Tuesday, January 31, 2006

media update: January

I recently learned that one should italicize, not underline, book titles. Dag, why didn't anyone tell me before now? I have a reputation as an anal-retentive to uphold, you know.

Damn, I watched a lot of movies this month! I also watched The Machinist and Unleashed, but I'd seen them before, so they don't get added to the list.

As always, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer: Standard chick lit (albeit with more profanity) about a woman whose relationship with her best friend becomes strained after the friend loses weight and finds a fiance.

2. Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman: The Germans are FUCKED UP.

3. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005*: I always eagerly await each year's intallment of this anthology because I am a big geek. The essential read in this one is "Free Burgers for Life" by Ryan Boudinot.

4. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz: Wow, there are some really overbaked descriptions in here! Take this description, for example: "Overhead, an eight-legged harpist moved, and silent arpeggios trembled through taut strings of spider silk." Other than that, though, this isn't a bad book. I especially loved the ghost of Elvis, who also showed up in this book's predecessor, Odd Thomas.

5. S Is for Silence* by Sue Grafton: The latest Kinsey Millhone mystery, in which a woman asks her for help in finding her mother, who disappeared 34 years ago. A typically absorbing effort from Grafton.

6. Cell* by Stephen King: It's about time! King's back in fine form with this gutclencher about a bizarre phenomenon which travels through cell phones and turns people into insane, bloodthirsty zombies. I devoured every tense, gore-soaked page.


1. Devil in the Details* by Jennifer Traig: A fantastic memoir of the author's battle with scrupulosity, which is obsessive-compulsive disorder based in religion. God, is this book funny! Read it and marvel at your relative normalcy.

2. Marley & Me by John Grogan: Okay, so this story of "the world's worst dog" (Worst? Really? What about the dog that chewed off that French chick's face while she was passed out?) has the feel of a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" anecdote stretched out over almost 300 pages. But man, if you don't go through a fistful of Kleenex---or a whole box if you're a dog lover---while reading this, I don't think I want to know you.

3. Geisha by Liza Dalby: An informative look at the world of geisha as told by the only non-Japanese woman to ever serve as one.

4. Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields: Tom Cruise can eat a plate of dicks if he honestly thinks vitamins can cure postpartum depression.

5. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: See, now, if economics had been this interesting in high school, I just might have gotten an A.

6. The Best American Magazine Writing 2003: A collection of notable magazine articles, covering everything from the Notre Dame coaching scandal to Yellowstone National Park.


1. Swan* vols. 4-5 by Ariyoshi Kyoko

2. Royal Seventeen by Kayono

3. My Wife Is A High School Student by Hiyoko Kobayashi

4. Luv Clinic* by Sugi Emiko

5. The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don't Read the Newspaper* by Aaron McGruder

6. Honey and Clover* by Morita Shinobu

7. Nana* vols. 11-12 by Ai Yazawa

8. The Virgin Mary Is Watching vol. 2 by Nagasawa Satoru

9. Deep Love vols. 1-2 by Yoshi and Yuu Yoshii: Okay, most depressing manga ever. Seriously, I needed a Xanax afterwards. How much shit can you possibly throw at one poor Japanese high school girl? (Wait, I've seen the infamous "tub" picture...don't answer that.)


1. In Her Shoes: I watched this on the flight back from New Jersey, and although it wasn't fantastic, it was a pleasant enough way to kill a couple of hours.

2. Murderball*: Terrific, unsentimental documentary about the sport of wheelchair rugby, or murderball. Be sure to watch the DVD extra in which the boys of "Jackass" play cattle prod jousting with some of the sport's best atheletes.

3. The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Not bad, and it had a couple of creepy moments, but something about it struck me as very amateurish.

4. House of Wax: The only reason I wanted to see this was to watch Paris Hilton die, but it actually wound up being very enjoyable in a completely trashy way. Plenty of squirm-inducing moments and some cool special effects near the end.

5. Red Eye*: A surprisingly taut little thriller about a woman who discovers a fellow passenger is up to no good…and wants her help assassinating a high government official, or else he’ll kill her father. The movie loses steam once the venue switches from plane to land, but I still enjoyed it. The performances by Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are quite good, too.

6. Wedding Crashers: This wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought it would be, but it still had plenty of good laughs, and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play well off each other.

7. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo: Okay, so it's unbelievably juvenile and really crass and stupid, but it's also funny. Yeah, that's right, I said a Rob Schneider movie was funny. You can have my street cred card back now.

8. The Constant Gardener*: When a British diplomat's wife is murdered in Africa, he learns that she was investigating some very unethical practices by some very bad companies. It's depressing as hell, but it gives you lots of food for thought, and the acting is stellar. Ralph Fiennes can convey a thousand words with just his eyes; he's brilliant.

9. Ong Bak*: The story is utter ass, the acting ranges from adequate to laughable, and the dubbing is atrocious. So why does this movie still get a star? Because Tony Jaa is eighteen shades of awesome. He leaps through a circle of barbed wire, kicks the shit out of someone while his legs are on fire, and tears through an astounding chase sequence on a crowded Bangkok street...all with no wires and no special effects. Give him a good part in a decent American action film and he could be the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li over here.

10. Steamboy: The story didn't grab me---I missed about 30 minutes in the middle, opting to shower, but I'm still putting it here because I did see the vast majority of the film. However, it's one of the most visually stunning animated films I've ever seen. The dubbing didn't make me want to puncture my eardrums either, which is always a plus.

11. Four Brothers: Mildly entertaining homage to the 70's revenge genre, wah-wah music and all.

12. The Aristocrats: A documentary about the filthiest joke in the world. To be honest, it got a little old after a while, and the camera work was really irritating, but man, there are some good laughs to be had here. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is not a film for the easily offended.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

get a job (sha na na na, sha na na na na ba-ooh)

So I had a job interview today.

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?” you cry. “Don’t you love your job?”

Hell to the no! I don't love my job...I tolerate it. I do like most of the people I work with, the commute is (now) short ‘n’ sweet, and the money isn’t bad, considering that I don’t do a whole hell of a lot. It pays my expenses with a little left over for candy and magazines.

Anyway, in a nutshell, my department is going to go bye-bye at the end of June; they’re farming all our work out to offices in other states. After the bloody (literally), stormy (literally) mess that was our move to California almost five years ago, I vowed that I would never leave California again unless love or obscene quantities of money were involved. So…no transferring out of state for this cozy kitten, which meant I could either look for a job within the company or look for a job somewhere else. I don’t want to be doing this shit for the rest of my life (the occasional celebrity claim aside, insurance is NOT very exciting; color you shocked, I know), but I’d much rather look for something better while still gainfully employed.

So! A job opportunity arose within the company, doing basically the exact same thing I do now, but in a different and much busier department. I turned in an application and waited. Last week, I got an e-mail telling me that I had an interview set up, so I spent Sunday shopping for a business suit.

Yeah, that was fun. I just loooooooooooooooove shopping.


See, I have a big problem, or rather two big problems…my boobs. Practically every suit jacket I tried on stretched taut across my Minnesota Twins, which would be great if I was auditioning for a role in Anal Office Lady Slutstravaganza, but I wasn’t. Finally, I found one that fit perfectly, aside from being a little loose around the waist and a little long in the sleeves. I didn’t have time to get it tailored, but I figured I could push the sleeves up and look all determined and shit.

This morning, I got dressed and looked at myself in the mirror.

I looked like I wanted to recruit someone to my religion…the Order of Cheap Business Suits.

Ah, fuck it. At least my hair was behaving, and I was pretty sure I had the banter down pat.

So how did I do?

Well, let’s just say I hit a few out of the park, my brain took a massive shit on a couple of questions, and the rest were good but not outstanding. So I guess we’ll just have to see. I’m not going to worry about it, for I am zen, I am mellow.

I’m also really gassy today. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I didn’t play “Taps” on my little brown trumpet during the interview.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

magnet :: iron as CC :: freaks

On Sunday, I bought a picture frame at Little Tokyo. The base of the frame has a little smiling angel figurine next to the inscription “Chase the source of happiness with you.” I showed it to G and he claimed it was giving him cavities, but I thought it was cute and I immediately decided to get a print copy of the pretzel picture and put it inside. Then I’d bring it to work and put it in my cube, and all day I could stare at my cute boyfriend in the cute frame and DIE OF THE CUTE.

