Archive | February, 2011

Eating Animals – tangential musings

27 Feb

Alright, I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma just like everyone else.  I, too, freaked out (am still in a sustained freak-out) about the state of Factory Farming and the inevitable apocalypse.  I watched Food Inc.  I developed a small crush on Alice Waters.  I give a crap about the food we eat and (with oscillating strategies and commitment)I try to make responsible choices.

But I recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and I’ve got my pants in a fresh bunch.  The hipster king has lots of extra-sincere stuff to convey, as usual (I had a chortle when I read one reviewer refer to him as the “extremely annoying and incredibly precious author”).  Don’t get me wrong, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close changed my life.  It remains one of my favorite books and probably always will.  The sustained heartbreak over Oskar and his business cards will stick with me forever.  But for some inexplicable reason, sometimes when I’m reading, I can picture JSF typing in a cafe (it’s really obscure – you haven’t heard of it) and a little tear slides down his cheek, and all of a sudden I want to punch imaginary JSF in the face.  It’s probably mostly about me and my issues.  I just needed to get that off my chest.

But just because he occasionally pushes my buttons and annoys me in my imagination doesn’t mean he’s not right.  After being accosted (in the benevolent “take your medicine” kind of way) with stats and stories of the environmental, health, and crimes against base humane treatment of animals that are being committed in the name of our weird diet, I can’t imagine anyone not taking pause to wonder how we got here and if we should perhaps get the hell out.  At best this whole food nightmare seems senseless (get it?  Whole Food nightmare?  No?  Just me?).  Which is pretty hip these days, I guess.  Senselessness, I mean.  We’ve perfected the short game.  We’re hoping to deny Medicaid to the children of drug addicts (that’ll teach ’em?)!  We’re killing people who kill people to teach people that killing people will get them killed!  We’re throwing up charter schools faster than you can say “Superman!”  We are carpe-ing the crap out of the diem.

But what about the long game?  What about how we’re being confronted with overwhelming evidence that suggests that the way we eat is wrecking us on every level – it’s wrecking our bodies, the earth, and the people we live with?  Are we going to deal with this? Am I going to deal with this?  Those who have read the book (like, a year or more ago probably) are thinking to themselves “Ah, so Liz has entered the vegan phase, which will last approximately 4-6 months and end in a breakdown of willpower sparked by someone’s birthday dinner at _________ restaurant.”  Those who know me well are probably thinking “I bet that kid ate meatloaf WHILE she was reading the book.  At Denny’s.”

I will neither confirm nor deny these possibilities, but I will say that I already did my vegan stint during high school.  In case you were wondering how hardcore lent can get (and just how annoying for your friends and family – not the vegan aspect, but the sanctimonious asshole bit), herein lies the answer.  You’re welcome.  Oddly enough, the meal that I chose to break my 6-month streak (because if you’re practicing hard-core lent, it needs to laaaaaaaaast – you need to BEAT lent, not merely observe it) was school hot lunch.  As always, good choices.

In any case, the overwhelming evidence is in.  Eating factory farmed meat  is creating all kinds of real and immediate problems.  And, you know, it has been for a while – Peter Singer has been harping on us for quite some time now with his reasoned points and persuasive arguments.  It doesn’t look good, my friends.  It looks like we need to deal with this.  I’m hard pressed to find a defensible reason for my behavior any longer.  I think I’m on the wrong side of this (you know, the apathy side……. where I often like to set up shop).

So I’ve stopped buying meat at the grocery store.  I joined a CSA that doles out tasty animal bits on a monthly basis and I supplement that supply with regular visits to The Meat Van (what?  You don’t have a farmer who pulls into a bus stop around the corner with a refrigerated van and sells meat and eggs on a weekly basis?).  I’m dangerously close to becoming a cliché.

But, when confronted with the need to grab a quick lunch due to poor planning or a pressing case of the hangries (hunger+anger) I go to Wendy’s and eat unspeakable evil.  I’m not sure I can say no to Ba le’s chinese pork…. I’m not sure if I want to.  Moreover, I REALLY don’t want to be the douche bag who isn’t eating my sister-in-law’s casserole for ethical reasons.  I pride myself on my willingness to eat anything (and methodically exercise myself of any dislikes – for instance it took me two years to develop a taste for olives, but now I love ’em).  I don’t want to be the difficult friend with an annoying diet to accommodate.  Basically, I don’t want to return to my days as a sanctimonious pain-in-the-ass.

I guess the folks who declined to eat meals prepared by slaves felt similarly.  Shit.

