chasm of need that begs to be filled. New clothes? Clothes makes the (wo)man. New shoes? That will make me feel taller…and thus better! First class? Those bastards had better upgrade me...

Truly, and in so many ways, the hunger never stops.

That’s why, I suppose, in my new incarnation, I’m really just grateful to be welcomed anywhere. I am truly blessed to have wonderful friends who bend over backwards, and share their beds and couches and guest rooms, and feed me and entertain me, and pick me up and drop me off at train stations and bus stations and airports, and truly go out of their way to show me a good time and make me comfortable.

Which is why it never occurs to me that my nomadic, gypsy ways might be perceived as, well, weird by others.

Woman with blurry cat

A self-portrait via phone with my dad's cat, Mini Me. He only likes me when my dad leaves. And even then he probably doesn't actually 'like' me.

And maybe they are weird?

Or maybe I just like to sample different sleeping arrangements?

Or maybe I just like to be on the go?

Or maybe a combo of all three?

Regardless, upon hearing that a few of my stops had no internet connection or TV or guest room or whatever, one of my non-gypsy friends was – let’s be frank here – kind of appalled. And they suggested I submit a list of requirements before I arrive. You read that right: A list of demands.

And the Kook Aid guy in me got to thinking and was like “Yeah! This is bullshit! And it’s too cold here! And I haven’t had a martini in weeks! And while you’re at it, point me toward your sauna…”

So just in case I ever do decide to go all diva AND grace you with my presence, here’s the list. Some of it is complicated, so you better get started right away…

  • Feather bedding – mattress topper, pillows, duvet, things I probably don’t even know they’ve invented, the works.
  • Champagne
  • Oysters on the halfshell
  • A butler
  • Cable TV. On a flat screen. In my room.
  • A sauna
  • A hot tub
  • Hot, sunny weather (I said it was complicated. I make no apologies.)
  • A good six-mile running route carved out for me and mapped with cute little pictures you drew by hand.
  • Daily lattes.
  • A pair of eight-pound weights for my upper body workout.
  • Ehhh….
  • Ummmm….
  • A bowl of M&Ms where you pick out all the brown ones (not really. I’ve just running out of unreasonable demands and grasping at straws.)

Editing. Or thinking about editing. Or thinking about thinking about editing and taking self-portraits instead. Behind me is my childhood comforter. No lie.

Hmmm, it seems I’m not as good at this as I thought.

And in all honesty, minus the weights (which really would be helpful as working out with champagne bottles or other half-assed substitutes really doesn’t hack it), none of this matters.

Or I could go and buy any of it myself if I really, really needed it.

So I guess I’ve just made my own point?

Diva period over. Closed for business. Fini.

Long live the easily pleased gypsy couch surfer…

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Not dead. Just editing.

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Which in some cultures is the same thing as being dead.

Or at least it should be.

If I had my own culture, my little euphemism for time spent editing would be, “a series of small deaths.”

As in “Vanessa has not been blogging as she has been undergoing a series of small deaths with Zion.”

However, as we’ve all been told, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Or, in my own greatly preferred version (courtesy of Marilyn Manson): Whatever doesn’t kill you is gonna leave a scar.

Mexican Taco Stand Menu

Me when things were warm and sunny, which was not - by any stretch of the imagination - in the last few weeks.

Either way.

Presuming I survive and come up for air soon, I’ll be back before you know it.

As always.

Pinky swear.

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