Anyway, I went to Long’s last night to order pretzel picture prints and purchase some sort of unguent, cream, or lotion to hasten the demise of the enormous zit I am currently sporting on the left side of my face. It is the largest zit I have ever had in my life, and I’m including adolescence here. I suppose I could try covering it up with a small round Band-Aid, but such is its girth that I think it would force the Band-Aid up and make it appear as though my zit was sporting a sombrero.

So I ordered my prints and headed over to the zit cream aisle. I was weighing my options when I heard someone shuffle up to me and say, “Um, miss?”

I looked up to see a large man with a string of letters either tattooed or drawn under his left eye.

“Uh, yeah?”

“Could you please give me some money, like maybe 69 cents.”

“Sorry, but I don’t carry cash with me anymore.”

This was, of course, a lie. I don’t carry a LOT of cash with me, but I always have at least five dollars with me in case I absolutely must purchase something and can’t, for whatever reason, use my credit or debit cards. But I must admit to a shameful Republicanesque streak in that I just don’t like giving money to any old person who asks for it. Maybe I’d like a copy of Marie Claire, but you don’t see me going up to the blonde in the Juicy sweatpants in the analgesics aisle and asking her to buy it for me.

“Oh, okay. Nice purse, by the way. Nice wallet.”

Um, what?

Okay, first of all, pal, you didn’t see my wallet. Second, if you had, you would have noticed that it’s fraying along the seams and barely even closes. Third, this purse is from Target. I think it cost me $16. So yes, even though it is a nice purse in the sense that it’s in good condition, it is not a NICE, i.e. designer and/or expensive, purse.

And Jesus Christ on a Carr’s water cracker, even if it was a diamond-studded Gucci with platinum Prada charms hanging from the zipper, and even if it was overflowing with MAC cosmetics and $500 bills, guess what? This is MY money and I don’t have to give you diddly, capisce?

Slim Shady shuffled off and I grabbed my box of Neutrogena zit cream and got in line. I saw him talking to a woman by the photo counter, and I could hear him saying, “Oh, man, thank you! God bless.”

And then he got in line behind me.

Oh, please don’t let him say anything to me.

“Hey, how’s it going?” the cashier said, scanning my zit cream.

“Good, thanks, and you?” I asked.

“Doing all right,” he said. He gave me the total and I slid my debit card through the machine.

Slim Shady said, “Don’t you think she has the nicest skin tone?”

I glanced out of the corner of my eye, thinking he was pointing out an actress or model on the cover of a magazine.

Nope, he was talking to the cashier about ME.

“Hey, man, be cool,” the cashier (the same one referenced here, by the way; I swear he’s my favorite person whose name I don’t know) said. “She’s a nice lady.”

“What, man? I ain’t saying nothing bad. I’m just saying that she’s got really nice skin. It’s all creamy.”

Okay, fucking EW EW EW EW EW!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, my card went through and I hastily scribbled my signature on the slip and fled out the door. Once I was safely in my car and on the road, I got a good chuckle out of the whole thing. He never really saw the left side of my face, so I’m assuming he wasn’t just being a sarcastic asshole, but it still ooked me out.

Creamy. Yeah, CLOTTED cream right now.

Monday, January 09, 2006

trip update 6: the no good, very bad day

And here’s where the fun ended, for Sunday was a horrible rotten day.

It started off okay. In the wee hours of the morning, after we got back from the party, G, Padre, and I watched the Giants game on tape, and despite some nasty injuries (including Michael Strahan getting jabbed in the eye by a Raider, complete with incessant closeups of the swelling and bruising), they managed to win.

We had a huge, delicious brunch, after which I was practically forced (o the horror!) to finish off the last of the cheesecake.

We polished off another cryptic crossword.

But then it was time for everyone to grab their shit, for we were heading to the airport.

Once Padre had pulled up to the curb and unloaded everyone’s luggage, it was time to say goodbye. I hugged Madre and Padre goodbye and thanked them for everything, and Madre put her hands on my face and said in a tear-choked voice, “You come back any time at all.” Then I hugged A and J, said goodbye to the kids, and G and I went inside. I had to stop at the bathroom, so I left my suitcase with G and went into the bathroom. I had just sat down on the toilet when I heard the most horrific noise coming from the stall next to me.

It sounded like someone gargling raw cookie dough.

Oh, lord, please let that woman have food poisoning, I thought, peeing as quickly as I could and holding my breath the entire time. The last thing I wanted was a nasty case of the flu.

