CrowBiz

…funk for the old soul…

Mr. Crow Builds His Dream House

Posted by crowbiz on September 24, 2009

No, it wasn’t Cary Grant toiling away in our backyard all summer, it was Mr. Crow, living proof of back-busting, hard-ass German heritage.  

 

BEFORE

BEFORE

It all started so simply.  SonWon mused that it might be nice to upgrade the boys’ years-old “playhouse” (more of a play platform with a death drop slide) and cheerfully drew up a few outlandish sketches for improvements.  We had to reject the three-story plan and go with something that would fit the confines of our wee lot, but Mr Crow did manage to use one of the ideas.  Perhaps the biggest fuel was a borrowed book on treehouses, some humble and many stunningly sumptuous.  Using the existing playhouse he built six years ago, he began the reconfiguration in July.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working with only his own sketches and some kind of Lego gene, Mr Crow managed to whip up a pretty fab launching pad for the boys’ – and possibly adult – fun.  Minimal help came in the form of a boy or two bracing a board, hauling lumber, or handing over a drill, but it was largely a solo job.  I stayed almost entirely clear, other than to dictate where the reaches of the structure could not go.  Oh, and I did the metal roof with him.  During construction, an unknown neighbor in the next-door rental called out to Mr. Crow, “Do your kids call you ‘SuperDad’?”  Windows and doors are salvaged – the house was sort of made to fit around them.  All cedar.  Two ladders.  Deck.  Driftwood railings.  And ~ drumroll ~ a trap door! (a great anxiety engine for mom, who has seen a fair share of clunked heads and pinched fingers already). 

Treehouse3   To everyone’s dismay, I keep threatening to gussy it up with a few window boxes or planters next year, which I fully realize will spoil the intent of a boys’ playhouse, but still, it is an awfully big wooden rectangle.  Soon enough, there will be drawings, carvings and homemade weapons of torture peppering it, but I’m determined to sneak in a few garden touches when no one is looking.  

 

 

It was christened on Labor Day with the first sleepover.  Ridiculously, four boys actually managed to fit and sleep inside after fashioning wall-to-wall sleeping bags and cushions, but at 7 and 10, they’re young enough to still be satisfied sleeping like puppies in a pile.  Cleverly (I can’t imagine this was accidental), Mr Crow scaled it to comfortably accommodate two adults in a horizontal position, but the house has yet to endure a trial run.  For the time being, I like to eat my lunch on the deck.

Hats off and bottoms up to Mr. Crow!

  

Boy den, ready for accessorizing.  Girls allowed.

Boy den, ready for accessorizing. Girls allowed.

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I Know You’re Out There

Posted by crowbiz on September 9, 2009

Every day, the search terms “bauhaus” and “canned bread” lead to my blog.

Every.  Single.  Day.

Hm.

 

Welcome to the working worldOh, and then there are a few of you who like to watch (yeah, like that), thinking I don’t know.  Look, when I had my first job working in the Fellini-inspired Shriner’s restaurant at age 16, I got scammed a couple times by the dishwashers and cooks watching me change into my work clothes in the ladies’ room.  At the beginning of each shift, I’d go downstairs to the washroom/changing room to get into my regulation garb and put away my civvies.  I’d noticed that there would often be a flurry of rushing footsteps along the stairway after I started changing, and curiously, I’d meet a guy or two on the way upstairs once I was finished.  It took a couple times, but I put the pieces together and surmised that they were jimmying a few ceiling tiles between the men’s and ladies’ rooms and standing atop toilet tanks for the show.  So one day I went in to change, waited a moment to make sure all the guys who could fit were likely in position… and turned off the lights in the ladies’ room.  A chorus of “Whaaa?!!”  and “Oh no!!” rang out from the other side of the wall, and that was the last time I changed at work.

These here fancy blog stats sure are something.  They tell me where you came from and how many times you came back and when you were on and what brand of toilet paper you used to clean up.  Just say hi, huh?

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I Despise Food Writing! Stop Me!

Posted by crowbiz on September 3, 2009

 

Fine Dining chez Crow

Fine Dining chez Crow

I swear, I didn’t realize.

 

Luckily, this dawned on me before someone else had to point it out.  Many of my posts have something to do with food.  It all started with the woeful Limburger story and mushroomed from there.  Not wanting to run a restaurant, canned bread, the Garbage Plate, my useful “recipes” (more coming), an adventure with rye bread, and pursuing sukiyaki, even though it was only the musical kind.  The thrilling crescendo came with the recent poutine review.  Where did all this come from, I asked my reflection in the mirror.  I heeded my own advice and looked within.

Three important points emerged:  

1)  All of my food discussions center on something relatively low-brow.  

Come on, canned bread and gooped-up fries?  Humble, but good eats.  And believe me, even if I had known the Limburger had been hit by a car, I’d still have eaten some.  I’m not above admitting it.  My posts have generated a fair share of “eewws” and have probably led to the misconception that I sit in my Tyvec-encased trailer eating dry stuffing mix washed down with store-brand cola.  With my bra strap slipping down along my flaccid bingo wing, crumbs accreting on my gut-shelf.   Wielding a remote.  The judgmental conclusion would be that I don’t know bacala from Bac-Os, nor camembert from Cheez-Wiz, but I caution you to be a careful thinker.  My adoration of low-rent food simply means that I’m not a snob.   I have no tolerance or patience for people who reject and mock foods that haven’t passed the cool-trendy-expensive-foreign-gentrified-organic-upper-middle-class test, and I’m downright embarrassed for anyone who would really care what others might think of their reaching for a Slim Jim (nacho flavor rocks).

OK, busted.  I am a snob about a couple things.  Tea.  Chocolate (“we do not eat brown wax in this house”).  

2)  For all my wordiness on food, I actually detest, abhor, loathe, and 27-other-thesaurus-synonyms-for-hate “food writing” and reviews.

H-A-T-E.  Can’t stand reading it, but somehow it crosses my path at times, such as when I’m stuck at the mechanic’s shop and have read every word of the rest of the newspaper or magazine at hand.  Many things about it drive me nuts, one of them being the amateurish nature of most food writing that finds me.  Shiver.  Hackneyed phrases like “blanketed with a ___ sauce” and “the ___ was generously studded with ___”  set me off so badly I could fork out the writer’s eyeballs and “infuse” them in acid.  I’ll only accept the word “flaky” in the psychopathological sense.  The strain of these writers trying to seem knowledgeable, coupled with a criminal lack of originality, is all too painful.  After all, food critiquing is equal-opportunity, since we all eat, we all have preferences, and we often have something to say about it.  Everyone wishes they had their own Food Network show, but frankly, half of the people on there shouldn’t even have their own Food Network show.  Really, I’d rather hear Joe Blow plainly relate that the plover-brain ravioli in a reduction of Rudbeckia nectar was “awesome!” than read that it was blanketed and studded.  

3)  I like things simple.

Yes, it’s fun to eat at a nice restaurant in which the chef has labored to concoct a most interesting array of offerings (often, presentation at the expense of taste).  I’ll eat most anything.  I’ll eat most any combination of anythings.  But I don’t like good stuff messed with too much.  Lobster smeared and stuffed with six ingredients?  Just throw the freaking thing out, it’s a waste.  Lobster.  Butter.  Too much great food comes to innovative ruination.  Leave it the heck alone, at least in front of me.  All this makes me seem hopelessly unsophisticated, but then so is the Buddhist monk for not reaching Level 17 in Grand Theft Auto, if that’s how your critical thinking works.  Let me suggest that I’m discerning with open arms.  What do I order on the uncommon occasion of upward dining?  Red meat, rare, because anyone can pile up twelve precious ingredients in their “signature dish,” but it takes restraint and finesse to get meat the way I like it – waved once over a candle flame with a sprinkle of salt.

In order to boost my food cred, I have to resort to pulling rank.  As a sensory-perceptual scientist and educator, one of my jobs is exploring the fascinating and still mysterious world of human taste perception (OK, so we only spend two classes on it).  I pass around the PTC paper samples to the class so each willing student can place it on his or her tongue and determine what category they fall into:  a nontaster, a taster (the largest group), or a supertaster (thank you Lazypedia, for a fair lay explanation and for referencing Linda Bartoshuk; but students, if any of you employ web references, I’ll fail you summarily).  Hilarity ensues as the unsuspecting supertasters wince, flinch, and bolt for the nearest water fountain cursing my name while the nontasters and tasters sit there puzzled.  I’m a supertaster, too.  So I need it simple.  My superior number of fungiform papiliae trump your measly few, so lay off my Frito fetish. Turns out, I also have the slightest whiff of synesthesia, so many flavors at once in my mouth is rather like an unsupervised 6th grade orchestra of ADHD boys playing Schoenberg.

But wait, you say, what about my devotion to things like the Garbage Plate and poutine?  Those are piled with ingredients and flavors, right?  Yes, but they’re simple.  Fat.  Salt.  Who can’t handle a mouthful of that?

So from here on out, I may or may not talk about food – OK, I’m pretty sure I will – but I pinky-promise not to mention blanketing, studding, or infusion.

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The Poutine of Renfrew County

Posted by crowbiz on August 23, 2009

PopeyesMenu

What price, Paradise?

 

As with every entry, there’s some backstory begging to be revealed that I have to reign in out of fear of irrelevancy and reader boredom. Here is my valiant attempt at brevity:  Let’s just say that for a week in August for most of the past several years I find myself in the Madawaska Valley region, specifically in Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada.

 

Anyone familiar with these parts, or anywhere in eastern Canada, really, well knows the institution that goes by several names combining “chip” or “fry” with “wagon” or “truck.”  My favorite is the “chip wagon,” but feel free to use “chip truck,” “fry wagon,” or most prosaic, “fry truck.”  For those unblessed by experience with this phenomenon, it is usually a vehicle (camper, step van, school bus, etc) or seasonal shack positioned at crossroads or on various lots in small towns and outfitted as a quick meal stop offering typical transient fare such as hot dogs, burgers, fish and chips, and fries.  But not just any fries.  Sure, you can order and eat  “just any fries,” alright.  I’m talking the pinnacle of fries, the ne plus ultra of fries, Canada’s greatest contribution to the world, alongside hockey and politeness:  POUTINE.

 

If you need a refresher on this author’s feeling about foods like poutine, go back and read my entry on the Garbage Plate.  Poutine comes in a few forms, but it’s basically french fries topped with gravy and shredded/curd white cheese.  People will argue about the specifics, and I say let them, just don’t mess with mine.  My preference, and the one I encounter most frequently, is beef gravy and what appears to be mozzarella cheese.  Over the years we’ve joked about taking poutine high-end or experimental (gorgonzola?  parmesan?  pork gravy?  tarragon sprinkles? ) but it’s only an exercise on par with imagining what you’d do with your lottery winnings.  It will never really happen.

 

The name connotes ancient, rustic Quebecois origins.  Though they didn’t get theirs from a converted recreational vehicle up on blocks for the summer, you can imagine 17th century trappers settling in after a long day’s paddle and whipping up a satisfying heap of fried potatoes covered in a steaming glob of fatty, salty toppings.  (It’s hard for me to type, my hands are shaking so.)  With a heavenly dish like this as their legacy, its no wonder Canadians grew to be so polite.  They deserve to be outright smug, but the gustatory contentment derived from poutine has a pleasant mellowing effect.  Actually, poutine may be a mid-20th century invention, but it hardly takes much imagination to think variants have been around forever.  I’m not even going to link to any alleged information sources, since they ruin the spirit, and worse, contain falsehoods about poutine that I will not be party to passing along.

 

My first brush with poutine was many years ago at a pow wow in Salamanca, NY where I purchased a plateful of poutine to accompany a bear sausage sandwich from a First Nations vendor.  Despite seeing the many fry wagons of Fort Erie, Ontario all my life, I virtually forgot about poutine until the trips up to the Madawaska Valley with Mr Crow’s family became routine.  Reckless vacation-eating mode, paired with the relative difficulty procuring groceries locally makes visits to the chip wagons nearly mandatory.  Not to stop would be like crossing the Sahara and, upon reaching an oasis, blithely saying, “Nah, let’s skip this one.”

 

Much to my regret, I’ve hardly scratched the surface in making the chip wagon rounds in the region.  Let me be clear that I may not be an expert, but my poutine zealotry should count for a lot.  Or maybe I really could be an expert?   I’ve been at it long enough to see my favorite stand (a shed out in the backyard of a “real building” ice cream parlor) in Bancroft disappear.  Some have been a passing visit, others see me at the window year after year.  And here are some from this year:

 

 

Customers at Fast Eddy's, Combermere, Ontario

Customers at Fast Eddy's, Combermere, Ontario

 

 

 

 

 

This year's winner

This year's winner from Fast Eddy's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast Eddy’s, Combermere

Positioned shrewdly outside the laundromat/coffee shack/gift shop /internet cafe (a couple computers tucked into a closet behind the washers, sock display and slushie machine), Fast Eddy’s is rocking.  Combermere sees brisk summer activity, and F.E.’s is there to meet the need.  As is the case at the best chip wagons, the fries are hand cut before frying and the enormous piles of empty potato cartons attest to the steady business.  Stand in line, because there probably will be one, order at the window, then wander into the omni-center to sort through garden hoses, greeting cards, and community notices.  (Note: this all-purpose joint also has a commodious restroom with a claw foot bathtub, should the mood arise). You will buy a pair of Madawaska socks before walking out.  It’s not just about the poutine, you know, but the whole atmosphere.  Wander back out to F.E.’s truck and wait for the single, bust-ass worker to complete your order, then plop yourself at one of the many roadside tables.  Overhead this year was the following phrase:  “I just have to tell you, these are the best chips I’ve ever eaten!”   Poutine:  *****

 

 

 

D & M Valley Chip Wagon, Quadeville, Ontario

D & M Valley Chip Wagon, Quadeville, Ontario

 

 

 

 

Poutine at D&M

Poutine at D&M

 

D & M Valley Chip Wagon, Quadeville 

Intersection of Route 515 and Addington Road.  This outlet is the quiet, dark horse in the chip wagon game.  Occupying one corner of the T-intersection is a large camper that offers a long list of items, including the other regional delight, the pogo, or corndog on a stick.  It even has the big RV awning stretched out over the condiment shelf.  Compared to the veritable metropolis of Combermere, Quadeville is merely an intersection with two buildings (one empty) and the fry truck.  When and why people flow through here is sort of mysterious to me, but then, I’m a real outsider, and therefore unentitled to pry.  Points have been subtracted for the serious infraction of using pre-cut, perhaps frozen fries, but to me, there is technically no such thing as a “bad fry.”  It’s rather like the term “bad sex” to a man.   Extra credit applies for two reasons: 1) It would appear that the proprietor of D & M lives in the RV, judging by the satellite dish and homey curtains in the non-kitchen half of the camper.  Forget the Zen serenity of life on a beautiful mountaintop; life in the chip wagon would be my goal for bliss attainment.  2) There is an electric bug zapper for insect-free outdoor dining at night – except the wagon closes at 7:00pm, well before dark during the wagon’s July 1st to September 1st schedule.  Poutine ***

 

 

 

 

 

Popeye's Charpit, Palmer Rapids, Ontario

Popeye's Charpit, Palmer Rapids, Ontario

 

 

 

 

Popeye's Poutine - note the chunky curd

Popeye's Poutine - note the chunky curd

 

Popeye’s Charpit, Palmer Rapids

Behind the grocery mini-mecca of Hannah’s on Route 515 in Palmer Rapids, at the back of a wide, sandy lot, lies the permanent shack version of the fry truck known as Popeye’s.  It features charming painted portraits of Olive Oyl and Popeye, evidently done in their very early years, since Popeye sports a full head of hair.  Though Palmer Rapids is technically smaller than even Quadeville, it has a larger feel to it, chiefly owing to the cornucopia that is Hannah’s (including fireworks and plenty of liquor) and the gas pump on the outskirts.  Standard fare and good prices.  Extra credit for: 1) offering pea meal on a bun, rather like a pea meal Whopper, and 2) actual cheese curds melted on the hand-cut fries – not the ubiquitous, if tasty, shredded cheese.  Typical of the kookiness one might encounter at a fry wagon was when the cook kindly and apologetically asked if I’d mind picking up a 2 liter carton of milk for her when I told her I would walk back up to Hannah’s to buy my beverage; there is a “rental agreement” that the stand itself cannot sell beverages so as not to compete with the big H.  Poutine ****

 

Others, oh, so many others

•Maynooth.  Hand-cut fries.  Memory tells me that everything was pretty good.

•Maple Leaf:  Route 62 between Combermere and Maynooth. The nameless “flower power” camper.  We’ve never stopped, but are intrigued by the hilarious appliqued flowers, reminiscent of my swinging neighbors bathroom in 1970.

•Bancroft:  Route 62.  A new truck several hundred feet away from my former favorite.  Could it be the same owners?

•South of Bancroft:  Route 28.  Several, but the yellow hut on the east side of the road, a few miles south of Bancroft, rang my bell a few years back.

 

 

Eager anticipation

Eager anticipation

See you in line.

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The Well-Read Citizen

Posted by crowbiz on August 7, 2009

Prologue:  So much for National Blog Posting Month, or whatever they call it.  I’ve seen reports that it encompasses both July and August, so it seems its own promoters don’t even have a handle on it.  Anyway, vacation and constant boy-presence have done a number on my writing this summer, despite my having a mental boatload of ideas early in July. 

OK, then, some thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve seen that blasted book list going around on Facebook – the one offered by the BBC which surmises that most people have read only about 6 of the 100 on the list.  Sure, many folks take issue with the selections, hoping to sound loftier by suggesting that dreary tome they partially trudged through in college should have been included, but blah, blah, and yadda.  Let me say I was utterly scrupulous in checking only the books I actually read, not ones I glanced at, skimmed, refer to, wish I’d read, or saw the movie of.  And I came up with only 35.  Come on, the Bible?  The complete works of Shakespeare?  More blah and yadda.  And I call myself educated?!  

 

 

A riveting page-turner

A riveting page-turner

Mr. Crow and I emailed a few words back and forth and decided our own list would be a realistic lifestyle revelation.  Here is what we compiled as some of our essential reading:

 

 

What’s Your Poo Telling You? (J. Richman and A. Sheth, MD)

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell (T. Max)

Owner’s Manual/Integrated High Definition LCD Television (Toshiba Corp)

Aleve, Drug Facts and Directions (Bayer Healthcare LLC)

Playing the Harmonica (D. Oliver)

Stove Top Directions, Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix (Zatarain’s)

Dental Appointment Reminder Card (J. Cart, DDS)

Magic Treehouse #41, Moonlight on the Magic Flute (M. Pope Osborne)

Your Statement and Bill (National Fuel Gas)

Take-Out Menu (Casa-di-Pizza)

Take-Out Menu (Peking Kitchen)

Take-Out Menu (India Gate)

Have a New Kid By Friday! (K. Leman, PhD)

The Handy Book of Knots (R. Penn)

Entry for Freddie Mercury (Wikipedia)

Parking Summons (City of Buffalo, Parking Violations Bureau)

No need to stop at 100 or even 500.  This could go on indefinitely, which makes us feel very well-read, indeed.

 

 

 

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Old Things, Corny Things, Good Things, Part 4: Sukiyaki, a few ways

Posted by crowbiz on July 20, 2009

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I have no musical abilities.  I have never received any training whatsoever and cannot read music nor play an instrument, but I can pick out a simple tune by figuring out the notes.  Sheer persistence will not spirit me to Carnegie Hall any time soon.  My biggest claim to fame is that I figured out the famous segments from Deep Purple’s “Smoke On the Water” and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” – for my son’s sake – and an assortment of other clunky note-after-note arrangements of songs no one would want to hear anyway.  For a short time in my adult life I had a flea market accordian, and as far as a lot of people are concerned, the less said about it the better.  My two songs were “Beer Barrel Polka,” naturally, and a hard-to-detect version of “Wipe Out.”  I’ve been threatening a midlife  drum lesson crisis; the family is rightfully worried yet ambivalent; they know drumming would serve as a general stress/rage outlet which they’d be forced to endure, but it would also mean I’d be less likely to take out my frustrations directly on them.  Life is all about trade-offs.

Singing, however, seems like something I could tackle.  Everyone can sing.  Not well, but everyone technically can do it.  And so I do.  Since the boys were babies, I’ve been singing out loud without embarrassment, as infants and toddlers are very receptive to Nat King Cole standards and other gems.  Now that they’re old enough to be embarrassed by and for me, I’ve upped the mortifaction potential by trying a few songs in foreign languages.  My version of “Sur Les Quais du Vieux Paris” is decent, what with my passing toddler-level French and a lot of gusto.

Next is one I’ve been wishing to master for years:  “Sukiyaki.”  The most famous version was done by Kyu Sakamoto, who saw it become a hit in 1963.  It’s a charmingly mournful song with its xylophone melody (? I told you I have no musical knowledge) and whistling interlude.  Here’s some sort of pre-video version of it that is equal parts dreary, cute, and puzzling.  Though I hardly have to point it out, notice the requisite Godzilla-like lip-asynching.  For a love song, it’s also creepy how Sakamoto dreamily runs his hands along a bunch of filthy 55-gallon industrial drums and walks through what may be chemical run-off puddles.

Unfortunately, this song has been covered many times, and every cover I’ve uncovered is dreck.  Worst are the versions that use the “Sukiyaki” melody with invented English lyrics.  The disco group A Taste Of Honey did a 70s version.  Yep, there’s a rap version.  Most pitiful was a country version I unearthed by a Hank Billy Wayne Bobby Pickens, Jr. or some such.  Why bother?  Aren’t there more important things to do – find a cure for cancer, mow a lawn somewhere?

Even sadder than the misguided covers is Kyu Sakamoto’s untimely death in the deadliest single airplane disaster in history in 1985, in which over 500 people perished.  Adding to this sadness is that as a 21-year-old college swingle, I knew about Sakamoto, “Sukiyaki,” and the crash at the time.  I knew the death count and that there had been a few survivors, including a couple of children.  This blog category isn’t called “corny” for nothing.

So far, I’ve covered a bit of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Now get ready for some awesome.  In my search for lyrics, I found one cover of “Sukiyaki” that, if you have human blood in your veins, should knock your socks off.  Forget the honky-tonk burlesque instrumentation.  Overlook his Nordic-patterned sweater and shocking resemblance to Buddy Hackett.  If this guy isn’t one of the most honest and spirited things you’ve seen online in a long while, then you’re a fool and you should just go back to watching farting dogs, snap dancing and William Hung for your unexamined kicks.  When he stops “la la la”-ing and sits quietly looking dead at you, then adjusts his glasses, you’ll know.

As for my own never-to-be-recorded “Sukiyaki,” progress is going nicely.  Phonetically, I find it very easy to handle and it’s mostly a matter of memory, but in a couple days I ought to have it nailed.  Karaoke night is waiting.

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Seven Girls a-Gagging

Posted by crowbiz on July 16, 2009

Special thanks to my mother, who brought up this episode a few weeks ago, and recalled her role with perfect clarity – which simply means it jibed with my version – after more than 30 years.

The third grade lunch table at St. John Vianney school was a segregated affair:  boys on one side, girls on the other.  We did have the freedom to choose who we sat next to, but not who appeared across from us.  Thus it was that one day, while sitting with my pal Wendy, we found ourselves across the table from Jerry and Danny, good buddies and too-good-to-be-true opposites.  Jerry was small, impishly handsome and bright.  Danny was large for his age, with prematurely developing acne and body odor, and consistently at the bottom of the class standings (Much to my horror, he later developed a crush on me in our middle school years when his acne and BO reached clinical levels.  This still produces jaw clenching and DT-like shudders in me.) 

 

Have you tried it with Fluffernutter?

Have you tried it with Fluffernutter?

As boys are wont to do, J & D thought it would be funny to surprise their table face-mates with a little gross humor during our peanut butter session.  Jerry hauled from his nose the largest, wettest booger I have, to this day, ever seen, and began to wag his finger slowly, sensuously, scarily back and forth in front of us.  Like a chubby green flame, the booger did an unpredictable dance on his fingertip, catching glints of light from the fluorescent overheads.  Wendy and I were the intended targets of this monstrous display and the only ones to see it, save for Danny, who showed gummy stuck bread in his teeth as he convulsed with laughter.

 

Well, you all know what’s it like with an accident.  You can’t not look.  The crumpled metal, the roadkill, the broken dinnerware, the overturned wheelchair, you name it, it’s irresistible.  Jerry’s amorphic booger transfixed us like a hypnotic atrocity, the color, shine, and movement rendering Wendy and me powerless to disengage.  We clutched each other’s forearms for support and then it began….

Perhaps simultaneously, Wendy and I started in on a gag jag, punctuated by the occasional cough or airy near-puke belch.  Our eyes filled will retch-produced tears, yet still we could not look away from the offending, undulating finger.  Once our visceral reaction kicked in, Jerry continued the snot show with renewed vigor, darting the booger nearer to us as if to wipe or fling it.  Just as suddenly, he’d draw back the hand and pretend he might eat the booger, aiming it near his open mouth.  Danny was nearly on the floor by this time.

Sensing danger among their own kind, other girls quickly took notice of us.  Wendy and I articulated the trouble as best we could between gags and throat-bound burps.  Before anyone else could see, Jerry abruptly ceased all mucoid shenanigans, offloaded the booger somewhere (?), and sat up neatly and quietly like the altar boy he was.  Evidently, our choked descriptions were adequate, as a few girls’ faces started to twist into disgust and…what was that?…gag a little?  Two of us rapidly became four, then six, and finally seven girls sympathetically coughing and gagging in a hellish chorus.  Eyes teared.  Girls doubled over.  And almost immediately, a lunch lady was summoned to the scene.  Panicking and wondering if we’d been afflicted with a mysterious swift-acting malady (bad Jiffy?  spoiled milk?  why only the girls?), the lunch lady whisked us in single file up out of the basement cafeteria and straight to the nurse’s office.  

St. John’s was a tiny school where the same 25 children progressed from K through Grade 8 together with a rare loss or addition of a kid here and there.  Charitably, I could say the school and church were not well off.  Turquoise painted cinderblock, a basement cafeteria/stageless auditorium/gym (with low ceilings), no lunch program, forced child labor.  Gym classes, when we had them, usually consisted of milling around in the blacktop church parking lot.  We dreaded Mass days, because the church was unheated.  In fourth grade, I remember a substitute nun ordering us to pick the crumpled paper out of the class wastebasket, smooth it as best we could, and use any unwritten-on sides or areas for our work.  You could tell who came from a big family, as the girls would be wearing a hand-me-down uniform in a long ago style – different pleats, maybe even a whole different tone of plaid that been discontinued many years earlier;  boys from these families always had the wrong width tie for the times.  Even the name was cut-rate; who ever heard of Vianney?

And so, the nurse’s office was predictably underequipped.  In reality, we had no nurse; instead, one of the non-teaching nuns filled in when needed, materializing from the convent to wipe a brow, call a parent, dab mercurochrome, or throw absorbent sawdust on a vomit pool before the janitor arrived.  The office even housed the mimeograph machine.  Our unexpected gag-a-thon produced a makeshift response.  Seven girls.  Two cots.  Three World War II issue scratchy wool blankets.  The authorities piled us like cordwood onto the two cots, three on one, four on another, threw blankets haphazardly over us, and clicked on a space heater (yes, just what you want when feeling nauseous).  Lucky me, I was on the lower count cot with Wendy and Kathy G.  Despite the teachers’ attempts to understand the source of our retchfest, they remained puzzled, as none of the girls was able to adequately explain it; most girls didn’t even understand their own gagging as a sympathetic response to the sight and sound of others.

Moments passed.  The room was hushed and warm with the tick of the space heater lulling our gags away.  Soon, all physio systems returned to normal and the Band of Seven lay quietly enjoying the time out of class.  We risked some whispered conversation while the principal, Sister Patricia, called our mothers to come collect us.  As it happened, my mother was the first one called and the first to show up at school, no doubt unhappy that this intrusion had spoiled her own lunch with mid-day “stories.”  By now, all girls were feeling fine and getting chatty.   My mother appeared at the office door and was met with a barrage of amazingly recovered girly exclamations.

“It was so gross!”  “He was going to wipe it on me!”  “Jerry and Danny…” “Ewww!”  “It was so big!”   “Did he eat it?” 

My mother waved us silent and got the straight story from me.  A good little girl, I was careful to give an accurate account of the event, especially since I could see my mother’s face morphing into the “are you kidding me?” look.  

“WHAT?!  You mean to tell me that you’re all in here because a boy picked his nose?  At lunch?!”  My mother’s response dripped of the regret felt by a typical 70s housewife whose few hours of solitude – the tuna sandwich, “Days Of Our Lives,” the mid-day cigarette – had been shattered by the stupidest of interruptions.  (Sorry I couldn’t appreciate that until recently, Mom.  Really, I didn’t ask them to call you.)  “Get up, all of you!” she commanded.  The directives were flying now.  “Were all the mothers called?”  (She was hoping perhaps to prevent another mother’s scuttled day.)  “I’m going right upstairs to talk to Sister Patricia!”  “Get these girls back to class,” she ordered some other adult within earshot.

Cheerfully, we filed out of the nurse’s office and back upstairs to our second-floor classroom.  Some of the girls might have felt sheepish about the whole incident, but not me – I was an original, honest-to-goodness Witness To the Booger.  As we passed the principal’s office, I could hear my mother’s voice intermixed with stop-and-start apologetic exclamations from Sister Patricia, who, auditorially, at least, was up against the wall.  We girls were not disappointed to miss a chance to go home early;  it hadn’t been anyone’s intent in the first place.  The gagging just took on a life of its own and we were swept up in the circumstances directed by adults, as always.  I knew my mother would see this as the school’s mistake, not mine, so I found it in me to enjoy her opening a can of controlled suburban whoop-ass on the authorities.

Once we were all back in our seats and attending to the blackboard, the whole class turned to the door when we heard a voice.  The sound was a groan like the pissed-off voices of a hundred dead souls coming from the hallway beyond:

 “Jerry, Danny, please come out here.”

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Twittering Your Business Away

Posted by crowbiz on June 30, 2009

 

Love it, hate it, # it

Love it, hate it, # it

Ah, social networking!  Say those few syllables over and over…. yes, it does take on the timbre of “anal itchiness,” “festering pimple,” and “supreme nausea.”  I would like to include “gaseous blowhard,” but it would require the British pronunciation “gas-ee-uss” rather than the clunky American version, “gash-uss.”

 

Do you wish you had a nickel for every forum poster who oozes about how great Twitter has been for their business?  How they find it so fun to spam, er I mean, post their items to their 11,000 followers and then sit back and watch the love roll in?  What is it about the magic number 11,000, by the way?  Did I miss the meeting where they handed out the secret code behind the pyramid that night?  And did you notice that after someone proclaims Twitter as crucial to their success, you check their Etsy shop and see they’ve made 7 sales in 2 years?  Then the chipper seller lets drop, “Well, I can’t be sure how many sales came directly from Twitter, but I know it’s helped!”

Yeah, it’s helped immensely – in sucking your time and your mind.

My feelings about the big twit are ambivalent.  I have some loose connections, do the occasional pimp, and mostly pick up links to hilarious sites that would take me too long to find on my own.  So right there, Twitter saves me time on my time-wasting, which I can now do in a much more targeted and efficient fashion.  Despite having over 300 followers, which is so low that I’m not even at the uncool kids’ lunch table, I’m still talking mostly to myself on Twitter.  When I eventually tweet the link to this very post, I’ll be able to watch the blog stats rocket upward by one.

There are several creepy followers who seem to be Stepford Twits, manufactured somewhere in that same factory that makes people to give testimonials for weight loss ads and mysterious work-from-home pitches.  They have what seem to be regular, homespun avatars, what with their undoctored faces, or pets, or children.  Yet their tweets seem to be a preprogrammed regurgitation of How To Get (fill in the number) Followers in (fill in the time frame).”  No other content, really.  Get followers so you can tell others how to get followers so they can say they got followers that will want to know how to get followers.  What does Jane Doe need with 11,000 followers?  

Once I boldly asked what the heck I needed with 10,000 followers (I was being conservative), and got an immediate reply from a nonfollower/nonfollowee with a curt, “I would think that would be obvious!”   It wasn’t to me.  It was one of the few, and certainly the quickest reply I ever received.  And the guy seemed offended.  It wasn’t as if I’d said, “Who needs liquids to live?” or “Oxygen is so overrated” or “Too bad you don’t know your real dad.”  Yet this stranger instantly heard my tweet – perhaps it registered on his Twitter Dissent Meter – and jumped in to scold.  Kind of like Big Brother and the Wizard of Oz combined, only without the rat cage or technicolor.

Take aaaall that time you’ve spent on Twitter.  Subtract out any real humanesque interaction – be honest now.  I’ll let you keep that, because sometimes it is fun to check someone’s link to a picture of the sleeping guy next to him on the flight (thanks, some funny guy who follows me).  Now how much time do you spend talking to the great void?   When you post your latest doohickey, do you rush back to check the views on Etsy?  Then back to Twitter… then back to Etsy… then…oh, right, leave a @reply to someone, because that will seem human of you, and there’s a 25% chance that the person you reply to might, in some future moment, click on a link that you’ve posted.  Which you will dutifully check by rushing back to Etsy.  Not that you’d be able to document this in any meaningful way, but you’d give yourself the idea that Twitter “definitely helps.”  

Is this your marketing, promotion and sales strategy?  No really, tell me it isn’t.  Visually, I picture it like this:  you run outside and leave your business card on the sidewalk, or maybe a picture of what you’re hawking with contact info.  Some people walk by, maybe even 11,000 people.  Maybe someone picks it up, maybe not.  After a few minutes, you dash back outside to check if anyone picked up the card.  If so, you put another one on the sidewalk.  If not, you go back and wait.  Repeat process indefinitely, or until you realize you sure need a shower or a meal or to leave for your real job.  

My heretical suggestion is that you get your bum off Twitter now and then. Next, take that time and pour, shovel and cram it into something that might be called an activity.  Find better outlets.  You may even have to – god forbid! – spend a few bucks advertising to a qualified, target market.  Sure, go ahead and send the pictures of your fingers photoshopped to look like sausages (I laughed till I cried) – enjoy it for what it is and don’t count on it bringing in the sales.

Yeah, yeah, there are those who will vehemently disagree with me and insist that their Etsy business booms because of Twitter.  You are free to tell me I don’t know what the bedazzzler I’m talking about, and I don’t mind, because I know your secret; you come from that different midwestern factory where they make the rare bird who is a success right out of the starting block and don’t even realize it.  I think there are three of you.  Maybe you interpret my crabbiness as jealousy, but I’d redirect you to frustration instead.  Anyone who reads my blog knows the idea of constraining myself to 140 characters is like something right out of Dante’s Inferno.

To wrap up, self-interest dictates that I should drop my info here.  If you have a soft spot for the unflappable, uncool kid on the fringe of the cafeteria, I’ll be there with my flabby sandwich:  https://twitter.com/CrowBiz

But I’m only one voice in 11,000.

Posted in Business & Etsy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

The Garbage Plate™ By Any Other Name

Posted by crowbiz on June 29, 2009

Shakespeare was wrong.  His suggestion that our perception of an experience would be relatively unchanged by nomenclature doesn’t sit right with me.  Without having to go all cognitive on him, I wish to politely point out to Shakes that he forgot that people don’t live in an association-free vacuum where learning and experience have no role.  Do you want your liquid laundry detergent to be brown and go by the name of Sludge Extra?  Would you eat a product called Grople?

Thus we come awkwardly to the subject of mish-mash concoctions of food.  I’m a staunch fan of edible conglomerates, and this was long before the drudgery of family cooking led me to devise meals that could be prepared with a minimum of dishes, utensils and steps.  Though I detest cookbooks and having to follow recipes, someone mentioned to me a book entitled “All In One Pot,” which is close to my idea of food porn.  For a while now, I’ve been devising a way to get breakfast, lunch and dinner all combined into one large dish, perhaps a stew or terrine, that I could dole out by the ladle or slice, depending on the consistency.

It’s no surprise that meals like the “garbage plate” thrill me.  Not only does it appeal to my desire for food amalgamation, but such meals are built of foods I adore, such as fries, processed meats, gravy and cheese.  Perfection could be achieved if there were a way to take the whole operation and make it smoked.  Another 50,000 words could be devoted to my deep and abiding love of poutine, and lest I get lured by its siren call, I best stick to my other topic.

224230448_cfd35c045e

Photo: DJ Dangler (I believe?) Thanks!

Now then, it’s my understanding that the Garbage Plate™ name officially belongs to the creation available at Nick Tahou Hots in Rochester, New York.  Despite being a little drive down the NYS Thruway from there, I’ve never actually eaten there, but I certainly can appreciate the G.P. conceptually.  Similar dishes can be found in restaurants everywhere, though they technically must come up with another name for it, maybe  Trash Platter, Dog Dish, Kitchen Sink, Dumpster Plate, Junkarole, Crap Slam.  (OK, no restaurant really uses Junkarole or Crap Slam, but someone should.)   A legal battle raged a few years back when someone wished to use the term “Plat du Refuse” for their offering, but I think Nick gained the upper spatula in the end.

Locally, Mr Crow and I shared a “Plat du Garbage” (gar-BAHZHE, a la francais) at what is normally a finer restaurant, and it was a hopeless disappointment compared to the rest of our meal.  Of course, it was merely meant to be amusing, not an actual presentation of low-brow foods, and even though we knew this, it was still a waste of food and a misguided attempt at whimsy.  It was more like a julienne salad with the “crazy” addition of a few unlikely but safe ingredients.  Had there been a gong in the restaurant, I’d have whaled it.  It was like suburban girls going slumming by saying they saw a homeless person from the window of mom’s SUV.  They should have just called it the “Trying To Be Ironic With Cute Menu Items Sucks” plate.

Anyway, all the flap over naming rights is asinine.  No disrespect, Nick and all you others, but trying to claim rights to name the mixed up combo plate is a waste of your time, and you’re about 50 centuries too late.  This kind of dish already has a name, but no one has the balls to use it.  Hitch up your pants, boys, ’cause this meal is known as:

“Mom Would Be Perfectly Happy With Cheese and Crackers and A Coke For Dinner If It Weren’t For The Rest Of You.”

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Some Great Bad Movie Recommendations

Posted by crowbiz on June 23, 2009

Let’s face it, the list of good bad movies could go on and on.  I’ve chosen a mere handful today, not because they represent the pinnacle of good badness, but just because I thought of them.  It’s also important that I’m clear on my criteria:  forbidden are purposely campy films meant to be bad and/or that have developed a recognizable cult following because of this (e.g., “Plan 9 From Outer Space” or Ed Wood movies, etc.)  The ones I adore are efforts that were earnest to begin with and just plain cornball.

Now then, I’m something of an old movie aficionado.  You’ll never find me filling the guest critic’s chair opposite Robert Osborne, dapper host of Turner Classic Movies, but I do know my way around 1920-1960s cinema.  As I’ve always felt I was somehow stuck out of time – born too late, that is – I have a natural affinity for the old stuff.  The habit developed when I was a carefree 15-year-old and enjoying the last summer before the awful realization of the working world.  Back then, of the few channels available on our pre-cable era television, several aired old movies starting after the 11:00 pm news and ran all night.  The first movie started at 11:30 pm, then the next at 1:30 am, and the next at 3:30 am, and dang if I didn’t sometimes stay up for all three, usually drifting off after 4:00 am.  (Mr Crow will be shocked to read this and learn that I ever stayed up past midnight.  Guess I got it all out way back then.)

The following summer, I was a beleaguered working girl in the summer, and dragged myself home from my hellacious restaurant kitchen job usually between 12:00-1:00 am, in that tired but wired way.  After a long shift of sweat, safety hazards, hot water, noise and endless sexual harassment, it felt good to crash in front of a comforting old movie or two with a big iced tea.

These days I only catch an oldie now and then, usually in pieces if the kids are abed and Mr Crow happens to be out.  But it’s still in my blood.  In fact, Mr Crow refers to any maudlin string music as “weee weee music” that signals sappy old-time films, and he sometimes serenades me if he catches me mid-movie; his high-pitched sequences of “weeeee WEEE wee weeeee WEE we weee…” is both a sentimental tweak and a direct mock.  Good thing I’m tough.

Now then, to today’s list, in no particular order:

 

Fluffy and light

Fluffy and light. Couldn't they at least center the band name on the drum?

Cotton Candy  (1978)  Made-for-TV gold!  Ron Howard’s early directorial effort features his bro Clint Howard, Charles Martin Smith, and a host of lesser knowns in a Troika Treat:  tried, true and trite.  A magical cheesefest. Underdog uber-nerds form a band – including a chick drummer! – and struggle to make it to the battle of the bands.  The eponymous Cotton Candy faces their evil rival Rapid Fire, who thrill the high school crowd with their cover of “I Shot the Sheriff.”  Friendships tested, young love, divided loyalties, etc, etc.  Awesome climactic moment in which Clint Howard, as Corky, is barred from the competition and watches, bawling, through the little glass window as the bands rock on.  Exactly two people on this planet have seen this movie:  me and my friend Lisa, whose friendship with me was instantly cemented upon her revelation that she, too, had seen it back in the 70s when it first aired.  Here is the ABC promo, which sounds like it’s narrated by the guy who used to do the Smucker’s jam commercials.  Note – the rival dude is super hot, 70s style – wings of perfection!  If you can stand a 12:30 clip, here’s another sample, including a segment of a Colgate toothpaste commercial at the end.  

 

 

So who applies her lipstick and eyeliner?

So who applies her lipstick and eyeliner?

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)  Classic B-movie horror in B & W.  The budget must have been somewhere in the $7.00 range for this gem, what with its wavering audio, cardboard sets and “night” scenes.  Wacky doctor keeps his fiance Jan’s tightly wrapped head alive in what appears to be a roasting pan, with tubes, clamps, and circulating “blood.”  As he searches for the perfect body to re-attach to her, she grows increasingly bitter about her situation.  In her low, breathy, but unsexy voice, Jan communicates with the “monster” kept locked in the basement closet nearby.  After a steady stream of nagging and moralizing from the pan, the doctor tapes her mouth shut, but she manages to telepathically command the grotesque cone-headed creature to break out and attack him.  Way creepy, no matter how you slice it.  This has gained a little bit of a following such that Mystery Science Theater spoofed it, and the head/brain is commonly nicknamed “Jan in the Pan” among devotees, but this doesn’t dim it’s good-badness.  You can’t tell me that the makers and actors of this movie weren’t trying their best.  At the risk of being a spoiler, the final moment is my favorite; as the lab in consumed by flames, Jan hisses through her clenched and now-untaped mouth, “I told you to let me die!”  The lo-fi 1962 trailer.   You can watch the whole darned thing at google.video.

 

Bad photo, but a must-watch clip

Bad photo, but a must-watch clip

The In-Crowd (1988)  *Not to be confused with a 2000 movie “The In Crowd,” which may well be a good-bad movie, but I’ve not seen it.*  My first accidental stumble on this was while recovering on the couch from a bad stomach bug.  It’s just the kind of mindless comfort you need after a night of vomiting.  I’ve stumbled a couple more times, but not in years, alas!  Yet another music-themed bad movie, which teaches us that if a problem can’t be settled with a dance-off, it probably wasn’t important anyway.  In 1965 Philadelphia, Del, played by Donovan Leitch, Jr. (yes, son of Mellow Yellow himself), yearns to break out of the predictability of goody-goody suburbia and get on a popular teen dance show.  He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, but at a cost; he must re-evaluate his old and new friendships, allegiances and life goals, and a lot of the usual teen yada yada.  Trailer here. Don’t for one second deny that you secretly wish you could dance like these kids.  Way hokey premise and “script,” but a fabulous early 60s soundtrack with many lesser known tunes worked in (Jerry Butler’s version of “Moon River,”  “I Had A Wonderful Dream” by the Majors, and many more).  Hep clip (Del is in the brown suit and blue shirt):  Del’s surprise debut on the dance show! 

You’re welcome.

Posted in Old Corny Good Things | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Clever Recipes for Savvy Folks

Posted by crowbiz on June 17, 2009

We’re all busy, so who couldn’t use a few helpful tips around the cucina?

Crappacino Automatico

 

Preferred in blind taste tests

Preferred in blind taste tests

No time to hit the local coffee venue today?  Fear not, a premium drink is seconds away.  Take 8 oz of any coffee you have on hand – even old stuff, ’cause you’re going to whip it into something new – and pour into a significantly larger container.  Add milk or any milky substance.  Insert straw and blow like you’re 8 years old and trying to make as many bubbles as you can before mom scolds you.  Blow again.  And again.  Harder, you wuss.  Decant into a smaller cup.  Charge yourself $4.75 and go sit at a wobbly metal table.

 

 

Sloth Pot Pie

 

The other two-toed meat

The other two-toed meat

This will bowl people over like you can’t believe.  Good for upscale potlucks.  Travel to a tropical locale in the Western Hemisphere and catch one sloth, either two- or three-toed variety.  This should be easy, as sloths are one of the slowest-moving creatures on earth; you could knock one out of a tree, or if you’re especially lucky, catch one on the ground, as sloths can barely crawl and wouldn’t even stand a chance against a pursuer in a nonmotorized wheelchair.  Dispatch and skin.  You can save the hide for Halloween gags or dry it in the sun to make one of those doorside boot-scrapers to get the mud off your shoes.  Dice and bake with blah blah ingredients for blah blah etc.  Since “tastes like chicken” has been hopelessly overdone, pass it off as “free-range, organic wild boar” and you’ll be legit for the first three descriptors.  This will also garner you plenty of yuppified brownie points (“exotic ingredients, yet a humble preparation!”).  I don’t suggest you actually eat it, unless you find yourself in an Amazonian prison camp and manage to bag a sloth that wanders on to the premises.  Anyone who’s eaten sloth is welcome to leave a comment.

 

Virtuous Snack Bait-and-Switch

 

Why?  Why?

Why? Why?

This isn’t so much a recipe as a strategy.  It was inspired by a real life episode at a party of odd factions.  Someone brought a bag of “Tings,” a pitiful puffed food product intended to be a healthy version of Cheetos for people with no sense or tastebuds.  One disappointed party-goer opened the bag with resignation when suddenly she spied Cool Ranch Doritos across the room.  “Fuck the Tings, there’s Doritos!” she cried, flinging the pretenders aside.  Here’s how to make yourself look good and score better snacks for yourself, although it does involve risk.  Purchase an overpriced, “natural” or organic snack food to bring to a party.  Assuming you aren’t beaten up at the door, you’ll be highly regarded as healthy, concerned, wealthy, or all three.  Make sure you are seen opening the bag, and if you must, eat a little of the contents to provide authenticity.  When others are not looking, abandon the healthy snack and eat your fill of all the other good, junky snacks that everyone else brought.  Sure, the initial investment could be high, but you can easily eat three times that cost in junky goods.  Leave the party sated and basking in eco-sensitive glory.  This can work at most social functions, but I caution against trying it at your next Crips meeting.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Sort-of Facts of Life

Posted by crowbiz on June 16, 2009

 

 

 

 

hilarious cards by wryandginger on etsy

hilarious cards by wryandginger on etsy

The Bunkbed Confidential category is so named for the weird and often heartfelt conversations that seem to transpire at the boys’ bedtime, a usually chaotic time that ends most nights with parental cuddling for each boy in their respective beds.  Since the boys were little, however, they’ve tended to spill the beans to mom rather than Mr Crow, probably out of sheer availability and time logged in mandatory cuddling, and I’m milking this all I can until we hit the monosyllabic grunt years.  The habit and need surrounding the cuddling ritual is so entrenched that there are times when I seriously worry I will have to drive to their eventual dorm rooms and lie down next to them with my hand across their chest.

 

 

 

 

While we’ve never had anything remotely resembling a sit-down lesson on the facts of life – that is, matters sexual, not mortgage, tax or annoying coworkers – various topics have come up over time and I address them as is, which leads to meandering but informative sessions.  It’s easy to see that SonWon, when given an interesting new piece of bodily information, is eager to think of ways to work it into conversations with others, and I’ve encouraged him to act wisely and not try to become the Merck Manual of Bus 408.  

Way back in first grade, he told me (from the top bunk) that some kids and he were discussing “boobs” at the school lunch table.  “Really?” I said, wondering what he could possibly have contributed to the conversation. “And what did you say?”  He was forthright:  “I told them you had big ones.”   I advised him that “breasts” was a better word to use.  Careful not to dissuade him from disclosing info, I try to keep things lighthearted.  It also helps that he’s had to sit through many of my lectures on very basic brain anatomy and function, and considers me an expert on biological matters.  Whenever I honestly tell him I don’t know the answer to some physiological function like renal failure, he assumes I’m just too tired or busy to bother crafting an reply – I’m holding out on him.

Though SonWon had for some time known that a man’s penis and “cells” from both parents are somehow involved in making babies, we never got to the specifics until one bedtime session when he was in second grade.  He asked the dreaded question about how the man’s cells get into the woman.  Like many kids, he had a fuzzy notion that kissing was involved, since it’s usually the most obvious and intimate physical contact most kids witness between parents – one hopes.  At the time, I was lounging in the lower bunk with SonToo, who was about 4 or 5 and still sucked his thumb.  He was listening closely, as always, wondering if this might somehow be of interest or import to him, but letting his big bro do the talking.

Since matter-of-fact is my normal daily mode, I laid out a hypothetical baby-making strategy in a few simple steps.  The sperm cells come out of the man’s penis, which has to go inside the woman, specifically, the vagina, or as SonWon already knew it, the birth canal.  Then the sperm meets up with the egg for tapas and drinks before merging. (If I’ve misstated something here, someone should email me.  But I think I have the basics right, which, sadly, many people do not.  When teaching Human Sexuality to college students, I inevitably get mired down explaining facts that anyone who has reached the age of 12 should know, but I just pick my jaw up off the floor and continue with impromptu hand-scrawled diagrams.  My penis cross-section is famous, if wince-inducing.  Even more class time is wasted dispelling ridiculous misinformation and rumors that have surprising tenacity, considering I heard the same things 30 years ago.)

SonWon was momentarily mortified at the idea of insertion and insisted I repeat it, since I’m known to prank him with a straight face and weary sigh for extra fool-power.  “You mean it really goes inside the woman’s body?” he asked. I affirmed this.  SonToo, three steps behind at kissing, suddenly sprang upright as if propelled by a broken coil.  His thumb shot out of his mouth with a comic pop, and he shouted in horror, “IN DA MOUTH?!  Eeeewww!!”

 

photo by Pavel Krok

photo by Pavel Krok

This isn’t what you envision, no matter what your philosophy of sexual education.  I had to literally press him back down, perhaps like some cartoon version of getting a corpse to lie flat in a casket.  This exclamation concerned SonWon, probably making him think he wasn’t listening closely enough and had misinterpreted something about where the penis is supposed to go.  “No, really, Mom, does it have to go in the woman’s mouth?!” he worried.  They followed up with a duet of more “eeeewwwws.”

 

Haha, you say.  It’s not so ha-ha when you’ve been caught off guard and have to get the game back into regulation time.  A few mental stops and starts slowed my response, what with ideas of oral sex and avoiding explaining oral sex, but I managed something to the effect of “The penis does not go in the woman’s mouth….to make a baby.”  It was tempting to tell them the mouth is the only place the penis should go until they finish graduate school and have good-paying jobs.  Double sighs of relief told me that was enough for them, and they’d be ruminating on it long enough that I didn’t need to burden them with more facts right then and there.  Anyway, I knew the other shoe was not just about to drop, but crash, freight train-like, to the floor from SonWon.

“So that means you and Dad had to….”

There’s nothing like ending the day by hearing your kids’ “eeeeewws” grow quieter and quieter under the peaceful veil of sleep.

Posted in Bunkbed Confidential | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Tales of the Seedless Rye

Posted by crowbiz on June 11, 2009

Thanks to Mr Crow’s encouragement, I’ve decided to somehow squish some disparate experiences into one post.  A couple weekends ago, our friends urged us to attended a roller derby match (meet?  I dunno, I’m a philistine in the roller derby world) with them at the Rainbow Rink in infamous North Tonawanda…

Queen City Roller Girls

Now then, the roller derby could be a couple posts in and of itself, and that’s where I thought I was starting.  It all turned left somewhere, but you can’t casually mention “roller derby” then just glaze over it.  I’ll put my most important statement first:  If you haven’t gone to see a roller derby, you really should.  We caught the Queen City Roller Girls (Team QCRG) versus the Philly Roller Girls (Broad Street Butchers team).  Knowing less about the derby than I do about particle physics proved to be no handicap to a night of fun.

Before arriving, I had jaded expectations that the scene would be plagued by hipsters in search of blog-worthy irony (you know that type – lord, how we detest them!) There may have been a few, but the mix of subcultures was vast and interesting.  Campsters, kitschsters, lots of supportive friends and relatives of the teams, and a goodly portion of local Chevy-plant types.  Refreshments were cheap tap beer and various Jack Daniels malt liquor products such as the imitation jack-and-cola concoction that I couldn’t pass up (warning:  sticky-sweet and headache inducing).  After further thought, I determined that it’s really rather hard to be all that ironic in Buffalo, and the ones busting their guts and congratulating themselves on enjoying the local “irony” are typically college sophmores from out of town. 

As someone who cannot even execute a passable cross-over on skates, I found a lot to admire in the roller teams as they made their way around the flat-track.  Mostly, I loved the player names, like “Leggs Benedict” (who wears a bloodied apron), “Stormie Weather,” “Mexicali Bruise,” and “Tara Newone,” so much so that I was often dreamily distracted from the action while trying to come up with my own handle.  I decided I’d go the sweet route (a la “Lamb Chop”) and become “Sunnyside Up” and my short-shorts would have an appliqued fried egg on each butt cheek.

During the halftime break, a rockabilly band provided a musical interlude while helpers rolled out pallets stacked with loaves of Al Cohen’s seedless rye bread to throw to the crowd. Here’s where the night’s meaning began to crystallize.  Not knowing the protocol, Mr Crow and I half-heartedly stuck out our arms to catch a loaf – we like rye, after all – but we couldn’t hold an elbow to the regulars as they jockeyed and jostled to pluck a loaf from mid-air.  Some were high lobs, some were low grounders, and suddenly, a loaf came whizzing so fast past Mr Crow that his grabbing it was a lucky afterthought.  By this time we had drinks in hand, jackets to hold and now the bread, so the logical thing to do would be to get a 25-cent rink locker for our loose belongings – if only every bar or concert venue had this amenity!  Mr Crow selected Locker 52, and we were free to watch the second half.

 

Makes great toast

Makes great toast

The match ended too soon for me, but alas, we had to go.  As we retrieved our things and turned to join the departing stream, a woman cried out in panic, “My bread! Someone stole my bread!”  The next half minute turned into one of those slo-mo episodes in which you can sort of see what’s coming, but are doubting it too much to do anything.  Some big guy, the type who must insert himself at the slightest whiff of dissention, probably hoping for fisticuffs or at least shoving, stepped in to assist with an assertive, “Who took it?!”  The woman’s wild eyes flashed at Mr Crow and his legitimately-obtained loaf as she shrieked with certitude, “Him!”  All surrounding heads turned toward the action and people actually – actually! – stepped back to form a small open circle, the kind where the two playground contestants are expected to settle their business.

 

The big dude was about to rev up his “alright buddy…” routine on behalf of the breadless woman, but Mr Crow protected his loaf like a running back cradles a football, while strangers hands made their way toward him for a bread-tugging contest.  With a perfectly staged, outraged near-falsetto, he stopped everyone dead with, “This is my bread – I just got it out of my locker!”  His arm shot up to identify trusty Number 52, with its key probably still warm from his pocket.  

It seemed likely that everyone involved wanted to laugh from the get-go, but the need to serve justice superceded any leeway for outright yuks.  Just saying “mine” really proves nothing, but I guess the idea of a middle-aged man indignantly referencing a roller rink locker was enough evidence for the crowd.  A guy wouldn’t lie about that kind of thing.

Turns out, the errant loaf had been picked up by our friend, who rightly recognized it as a stray on the bench in front of us – we’d all seen it sitting alone.  When he turned around to see the near rye-scuffle, he offered it up with apologies to the woman, who gathered it to herself like a lost toddler.  Later he commented in his sanguine way, “The bread was left unattended; I wasn’t going to just leave it there.”  Which is really all there is to say.

Of this episode, one could quip, “Only in North Tonawanda!” but that would be way off.  That scene could have played out in Cheektowaga, the other Tonawanda,  Sloan, anywhere in Buffalo, and most of the Southtowns…well, most of Western New York.  I’d except East Amherst from this, but then, I’d except East Amherst from a whole lot of things – and that’s another post for when I feel a suburb-slam coming on.

Posted in Life In the Mod Podge Lane | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »