Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's Right in the World: Farmer's Markets

I just had to have them. Now they are sitting in a bucket on the counter.

The best part of a Michigan summer, outside of baseball, boating and beaches is the embarrassment of riches to be found at roadside produce stands and farmer's markets.

My favorite is at 7 Mile and Alpine, Under the Pines. Last time we were there, we bought peppers, potatoes, peaches, plums, beans, garlic, tomatoes and beets. The only reason we didn't buy corn was because Dave had bought a dozen ears roadside on his way home.

The tomatoes this year have been so good, they have effectively ruined "industrial" tomatoes that most restaurants purchase from big business farms (I know there's a better term for it, but don't know what it is). Date night dinner last night featured one of the tomatoes in Dave's salad, a firm but bland fruit that did nothing to enhance the flavor.

Ah, but I sampled a caprice salad at the grocery store with local tomatoes and cheese. The flavor was out of this world.

Today we stopped by a roadside stand because we were out of corn, and Will enthusiastically shouted "Beans! Cucumbers! Blackberries! CORN! I love these mom!"

And that is one of the best things about all this fresh goodness, is Will's willingness to eat beyond the little kid diet of chicken nuggets and fries and eat beans and berries with relish.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why Art Matters: Ah, Romance!

Hey Fabio, commence with the bodice ripping!

When Dave gave me a kindle for Valentine's Day last year, it unwittingly opened Pandora's box to a guilty pleasure: free romance novels.

I feel justified in my affection for the tales of orphaned woman falling ass-backwards into a torrid affair with their boss/doctor/rancher/local bazillionaire. My grandmother consumed these tales daily, and I remember her selling, buying, trading her Avon boxes (the reliable 70s equivalent to today's copier paper boxes) with other enthusiasts.

The genre is a billion dollar business, even if no one admits to reading them. I can attest during my ah, research, there are genres within the genre: western, contemporary, Christian, Amish, comedy, vampires, merry Ol' England. You can pick what trips your trigger, be is romance, bondage, soft-core porn, psychological thrillers.

And it's not just for heterosexual middle aged housewives. There are stories for readers of all ages, and orientation.

What I don't like about them is the stereotypical set up: gal with no family (why?); brooding millionaire with black hair who is almost always angry with a secret; the inevitable pregnancy at the end. There are some books that I start where I can predict the ending within 4% of the book read (no more page counts, not on a kindle).

I know what I like, and maybe that's the biggest joke of all, the contemporary ones that reflect the world that I inhabit. I don't need to pretend to be a vampire, a scandalized lady in waiting, a rock star who forgets her birth control, or a penniless spitfire desperate to hold onto the family farm. I like the ones that make me laugh, the slow and easy romances that come together easily with superhot passion.

Kind of like me. Bah dum dum ching!

Really, I do like the ones that do break away from the formula, although I will tolerate the occasional miracle baby. They're a nice way to pass the time and read myself to sleep.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Typing Out Loud: If a Friend Dies, Why is it About Me?

I received the devastating news yesterday that a friend of mine recently died tragically. I’m devastated for her and our mutual friends, and feeling terribly guilty because these events unfolded over a month ago; we weren’t aware and missed our chance to say goodbye properly.
I could explain it away in light of a houseful of family, and managing dramas both large and small. I could also explain it away as to the peculiar relationship I had with this friend, who at times was intense and other times was pissed off at me for no reason at all.
But again, back to the missed opportunity to be there for her and for our friends, who were grieving and we were not there. I’m overwhelmed with the thought we could have been, but also wonder if dealing with that would have been one too many French fries on the plate.
Is that self-centered? Here I have a friend who died and I’m worried about having to deal with too much, turning the tragedy onto myself. It makes me think of a passage from a short story I read years ago, “From Up on Fong Mountain,” a young girl who was given the assignment to keep a journal in English class, an assignment that coincided with her first relationship. In it, she had teased her boyfriend that his favorite subject was himself, and she asked the thought-provoking question, isn’t everyone’s favorite subject themselves?
I think it’s natural, of course. You world exists from your point of view, it couldn’t otherwise. But at what point do you have to step outside of yourself and see things from a different view and not be the center of your world? Does it come down to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the close you get to self-actualization, the easier it is to see beyond your self?
How much of the world do you miss by being insular? During my highly dramatic teenage years (they’re all laughing at me!), how much better would my high school experience have been if I could have stepped beyond the fortress my shaky self esteem built to see everything actually didn’t revolve me. In a shockingly reassuring conversation with my friend Jill at our reunion, I muttered a not-too-pleasant remark about a missing classmate who had picked on me because of my hair, and I had hoped he was bald. Jill dismissed him with the remark, “He picked on everybody.” Again, I thought I was the only one! If I had stepped away from the situation, I would have seen it wasn’t me (and my hair) that was the problem, the problem was he was a jerk.
Again, back to me. *sigh*
Since I have more than the adequate experience grappling with funerals, I guess to rectify this missed opportunity to say farewell, I should ask what would she have expected of me in this situation? A laugh, a drink, a chance to reminisce over some unforgettable moments we shared together. Looking out for the friends she left behind. Most importantly, thinking about her and how she fit into the universe. To borrow from Greg Proops, “Tonight in the cosmos, flying as high as a home run ball is a gal getting ready to step outside for her 5th inning cigarette break. She of devilish tongue and rogue tastes. An unassuming girl if you didn’t know her BUT a complicated being if you did. If you think of her, know her spirit lives on, at the minor league park she loved.”
Later Jules.

Friday, August 9, 2013

August Playlist: Van Halen-Hagar-Cherone-Roth?

How many high school notebooks have been graced with this logo?

I have lived through three incarnations of the band Van Halen, and I believe I am in the rare circle of person who has seen all three in concert.

As a band, they are high octane from the guitars to drums to larger than life personas. In a band with two brothers, you'd think the squabbling would be between those two, but the reality is Eddie Van Halen just couldn't or wouldn't get along with his charismatic lead singers.

The combustion worked, however. Which did I like best? Oh, like a mother, you can't distinguish between your favorite child, although there is at least one you shake your head at, Gary Cherone.

A great band for so many reasons that make this list:

Runnin' with the Devil - that intro!

Eruption - that solo!

Dance the Night Away - a surprising waltz into top 40, a brilliant move towards pop radio friendly singles.

Beautiful Girls - this may be the self esteem talking, but work with me. Other rock bands featured fetishized models in their videos, alienating middle America gals like me, who couldn't even buy the MAKEUP possible to look like that, let alone the clothes. When Motley Cure sang about the Looks That Kill, they weren't singing about someone like me. But God bless David Lee Roth, there was something about his phrasing, and his singing that this song was about YOU. There is a certain "woohoo, wimmen!" exclamation in his vocals that makes a girl strut.

And the Cradle Will Rock - "have you seen junior's grades?"

Everybody Wants Some! - I think this has hit the playlist in the past based on the Claymation music video in the movie Better Off Dead. Quotable, even garbled. Love that low tribal drum that opens the song. Classic Rock Playlist claims this is the ultimate Van Halen song since it is equal parts Roth/Anthony/Alex/Eddie.

Unchained - "c'mon Dave, gimme a break... hey, hey, heeeeey... one break.... comin' up!"

So This is Love? - for all the overplayed staples of classic rock radio, this one doesn't get much play. Too bad, it is a great jam.

Pretty Woman - oh, the VHS cheesiness of the low rent video production that is this video. DLR and Eddie were always at the forefront, but let's give it up ladies for Alex as Tarzan and Michael as a Viking. Oh, and that strut thing with Beautiful Girls? Back with a vengeance.

Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now - anyone who bitches about DLR being a heavier rocker than Sammy chooses to ignore Dave's affection for tin pan alley. In mommy's fantasyland, she can see her son skating an exhibition to this with all the ladies swooning.

I'll Wait - from 1984, a classic staple on heavy rotation.

Love Walks In - mixing my eras and influences, the period when Sammy looks like Brian Krakow from My So Called Life, and they were promoting Sammy as DLR's harder rocking replacement with a ton of live conert videos.

Inside - one of the many songs on 5150 that made me think the songwriting was going in a new, mature direction. A fan of Sammy's from his Standing Hampton days, I was a quick convert to Van Hagar.

When It's Love - I think OU812 is my favorite VH album, and I remember playing this cassette til the tape wore thin. Video could be all Sammy's hair blowing wild and free *sigh*. Warner Bros. contract and Michael Anthony in Mickey Mouse tee? Subtle jab at the man.

Cabo Wabo - I think of it as VH's version of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

Source of Infection - franticly energetic.

Black and Blue - sexy.

Poundcake - sexy. Ex-boyfriend didn't like that I liked this so I think it made me like it even more. What was I thinking?! Faithful readers *crickets*, yes indeed, it is the same ex who thought it was unladylike to listen to Zeppelin. If I write a cheeky memoir, I think I have my book title.

Right Now - reinforcing the "thinking man's VH" with an award-winning video about life's possibilities in the here and now.

I tried to list something from the Cherone years. Can't do it. I remember thinking at least the song "Without You" was good, but it sounds like VH in a blender with Pearl Jam and STP. Sadness. This concert was disappointing too, even the Black Crows, who were the opening band, dialled it in.