When I got back outside, we went upstairs to the longest security line I had ever seen in my life.

“Holy fucking shit!”

It took almost an hour to get through the line, and we must have been invisible because we had no fewer than three people cut in front of us. By the time we’d gotten through, we had to run for our plane and we just barely made it, which is good because they were about to take standby passengers. I had no time to purchase new reading material, so I was none too happy about that.

Halfway through the in-flight movie (In Her Shoes), the picture froze and the intercom crackled.

“Uh, ladies and gentlemen, if there’s a doctor or nurse or any emergency personnel on board, please come to first class immediately.”

Three people got up and headed towards the front. One returned about ten minutes later, and I overheard them tell their seatmate, “…(inaudible) heart attack, but (inaudible).”

Dammit, people, speak up when I’m trying to eavesdrop!

Dinner was served (chicken sandwich, potato chips, Pepperidge Farm Brussels cookies) and it gave G serious heartburn; he was actually breaking out in a sweat. He rang the call button and asked if the stewardess had any Tums or Rolaids; she apologized and said they weren’t allowed to give out medication. The guy sitting in front of us turned around and said, “I have some, here.”

Oh, blessings on you, sir!

At one point, I became inordinately teary and G asked what was wrong. I fanned my eyes like a beauty pageant contestant and burbled, “I’m gonna miss your family so much, it was so nice being part of a family again, and I’m gonna miss them, and…”

He put his arm around my shoulder and I eventually fell asleep.

Then there was turbulence.

Then we got back to LAX, waited for the paramedics to take away the first class passenger, waited for the people with connecting flights to hurry off, waited for the two million people in front of us to get their shit out of the overhead compartments and get out of the fucking aisle, FINALLY deplaned, and went outside in the pouring rain to wait for the Van Nuys flyaway bus. The first one to show up was full, so we walked three stops down in hopes of catching the next one. We managed to snag a couple of seats, but of course we had to stop at every other curb, and the driver didn't just open the doors, bark out "We're full!", and keep going. No, she had to be nice about it---the one time I would have preferred someone to be curt!---and actually pull over, get off, and explain in lengthy and excruciating detail that she was oh so dreadfully sorry, but the bus was full to capacity, and if you wouldn't mind too terribly waiting for the next bus, which had left Van Nuys just minutes after her, and therefore blah blah blah. G was starting to get really pissed off by this point; I was too tired to feel much of anything.

When we got back to his place, we pretty much went straight to sleep. But in the morning, when we’d had a good night’s sleep and our frazzled nerves were soothed, we made up for lost time, so to speak; modesty prevents further elaboration.

And that, my friends, is how I spent my Christmas vacation.

trip update 5: New Year's Eve

“Are you sure you want to wear that?” G asked.

I stopped twirling in my black sequined tulle skirt (what can I say, I like the swishing sound) and said, “Why, what’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing! You look great. It’s just that this party is usually pretty casual, and I don’t think anyone else is dressing up.”

“Feh,” I said, pecking him on the cheek. “It cost me $15 at Old Navy. Big deal.”

When we went downstairs, everyone oohed and aahed and Padre took a couple of pictures. Then he lit the menorah and everyone joined in the prayer, and then Padre said, “Ready to go?”

People began gathering up their jackets, and I cast a worried glance at the still-lit menorah.

“Ready?” G said, taking my hand.

“Shouldn’t we blow the candles out?” I asked.

NO!” everyone yelled in unison.

“Bad luck,” G said. “See, Hanukkah is all about…” (And here he launched into a lengthy explanation that I cannot remember, but it had something to do with God letting the Jews’ oil last for eight days. Or something like that.)

“That seems like one hell of a fire hazard to me, though. Is it bad luck if a gentile blows it out instead?”

“It’s probably worse luck. Let’s go before you bring a plague upon our house.”

Every year, Madre and Padre’s best friends hold a themed New Year’s Eve party, and nobody knows what it is until they get there. “Maybe it will be a Giants party,” G said hopefully. (The Giants were playing from 8PM-11PM and he and Padre were bummed about missing it.)

“Somehow I doubt it,” Padre said.

Apropos of nothing, D said, “Remember when I was little and I swallowed a crayon?”

“Yeah,” G said, tousling his hair. “It was purple and then you could draw with your butt.”

The kids burst into hysterical giggles, and D said, “Yeah, but then the pictures came out BROWN and purple.”

When we reached the party, I was the first one to reach the door, and I said, “Oh no. Oh my god.”

“What’s wrong?” G said, coming up behind me. He saw what the problem was, and he began laughing uncontrollably. “Hey, guys, guess what the theme is?”



Motherfucking CLOWNS!

Yes, the confirmed coulrophobe was going to a CLOWN party.

Fortunately, there were no actual clowns at the party, just a bunch of clown decorations everywhere. We played games, had what they referred to as “trashy carnival food” (hot dogs, chips, KFC, and some horrible rotgut punch) for dinner, and decorated t-shirts for a contest. Here’s my entry (as you can see, I’m no artist):

At 11:55, we turned on the TV and counted down the last few minutes of 2005. When the ball dropped, G kissed me, and I thought, Wow, I hope 2006 is half as good as 2005 was to me.

trip update 4: funny Uncle R

Thursday was uneventful and quiet. With A and J gone, the task of entertaining the lads fell to us, so we went to Barnes & Noble and then came back to the house for lunch. The kids wanted to play poker afterwards, and I decided to give them some alone time with their beloved uncle, so I went to our room and alternated between reading and dozing.

In the late afternoon, Padre picked up A and J from the train station and they had a quintessential NYC moment to share. J bumped into someone and the guy pulled a knife! Fortunately, the guy's girlfriend was there and she grabbed his arm and said, "Come on, it's not worth it!"

Yeah, glad I missed out on that part of the trip; I would have been running down the street, screaming and leaving a trail of urine in my wake.

I can’t remember what we had for dinner, but afterwards Madre said, “I have a surprise!” She had found a package of Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate mix from the last time they went, so she whipped up a batch for dessert. It was definitely good, but not so good that I feel I missed out on something major.

On Friday, we went to the Philadelphia Zoo. It was freezing, but they had a fantastic selection of primates, including G’s beloved lemurs and plenty of tamarins and gorillas for me. Afterwards, we went to Aunt E’s (Padre’s sister) and Uncle R’s for dinner, and on the drive there, G said, “If no one else is going to warn you about Uncle R, then I better. He loves reading more than anything else, and he loves to offer to lend books to people, but no matter what, don’t take him up on it.”


“Because he gets pissed if you don’t return them within a day. Seriously. Also, he’s really…uh, shall we say, blunt. He may ask you embarrassing questions, but Aunt E is pretty quick to stop him if he goes too far. Just so you know.”

Great! I had conquered Mount Madre, and now I had to worry about an uncle?

But he wasn’t that bad. He did ignore my proffered hand in favor of a hug and a disturbingly sloppy kiss on the cheek, but he didn’t ask me any truly personal questions or offer to lend me a book from one of the thousands (literally) lined up on the shelves in every single room.

He did make dinner rather interesting though.

We had mouthwateringly tender filet mignon, potatoes, and dinner rolls, along with lots and lots of red wine. Uncle R took a sip and said, “After classes about wine, you usually get to taste it. What would you do after a class about genitalia, I wonder?" Aunt E gave him a swift kick under the table---I could actually hear her foot connect with his shin---and said, “[Uncle R's full name], there are CHILDREN PRESENT.”

“That’s true, plus a pretty young lady who’s never been here before. I’m sorry, my dear,” he said contritely, favoring me with a wink.

“Uh, no problem,” I said weakly, trying to overcome the mental image of Uncle R doing some spelunkin’.

After a delicious dessert of chocolate chip cupcakes, vanilla ice cream, and cinnamon apple cake, we made small talk for about an hour and then returned home.

trip update 3: New York minute

Originally, the plan for December 28th was to get up early, have breakfast, and be on the road by 8AM.

Yeah…just try to coordinate it so six adults and two kids will be ready to leave on time. Not gonna happen. It was more like 9AM by the time we hit the road, and Padre was none too thrilled. “That damn parking garage is going to be full by the time we get there, and I will NOT be happy,” he groused.

The ride to New York City was unmemorable…literally, because I fell asleep for most of it. I did wake up minutes before we went through the Lincoln Tunnel. In general, I’m not claustrophobic, but I have to admit that made me a little nervous, and I was glad when we made it through to the other side.

Well, at least I was glad until Padre exploded.

“Dammit!” he yelled. “The damn parking garage is full! Now what the hell do we do?”

“Dad, chill, there are other places to park in New York City,” A said.

“I know that, but I wanted to park here because it’s fairly cheap and it’s closest to the route I want to take! Now I have to change the whole damn plan.”

At the word “plan”, G turned and gave me a knowing look. He had warned me that going anywhere with his father involves a plan that cannot be deviated from in any way. I believe this may be the root of his travelphobia. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go much farther to find a parking lot, although I cringed when I saw the price list.

As we walked, Padre said, “C, I know you were really looking forward to Serendipity, but I called and found out that even with reservations, it would be about a three-hour wait for lunch. We can still do that if you want, but since we only have the one day here, I wasn’t sure if you’d rather be doing something else during that time.”

“Oh, definitely,” I said. “I appreciate you checking, but I would much rather spend the time walking around and sightseeing, not standing in line.”

Sigh…no frozen hot chocolate.

Our first stop was Rockefeller Center. I’ve always loved seeing the pictures of the huge tree, the ice rink, and the gold statue, and now I finally got to see it in person!

Next, we walked to Saks Fifth Avenue to check out the beautiful window displays. Unfortunately, the crowds were so thick that I wasn’t able to get a good picture from my vantage point, and I didn’t want to stand in the endless line just to get closer.

And…uh…crap. Now I can’t remember whether we actually saw Times Square first, or if it came after Rockefeller Center; the New Yorkers among you must forgive my ignorance. Anyway, here are pictures from Times Square:

(I took the above picture mainly because I think Jennifer Aniston looks so sinister in it. “LIEKOMGIEATYOURHEAD!!11!”)

We had lunch at a restaurant called Mangia (which I mistyped as “mangina” at first), and Padre said, “So, what do you think so far?”

“Oh, I love New York City,” I said. “I was here in 1997 for a long weekend, and I just love the energy. But where are all the celebrities? Gawker makes it sound like there’s a celebrity sighting on every corner!”

“I’ll see what I can do,” he chuckled, and damn if we didn’t almost literally run into Jackie Mason when we left the restaurant. No one in our party dared to approach him because he looked really unhappy, and he was with a woman who looked even unhappier than he did, plus it’s not like I know much about him aside from the fact that he voiced Krusty the Klown’s father on “The Simpsons”.

Random picture:

And we stopped in Trump Tower because D is absolutely obsessed with "The Apprentice". That kid is going to be a millionaire by the time he's 21, mark my words.

Central Park:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

We also went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but we only had two hours before they closed, so unfortunately we didn’t get to see much, aside from the armor and Egyptian exhibits. I took a few pictures, but they didn’t come out very well, so meh.

When we left the museum, our party managed to snag two cabs, and we headed to our next destination: a swanky Italian restaurant. The traffic was unholy, as you can imagine, and Padre finally told the cab driver to let us off and we’d hoof it the rest of the way. Dinner was excellent; three of us (including me) had margherita pizza and everyone else got some sort of fancy-ass pasta or fish. We didn’t order dessert because we were planning on making the Magnolia Bakery our final stop, plus A and J had to leave as they were going to a play called “Doubt” and then spending the night and the next day in NYC.

After saying goodbye to A and J, the rest of us went back to the car and Padre drove us to Bleecker Street. He managed to find a parking spot on a side street, right next to a tree that had this amusing marker in front of it:

I practically skipped down the sidewalk. Yay, Magnolia Bakery! Home of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing! Home of---

“They’re CLOSED!” Madre said.

::vinyl scratch::


Yes, sure enough, there was a sign in the window saying that they were closed through January 3rd for the holidays. Bastards! Evil, rotten bastards! My shoulders slumped with disappointment.

We made a brief detour into a café so the kids could use the bathroom, and then we returned to the car and found that someone had double-parked next to us so we couldn’t get out.

“Great,” G grumbled.

Padre was unfazed. He opened the driver’s side door of his car and laid on the horn. A man emerged from a brownstone and said, “What’s with the horn, huh?”

“Is this your car?”


“Well, you’re blocking me in! Move your car and you can have this space.”

“Christamighty,” the man said, and went back inside and closed the door. Padre looked fit to burst, but the man returned wearing a jacket and jingling car keys. He moved his car, and then we were off to New Jersey.

So yeah, no frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity and no cupcakes at friggin’ Magnolia Bakery, but hey, I had a huge slab of Madre’s cheesecake, so all was well.

trip update 2: sippin Cristal with my homies

On Monday morning, after G and I had showered and gotten dressed, we went downstairs and Madre immediately went into feeding mode: “What would you like to eat? I can make omelets, French toast, scrambled eggs…you want bagels? How about yogurt?” I can barely remember my own name first thing in the morning, much less make complicated decisions about breakfast, so I went with scrambled eggs. Oh, so light and fluffy! Truly, as G once said, cooking is the Frenchman’s alchemy.

After breakfast, G and I retreated to the den to wait for Padre to return with the next guests: G’s older sister A, brother-in-law J (who I’d already met when he was in LA on business), and nephews I (11) and D (8). I was especially eager to meet his nephews, because G is so in love with those kids (not in a Michael Jackson kind of way, mind), and for as long as I’ve known him, he’s talked about how funny and smart they are. He warned me that he wasn’t sure how they would react to me, because they’d never met one of his “ho’s” before (this teasing comment earned him a swat), but that they would be polite if nothing else.

Slightly under an hour had passed when we heard the garage door opening, and suddenly the house was filled with excited screams of “Uncle G, Uncle G!” The kids made a beeline for G, clinging to his legs like little curly-headed barnacles. He knelt down and hugged them, and when they finally pulled away from him, they looked up at me.

“Guys, remember I told you I was bringing my friend C? This is her,” G said.

“Hello,” they said simultaneously, regarding me warily.

“Be nice to her or I’ll cut your hair while you sleep.”

They exploded into giggles and then ran out of the room to say hello to Madre. A and J had come into the room by this time, and hugs were exchanged all around. After they’d put away their suitcases, the kids dragged G and me into the living room for a wild game of Jenga. Soon the previously immaculate floor was covered with coins, playing cards, and Jenga blocks.

Eventually, Padre called us all into the kitchen and held up a huge bottle of Cristal. “I’ve been saving this for a special occasion, and this certainly qualifies,” he said, popping it open and pouring each of the adults a generous glass.

The few times I’ve had champagne in the past, it gave me a headache. Not this! Oh no, my friends, this was some truly good shit. I finally know what all those rappers are talking about. It really was, as Dom Perignon himself said, like drinking stars.

Next, we all sat down at a dining room table that practically groaned under the weight of the food. G isn’t much of an eater, but the one thing he always talks about admiringly is his mother’s roast chicken, so I was anxious to try it…and lo, it was good. I also had roasted potatoes and a dinner roll and, for dessert, a piece of Madre’s homemade cheesecake. It was honestly the best damn cheesecake I’ve ever had, and I don’t joke about no cheesecake. It made Cheesecake Factory taste like goat shit on a graham cracker crust. For the first time in our dating history, G finished eating before me, and I think he probably ate twice as much to boot.

After dinner, the kids wanted to watch Sky High, so we obliged. When G put the DVD into the machine, the screen went blue for a couple of seconds, and D said, “Oh, the primary colors show! I love this show!” May I remind you that this kid is eight? I sure wasn’t making jokes like that when I was eight friggin’ years old. My sense of humor at that age ran more towards alleging that whereas girls went to Mars to get candy bars, boys went to Jupiter just to get stupider. Anyway, I cannot put Sky High on my media update list because I fell asleep and missed all but the first ten and the last twenty minutes. I am despondent, as you can imagine.

Once the movie had ended, everyone decided to go to bed except me, G, and his father. They’re addicted to cryptic crosswords, which are just diabolically difficult. Last month, I read a book called PopCo which included a cryptic crossword at the end, so we brought a copy of the puzzle and worked on it together. It was brutal, but I was quite pleased with myself when I managed to get a couple of the clues. I am so smart, I am so smart, S-M-R-T, smart smart smart smart!

On Tuesday morning, G and I slept late and then we stumbled to the kitchen and poured ourselves a cup of ambition…wait, I’m channeling Dolly Parton again, sorry. But we did stumble to the kitchen for scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon, and then everyone piled into the car for the day’s activities.

Padre is an excellent photographer, and he had a small exhibit showing in Princeton, so we went there and checked it out. Afterwards, we walked around the beautiful campus, pictures of which follow. I can’t remember what any of these buildings were called, and I can't seem to get all of the pictures the same size, so...um...sorry and stuff.

When we got back to the house, I joined G and the lads for several spirited rounds of Jenga. At one point, Padre came into the room and said, “Hey, C, I hear you’re scared to sit on the couches.”

“G!” I hissed, embarrassed as hell.

“Go on, give it a try,” he said, gesturing at the infamous couches.

Nervously, I stood up and walked over to the couch. I gingerly settled my ass down, fearing spontaneous incontinence or explosive diarrhea. I counted to ten in my head and then immediately stood up and returned to the Jenga stack.

The damn thing wasn’t even comfortable.

At dusk, Padre lit the menorah, and as everyone recited the prayer I stood there in my gentile ignorance. Then we had a meal of beef brisket and latkes (special onion-free ones for me!), followed by more of that incredible cheesecake.

Everyone went to bed around 10 because we had to get up early for New York City the next day. Since that was only 8PM our time, G and I had a hard time falling asleep, and we lay there and talked. We kept laughing over stupid things, and one comment in particular caused us to go into paroxysms of hysteria.

Once we’d finally calmed down, he leaned in to kiss me goodnight, and I had to pull away to belch loudly and lustily.

“Wow, I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he gasped.

trip update 1: meeting Madre

Bleary-eyed and struggling to remain upright, I dragged my suitcase through the Newark Airport, trying to keep up with G. He noticed and said, “I’m not trying to rush you, I swear, but my dad is waiting at the curb and I don’t know how long he can stay there until airport security shoos him away.”

“Kay,” I mumbled. I had woken up literally seconds before landing, so I was having a hard time remaining focused.

When we finally staggered out into the rainy New Jersey night, Padre was standing by his spiffy Grand Cherokee. He gave us each a fierce hug and then flung our luggage into the back as though it weighed no more than a can of Coke. “How was the flight?” he asked, pulling out into traffic while simultaneously passing a paper bag to me. “C, there’s a ham sandwich with mustard on white for you. The cookies are homemade and the acorn-shaped ones are particularly good. G, there’s turkey pastrami on rye for you, and there are two bottles of Snapple lemonade and two bottles of water.”

One thing was immediately clear: I would not go hungry on this trip.

During the rainy ride to G’s parents’ house (and Jesus, how many toll roads ARE there in New Jersey?), G and his dad chatted while I nibbled my sandwich and tried to quell the roiling in my gut.

What would his mother be like? Would her impeccable manners be wrapped around a disapproving core? Would she be bothered by her little boy bringing home a shiksa, and an agnostic one at that? I envisioned a perfectly put-together woman looking me up and down and sniffing, “Shanda fur di goyim!

Eventually, we pulled into the driveway of one of the biggest houses I’d ever seen. I tried to take my suitcase away from Padre, and after failing at that endeavor, I quickly brushed my hair, swallowed my gum, and pasted on a smile to meet Madre.

Well, when we walked in the door, G’s mother stood leaning against the island in the kitchen, looking much more nervous than I felt.

“Oh!” she cried, coming over and giving me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. “It is such a pleasure to meet you after all this time!”

Huh. Okay, this wouldn’t be as bad as I’d thought.

We made small talk about the flight and then Madre said, “Are you guys hungry? I have lots of cookies here, or I could make you more sandwiches or…”

“Ma, enough with the food!” G said with affectionate exasperation.

Next came the grand tour of the house, which was absolutely beautiful. They had expensive figurines and statues everywhere, and I felt a bit like a bull in a china shop as I carefully maneuvered around end tables and armoires. I admired a particularly beautiful Lladro figurine, and then it was time to see the infamous couches.

Brief explanation: G’s parents have a pair of couches that cost an unholy sum. When G told me about them several months ago, I was shocked and asked what on earth could make a couch so expensive: a homunculus who lived underneath and provided superlative cunnilingus upon request? Nope, they were just handmade by Norwegian virgins or something…which is all well and good, but damn!

After I oohed and aahed over the couches, we finished our tour, and then Madre showed us to our room. We were on the opposite side of the house from the other bedrooms, which put some naughty thoughts into my head. Unfortunately, I was too damn tired to put anything into action, and we were asleep by midnight.

That’s 9PM Pacific time, folks.

Yeah, I love getting older.

(to be continued)