I think we have to deal with this.  As always, I’m not sure how to balance abstaining from evil and avoiding becoming an insufferable pile of judgement and sanctimony.  I want to do the right thing, but I don’t want to be a snob or a jerk.  As soon as I get it all figured out, I’ll be sure to let you know.  Those who are interested in these things may want to develop a contingency plan in the case that this takes me the rest of my life.


Domestic Badassery, Vol. 1

21 Feb

I’ve had many bath-toy-holding apparatuses in my cart at various super-stores and have always re-homed them in some unfortunate department at the last minute.  I know, this was a jerky move.  I too worked retail and know just how inconsiderate this maneuver is.  For some reason, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on spending between 3 and 15 unnecessary dollars on more baby crap.  Everybody has a limit, and apparently mine is mesh and/or whale shaped.  But the problem remained, Ida had some bath toys that needed some kind of storage (other than our super-classy solution of just leaving them like permanent debris in the bathtub).

In a moment of inspiration while juicing a bunch of lemons for some cocktails I was serving at a party recently, I stashed a bunch of the mesh bags the lemons were packaged in (you’re killing me with all this packaging Trader Joes – they already come in skins for christsakes) in a drawer.  A few weeks of procrastination and 5 minutes with some scissors and my sewing machine later, and voila!  A storage solution that doesn’t invoke the Clampetts.  I’d say it’s “green”, but that makes me throw up in my mouth (as does localsustainableorganic – all one word).

The supplies - a few lemon bags, some scissors, and a couple of suction cups. The dental floss and bobby pin were an initial plan that clearly never had a chance. I cut the bags along one of the long seams, fitted one inside another and sewed the side seams.

After sewing the side seams with my trusty machine, I did a fancy little move where I nipped the bottom corners under and did two additional short lines with the machine to create a little depth. Lastly, I ran a line around the rim of the bags to stick them both together at the top (after briefly considering utilizing the "compartments" that the two bags inside one another naturally made. I mean, the kid only has like 8 bath toys, so that seemed silly. Mom, if you're reading this - SHE DOES NOT NEED MORE THAN THESE 8.). I hung my creation on two suction hooks and BAM! Guilt-free, crafty, and green (excuse me) bath toy holder.

The that for the sake of which - She who has the bath toys. (Also, Put! A! Bird! On! It! Putabirdonit!)

And now, I shall retire for the evening.  Have a great week, my friends.

I’d run right into hell and back

20 Feb

So at this point, I’m either going to have to do some fancy substitutions, or violate the confidentiality agreement that Maxwell had me read over and sign after the yelling and disclosure of imaginary film school portions of the interview.  It’s just too good.  I’m going to throw caution to the wind here on the off-chance that Maxwell is too busy interviewing other unsuspecting innocents to prosecute.  Also – can we all just take a moment and celebrate the fact that a man with a barely lucid mental state had a sheaf of confidentiality agreements that were mimeographed?  Yes, you read that right – MIMEOGRAPHED.  I’ve thought about this particular detail almost constantly since I escaped my interview ended, and I have come to the conclusion that he must have a mimeograph machine in his place of residence.  I mean, you can’t just breeze into Kinko’s and ask to have something duplicated via mimeograph.  Although, I do think that the Vietnamese place that I used to frequent down the street from our old apartment had one….. Maybe….. I’m not sure what that thing was and frankly, just getting my copies made was sort-of challenging, so I never enquired.

So, on to the part where Maxwell cried.  In sharing more with me about the concept for his project, a truly amazing plot line was revealed.  At one point, Maxwell was telling me that the characters in the show would all go to hell.  He said that this would take place at a Jr. High dance.  He spent a good deal of time right after that reveal cracking up at his own funny (“Get it?  They’re in hell!  And it’s Jr. High!  And it’s a DANCE!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  It’s so funny!”).  Then the camera pans over to a long line of chairs.  Panning…….panning……panning.  Man!  Such a long line of chairs!  BAM!  Out of nowhere, Anne Frank!  Sitting in a chair!  In hell!  I’m just going to wait for a minute to let that sink in.

Anne Frank.  In hell.

So, just blowing by that awesome choice and it’s inherent comedic perfection, we pan some more and come upon Adolf Hitler in repose.  Naturally.  Now, reading this secondhand account is one thing, but imagine that someone is telling you this story live and in person.  Imagine the kind of cheek-biting, sip-taking, fake-coughing manuevers that you would have to employ to just get through this – to just make it to the end without laughing in poor Maxwell’s face!  I am available for hire, ladies and gentleman, and am obviously capable of some pretty incredible feats.  Skills:  determination, kindness, on-demand coughing.  The list goes on.

Anyway, there sit Hitler and Anne, and slowly, Anne looks over at Hitler, gets up, and offers him her hand (so as to ask him to dance).  This is the moment my friends.  A single tear escapes Maxwell’s eye, slides poetically down his cheek and it’s the beginning of the end.  The tears just keep coming.  And coming.  Through Maxwell’s emotional monsoon, he wales that Hitler and Anne are slow dancing to November Rain.  He’s sobbing “It’s so funny!  But ultimately it’s about forgiveness.  At the root of everything we do – it’s forgiveness.”

Maxwell doesn’t succumb to the social pressure.  He does not buy the hype.  He feels no shame bawling at a cafe while softly singing November Rain to himself/at me.  I was floored, obviously.  I mean, it’s not often that you see someone completely lose control in public, and to see it on so many levels?  For such a sustained duration?  I knew I was having a really remarkable experience.  One that probably (are you there God?  It’s me, Liz) won’t come around but once in a lifetime.  Well, actually in my case, I’ve had several experiences like this – remind me to tell you about the time I transcribed a letter for a non-english-speaker that ended up being a letter to his/her lover regarding a gender reassignment surgery and the potential future of the relationship going forward.  So many gestures.

There is so much more to tell.  So many more tiny details that made this experience truly mind-boggling.  There is the story of how Maxwell got hit by a taxi while riding his bike and got “a very generous settlement”.  There is the incredible tale of his completely unmedicated spinal surgery (“the doctors didn’t want to do it – they were like:  It’s never been done!  but I convinced them.  I mean, look at me!  I can take it, you know?”).  There was the part where he asked me to guess his daily pain level on a scale of 1-10.  Guess what?  It’s a 10.  He yelled, he cried, he made a lot of shit up.  And at the end of the day, I’m pretty much in the same boat.  So here’s to Maxwell – the best, most insane interview in my experience to date.

I didn’t take the job (he did offer me a position, but it was never made entirely clear to me what I would be doing), but I think it was a totally worthwhile adventure.  That – right there – is my life in a nutshell:  A series of totally worthwhile adventures that never lead to gainful employment.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand scene.


Some Days It Don’t Come Easy

17 Feb

Yes.  Each of my interview installments will be entitled with a phrase of Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love.”  I can’t say why just yet (I have no plan).  But it feels like a fit.

As I was saying…

I had ordered a cup of coffee when I came in, and it turned out to be the straw that broke Maxwell’s brain (is that how the expression goes?  I forget).  The yelling – which, again, began before he opened the door, so at that point he was just another guy screaming at no one on the street – was about the superiority of hot chocolate. Maxwell yelled me in no uncertain terms that the interview was already off to a poor start.  I think he was trying for a funny, but the yelling really derailed that train.  I don’t mean loud talking, either.  I mean trying-to-stop-a-bus-from-creaming-an-old-lady yelling.  As in “REPOST THIS OR YOU’LL GO BLIND – ALL CAPS-4-LIFE!”

Maxwell employed a painfully gradual decrescendo as he asked me in rapid succession if I had seen any of the following films:

Sunday Party Ice Cream Show Down

Pants Reel

Boonmaze Blues

Cream Cheese Summer

The Green Hamper

Mrs. Shenanigans

Narwhals Uprising II

There are no links because these films are not yet real – the do not exist.  I generated this list in the same manner that I imagine Maxwell generated his – using nothing but my brains and a cursory glance around the room (please do not try to create a drawing of my bedroom based on this information).  Although, Maxwell only took a few seconds whereas this activity took me a shameful amount of time.  At one point, I contemplated lying.  “Yes!  I loved the script but the casting seemed weird to me, you know?”  This being a go-to move of mine (lying), I thought it might be a fun way to get the conversation headed in a different direction.  I was mostly just hoping for “away.”   In that moment, I had an inexplicable urge to be honest, though.  I’ve really only had a few divine callings in my life, but the most recent was when I received holy orders to be Maxwell’s straight man.

You can imagine Maxwell’s disappointment as I said “no” to each and every ridiculous title.  How would I ever expect to write for his estimable project with such a shoddy appreciation for cinema?  He had a good mind to march me to Blockbuster and force me to rent each of these films on the spot.  But just as he was really picking up steam, the baristo banged two cookie sheets together  like trash can lids while looking me right in the eye.  This seemed to function almost like a reset button for Maxwell, bringing him back to the matter at hand – hot chocolate.  It was incredible.  Strike two.

So I didn’t order hot chocolate and I hadn’t seen any imaginary movies.  But goddamnit, I have things to offer!  I wish I could tell you that I laid them out for Maxwell, but it was becoming clearer and clearer to me that this was not really a “talking and listening” kind of meeting.  This was a performance with some confused spurts of sweaty audience participation (and, the helpful sound scape and psychiatric stylings of my new friend the baristo).  I’m good with structure, so once I adapted to this information, things smoothed out a bit.

Maxwell began to tell me about his experiences in Film School.  When I inquired as to where he matriculated, his fluster-level spiked from orange to red.  No names were available as to institutions or geographical locations, but there were lots of other names dropped (many of which, again, bore striking resemblances to objects at hand as his eyes combed the room).  At one point he said “I mean, I’m a student of the world!  Where have I NOT gone to film school?  It’s the way my mind experiences my surroundings.”  He also said “Like, any movie you’ve seen or heard of?  I was part of making that happen.”  For a minute I thought maybe he meant that his presence in the world as a citizen in general made the film possible on some level.  Soon enough, however, it became clear to me that Maxwell pictured more of a name-on-a-chair/megaphone type situation.  This seemed amazing to me.  I, as one who often aspires to delusions of grandeur, influence, and wild success, had found my sensei.

Tomorrow I will tell you about the part where Maxwell cried.

But I Won’t Do That

15 Feb

Even Meatloaf has his limits – the fluid boundary of places he just will not go.  Last week, I found an edge.

You know that moment in a meeting when you realize that someone is inevitably looking for your interviewer?  Perhaps it’s his parole officer, or his case manager, or even just the medical professional tasked with administering his meds on a reliable schedule.  Mayhap it’s someone with a tranquilizer gun, helmet, and giant lasso.  No matter, the fact is that you have discovered yourself in a meeting with a missing person and your thoughts turn naturally to how this poor soul can be returned to his safe haven.  And then a short while after that, your mind begins to locate the exits, and send the signal to your right hand to nonchalantly reach into your bag and locate your phone.  Just in case.

In hind sight, accepting an interview based on an email that I opened with the salutation “Hey Jerks!” should have perhaps been an indicator that this was not a sterling opportunity.  Perhaps the inclusion of the phrases “GILF” and “jizz in our pants” provided in the job description should have also steered me away (to be fair, or wait…… I think they were trying to be funny as this was a job posting for a comedy writer position)…. What can I say?  I was in a frenzy of self-doubt and professional anxiety (a stable base from which we should all make life decisions) and I unleashed my madness on craigslist.  What?  I have never once claimed to make good decisions.  You knew that.

The Set Up – Bullet Points:

I arrived at the empty cafe and spotted a table with two PC laptops circa 1998 and a “coat.”  As in, a garment that was allegedly a coat.  One computer was easily as large as a medical dictionary.  It didn’t strike me as all that strange, Chicago is cold in the winter and sometimes the homeless set up shop at an accommodating cafe and hold their office hours.  When the baristo behind the counter looked at me with what I later realized was pity and excitement I thought nothing of it.  When he gestured to the table and asked if I was here to meet Maxwell, it gave me a moment of pause…..

After a dramatic buildup and a gradual rise of my panic level, Maxwell made his entrance.  He was already sort-of yelling as he opened the door.  At first I thought maybe a bluetooth was involved, but no.  Had I been more present in the situation (and not STILL nervous that I would be asked what business I had applying to write anything for money), I would have listened carefully.  The overture is where we learn all of the themes that will be reiterated later in the show – any audience member worth her salt will apply herself to actively listening.  A missed opportunity.

The meeting began with Maxwell eschewing all of the usual pleasantries that usually kick off  an interview (names, handshakes, denouncement of Chicago weather).  It was straight to business.  And by business, I mean madness.

Stay tuned as I dole out my hilarious interview piece by piece.  Hang on the edge of your seat as we discover what can happen when a grown-ass man goes off his meds, collects some settlement money, and decides that he requires a staff.

See you tomorrow (unless the episode of some hidden camera show that I unwittingly starred in airs, and the whole story is revealed – fingers crossed).

January Reading

8 Feb

Here are the books I enjoyed in January!  Did you read anything you especially enjoyed?

Ladies and Gentleman, The Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein

Stuffed by Patricia Volk

The Complete Book of Butchering by Philip Hasheider

Cleaving by Julie Powel

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain