Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Clash of the Graces


Let me start with an immediate acknowledgement that: THIS WASN’T PART OF THE PLAN. (No, not some Glorified “Five Year Plan,” or anything, just part of the general, Don’t-Let-Your-Life-Fall-To-Pieces Plan)
I hit a new low tonight. I did. Somewhere between crawling around on the floor to pick up crumbs cause I didn’t wanna turn the vacuum on and wake the baby, and scurrying in and out of the laundry room, changing over loads of laundry, I came REAL CLOSE to Rock Bottom. I won’t say “I hit Rock Bottom” tonight, and I’ll probably never say that I hit Rock Bottom, because it seems that if one actually owns that they’ve made contact with those kinds of depths, it’s always bound to get worse. So, no, I didn’t hit Rock Bottom, but maybe it was… Silt Bottom.
To be fair, hear me out on my disclaimer: I never eat. If this was due to an eating disorder, I’d probably be eating more than I do right now, but plain and simple: food costs money. Money that I don’t wanna spend. So yeah, when I babysit, I might eat more than my share. And in my defense, the food is not only free, but it’s free and high quality. Because the paychecks that fill these refrigerators aren’t shabby (ahem, like mine). I’M NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT BABYSITTING OR MAKING MONEY; I’m not. But I hadn’t eaten all day. (I’m talking real food, here, the kind intended for humans. The kind that doesn’t include: bagel, yogurt, or cereal. Because that’s pretty much all I’d eaten for the past seven days. Oh, who am I kidding? The past two months.)
So the Mom and Dad brought home 18 month old Pax* from a Halloween party, after he’d eaten dinner. DANG IT: according to my child feed-o-meter, that means he won’t be hungry. And he’s so young that I can’t innocently suggest a snack like popcorn, with the hidden agenda of eating it all: he went straight to bed. Which means I had to… well, flagrantly raid the pantry. I’d like to point out that this is actually pretty socially acceptable. I have traveled to the home of this family to care for their child: no, I’m not going to grill the 3 filets that are in the freezer, but it’s not uncommon for some cereal and milk to be gone by the end of the night you’ve had a babysitter.
But because young Pax had an exter-domestic dinner, (see what I did there, with the Latin? …No? Ok, moving on) there wasn’t even a plate off of which I could eat the scraps. And I couldn’t disguise my dinner as a part of his dinner: ergo my use of “flagrant.” Mom and Dad were going to know who had been in the pantry.
So I tried to talk myself out of it. The Well-Mannered Grace did her best to mollify the Ravenous, Barbaric Grace with things like, “Shhhh Sweetie, you can go to In-N-Out Burger after this; I know it’s been a long week and you haven’t had real food, it’s ok to spend three dollars on a burger, it won't drain your bank account…”
But Grace the Barbarian took over. (Ok, no, I didn’t have a broadsword, although I am certified by the Society of American Fight Directors to wield one onstage… Or whatever that certificate says that they sent me over the summer.)         
So I opened the fridge.
What happens next is the part where my (unpedicured toes) came in contact with the silt. Because the dish that I proceeded to concoct could have been legitimately called “The Kitchen Sink.” Was it an assortment of everything in the refrigerator, on the level that would have grossed out the masses, on a universal scale? Nah. But for me personally, it may as well have been that revolting, month-old plate that Tom Cruise accidentally gets his hands on after his temporarily-blinding surgery in Minority Report, meets the bottom of my roommate Molly’s veggie drawer in our fridge, which had to be painfully cleared out before any of our vacations in college. (Molly, I love you, but you know your drawer fits this bill.)
So back up to: the fact that these people have an INSANE juicer, which I’ve been itching to try, but we’re just not at that point in our relationship yet, where they can walk in and find me juicing away. Can they come home and find me on the couch, writhing in hysteria at the episode of “Go On” I’ve DVRed that night? Sure. Juicing, however… There’s kitchenware involved; it’s just a little more intimate than Brad*, Angelina* and myself are ready for. (And in case you’re wondering, I don’t live in a bubble of rigid babysitter boundaries: Kirk and Becca KNOW that if there’s any kind of dessert in their fridge, it will be gone by the time they get home. Todd and Rachel know that if they go to a nice restaurant and I don’t get a dessert brought back to me, I’ll be offended. But this is California. Different people, different rules.) So in my indecision about the Juicer, I open the veggie drawer in the fridge. And I see avocados.  Avocados that may or may not have come from their very own back yard. What else do I see? Basil Pesto, harvested with lemon basil, right out of their garden. And thus, an idea took flight, which manifested itself in the form of a salad/guacamole, made from an avocado, basil pesto, cheese, tomato and green onion.
I say “salad/guacamole” because it was, in all honesty, a little bit of both. I started out with a spoon cause I was stirring it, but then I found some tortilla chips to use as a utensil, instead… But I used the spoon to scrape the bottom of the bowl: it was a salad. 
No, no wait, I just had 8 more chips: it was totally guac.
Now for those of you who haven’t leapt up from the computer in revulsion, I’m getting to what I like to call the Silt Revelation, and it’s really quite simple. Riddle me this: who has the ability to open the fridge and concoct a bowl full of something that is so uncategorized that it can be eaten with a spoon and chips? Yes, that’s right: Dads and orphans.
In regards to the former: raise your hand if you haven’t heard your father referred to as “The Garbage Disposal,” at some point in your life? (Ok wait, no; you, in the back… put your hand down, the question was just for dramatic effect. I don’t care that- OH NEVERMIND.) Whether it’s because he’s the only one in the family who will eat the reheated leftovers from a meal that was originally served two weeks ago, or because he’ll pile together the last few bites of mashed potatoes, roast beef, broccoli and pancakes, and stuff your dinner remains into his mouth. (Ok, I’m kidding. There weren’t pancakes at the Roast Beef dinner…)
But you know what I mean: only Dads have the ability to heartily eat food combinations as obscure as the one I joyfully downed tonight.

Dads… and orphans, that is.

So I’m shoveling this Avocado Surprise into my mouth, marveling at what could have possibly possessed me to eat a “meal” that only a dad could be proud of, but then I wondered: what was really so heinous about it, anyway?
Ah. And now we see that conservatively-coiffed, Well-Mannered Grace has made a sudden appearance (She was most likely summoned by the delightful melody that sounded from the dryer, upon the completion of the latest load of laundry. It was as I was listening to this painfully detailed chime (seriously: the thing played at least 8 bars of music to tell me the load was done– was there a laundry nursery rhyme I missed, as a child? Surely not…) that I began to question my whirlwind of impulsive actions and how I could have possibly found this conglomeration to be appropriate) Said laundry melody summoned Well-Mannered Grace, always ready to analyze any semblance of questioning of one’s intentions, and she stopped Barbaric Grace cold, spoon in hand.
So what was so wrong with my creativity? Well-Mannered Grace pointed out that if my mother saw me, she would probably weep, not only because I was obviously so under-fed, but also because I know she could take one look at my Avocado Surprise and immediately list five other ingredients, off the top of her head that would have turned it into an actual salad, or actual guacamole. And therein lies the rub: what kind of people don’t have the knowledge that life, or at least food – meals, that is, should be much more organized and appetizing, because they have little to no experience of home-cooked meals that have been marinating in love? ORPHANS.
And there I was, scraping away at the bottom of the bowl, like a street rat. Not to mention – I was wolfing it down, not only out of hunger, but out of self-induced panic and high stakes. Panic that Brangelina would walk in and see this hybrid Dad-Orphan creature, shoveling food in her mouth like there was no tomorrow. I should probably take this moment to admit that yes, I’d watched about fourteen episodes of Homeland in the past 24 hours, so I couldn’t help but somehow think I was CIA agent Carrie Mathison, scrambling to polish off my last pieces of evidence, just like she rushes through intense, highly-staked situations in pursuit of justice. Because if Brangelina walked in and caught me red-handed with my GuacaSalad, the pieces would fall into place and I’d be finished. (Ie: they would suddenly realize where all that frozen cookie dough had disappeared to, from the freezer.)


Well-Mannered Grace interrupted at this point, remarking that I shouldn’t waste my breath comparing myself to the likes of Agent Mathison,  braving gunfire to escape with crucial evidence, against the orders of her superiors,  and should be more concerned with my similarity to Will Ferrell’s “Buddy,” in Elf, when he writes on the Etch-a-Sketch to his family, “Sorry I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR…” (Ok, the eleven cookies were crammed into my mouth, but who’s counting?)
…I’ll be better tomorrow.
…If cookies aren’t on sale at Ralph’s, I’ll be better tomorrow.
Until then: IT’S A HARD-KNOCK LIFE.

*Names have been changed for the sake of protecting the identities of the poor people whose fridges are susceptible to Barbaric Grace. 

This Wasn't Supposed to Be My Waterford

....I’m just kidding. I wouldn't otherwise know what Waterford was, except my Mom’s friend Judy gave her a stack of these “Weekend Waterford” Styrofoam cups when I was a kid and they laughed themselves silly about it for at least six hours. I figured it must be one of those Mom Jokes that wasn't actually very funny, but because Moms are so absorbed in the lives of their families and sometimes seem to lose their sense of humor, they consequently find very obscure things to be hilarious. Lest you think that I plan on avoiding the development of a Mom sense of humor: I have GREAT plans to call my friend Lucy Ross one day so we can bust a gut about how much easier it is to do a load of dirty laundry with a Tide Stain Brick! (Actually, I was about 15 when the Stain Brick came out, so technically Lou was past the days of washing grass-stained, grime-infested clothes, but if it’d hit six years earlier, the Stain Brick TOTALLY woulda merited a Mom-humor phone call/grocery store conversation – you KNOW the kind of conversation I’m talking about. Where, especially if you're in a patient, non-kicking-and-screaming-to-get-home mood, Mom will talk to her friend Donna at Harris Teeter for forty five minutes. It’s probably really something like five minutes, but it certainly feels like forty five.)

        No wait but really: Ma. I luh you, gurl. You my fave. You laugh at weird jokes and sometimes I think you don’t have a sense of humor, but it’s because you lost all your sleep/gave all your time and energy to your family. (And don’t worry: I have grown my hair out since this photo was taken) Waterford - I was talking about Waterford. So it’s this really nice crystal, that you probably get mostly as a wedding present, or you inherit it – wait, who am I kidding? I don’t know how you come by it– all the Douglas china was inherited from Big Daddy’s plantation owning ancestors. (I’m kidding. Kind of.) Will I ever have any Waterford? That’s debatable. If there’s not a chapter in my memoir titled, “This Wasn't Supposed to be My Marriage,” it means that all my wildest dreams will have come true and I’ll have married a man with the last name Vanderbilt / Carnegie / Rockefeller, and upon their regrettable inability to attend our wedding, William and Kate will send a set of Waterford sherry glasses. (13th cousins, once removed – Remember?)
        Do I have any Waterford now? I do not. In fact, as I drink my orange juice and write
this, I am drinking out of… a Tupperware container. Seriously. Remember how I said Carolyn and I don’t give a rip about what’s in the sink? It's full of glasses right now. Either that, or they’re in the dishwasher. That has yet to be run. And lemme tell you who wouldn't stand for this: my mother. Not in a neurotic, always-breathing-down-my-neck-to-do-chores kind of way, but in a selfless, on-her-A-game kind of way. The dishes and laundry were always done in my house, as a kid (or if they weren't, they weren't crawling out of the sink and we certainly weren't drinking out of plastic containers) I fear for my children, that they may come crawl in bed with me one morning and say “Mommy, we don’t have any more sippy cups in the drawer.” And instead of sleepily clutching them to my chest, kissing their forehead and getting out of bed to go get a fresh cup out of the dishwasher that I remembered to turn on at 1 AM, I’ll say, “First of all, you have pop tart crumbs on your face. Which means that you broke into Mommy’s Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Unfrosted Pop Tarts, and that you’re getting crumbs in Mommy’s bed, which she doesn't like. And unless you started the dishwasher last night, there won’t be any clean sippy cups for another three hours.”
        So raise your Waterford, your Tupperware, and your debatably-clean sippy cups, and let’s hear it for Mom: keeping the earth on its axis, one clean glass at a time.

This Wasn't Supposed to Be My Living Room

No but sir, there must have been a misunderstanding… This wasn't supposed to be my living room. My living room was going to be outfitted exclusively by Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer. There would at least be a luxurious sectional couch and two papasan chairs from Pier 1. (You know the big “bowl” chairs? I’d have them recovered in a sensible Lilly print.) Yes, that flat screen above the mantle was a gift from my generous boyfriend. He said if I want to pursue a job as a TV actress, I should watch plenty of TV, and it should be in HiDef! …Oh, well, no… That TV right there isn’t high def. We found it on the side of the road… But the price was right! No, you’re correct; there’s no way that TV could be high def cause it’s from 1994. The ratio of side to side is equal to that of front to back; yep, it is a BAMF TV. (That would be BIG-Ass-Mother-F#&$#r; not Bad-@$$-Mother... You get it.)
 FACTS:
       1) I have concluded that it is best not to identify a certain standard that could be defined as one’s “lowest point,” because, as we know, the threshold of this point will most likely be broken through, probably with as much gusto as Michael Phelps broke through the world record of gold medals won by an individual at the 2012 Olympic Games.
       2) The above sentence was most-likely a run-on.
       3) I am writing on my laptop, which is propped on a bedside-table-turned-desk, sitting on a pile of dirty laundry as my makeshift chair.
       4) I absolutely adore my roommate, Carolyn. Together, she and I combine to form about three quarters of your stereotypical, WASPy frat boy. Which we all know is a LOT safer than a full-fledged frat boy – am I right? This is because:
         a. When it comes to hygiene, we’re pretty golden. And if we haven’t showered in a period of time that is socially decent, you certainly cannot tell (special thanks to Proctor & Gamble for products like Dove Deodorant and Baby Powder, to mask the time passed since last shower.) This is a strong force in making up the ¼ of us that is still pretty female.
                 i. I actually just looked that up for shiggles – P&G makes neither of those products: it just sounded nice.
        b. Carolyn doesn’t love to do laundry, but if you combine that with my obsessive laundry tendencies, we come out as an average suburban housewife, which also keeps us at a whopping ¼ female. c. But if you assess our kitchen… The Frat Star comes out. I mention this because I just made a bowl of pasta (the empty dish is sitting next to me on this glorified “desk”) and as I made it, I became strongly aware of just how much she and I can sometimes live like… well, a bunch of dudes.
                i. The “pasta” I made was Kraft Mac n Cheese without the cheese sauce. Oh I won’t even pretend it’s sauce – it’s crappy powder, and we don’t even have any milk to make any semblance of powder sauce.
                ii. I also refrained from the “sauce,” because the expiration date on the box was May, 2010. We acquired four boxes of this Mac N Cheese from our neighbors, Josh and Amanda, who took pity on us when we went through the dark days of living without a refrigerator: They’re newlyweds and Josh’s grandmother gave them a bunch of “newlywed food” as a gift, and they’ve since started eating healthy (real) food and luckily found a few street rats upon whom to bestow it.
               iii. After the pasta cooked, I threw it in the colander, which was nowhere to be found amongst the cabinets… And then I looked in the sink. Oh, what do you know: it hadn’t left its post since the LAST bowl of Mac n Cheese we made. How convenient. There are other dirty dishes in the sink, but here’s the beauty of it: neither Carolyn nor myself could care less. Is that because we’re both auditioning all the time, everywhere, and don’t have time for menial concerns like dirty dishes? No. No it is not. It’s because… We just don’t mind dirty dishes. If a Squalor Monster crawled out of the sink, yeah, we’d be concerned. But we’d probably call and complain to our crazy landlord, Steve, before actually taking responsibility for it.

So I started this piece off with a set of facts, because I have recently learned that a list of facts is a very effective way to communicate with people. This was most recently demonstrated to me on Carolyn’s birthday, when we went to Which Wich for lunch and seeing the wall of art on the backs of the baguette bags, I decided to add some to my bag. We all know that I’m much better with words than with images, so I started writing, and composed the following:
“FACTS:
 1) Today is Carolyn’s birthday.
 2) We are broke as a joke.
 3) Carolyn was born 23 years ago today.
 4) Did I mention how poor we are?”

 It just so happened that the manager was behind the cash register that day (his name was Ankur; I made sure to snag that bit of info from the Sandwhich Condiments Chick) and long story short: he rang up our two sandwiches, two drinks and bag of chips at a total of five dollars. I stared at the screen for a moment and muttered, "Did you just do what I think you di-,”
 “Shhhh…” he cut me off, “I was paying attention to facts 2 and 4…”

Happy Birthday, Carolyn.

 On to fact number three, the one about this desk being A DESK FOR ANTS.
(no but really, my legs are perched on the bottom shelf of this nightstand, because the stack of laundry sits so low that my knees are up higher than my waist- OK I’M NOT GOING TO TRY AND EXPLAIN IT because regardless of how articulate I am, you’re all going to be trying to reenact what I’m saying in order to better understand (not because you’re that devoted to understanding my situation, but because it sounds like such a cumbersome position that you can’t help but try and see if my words actually make sense) Bottom line: I’m hunched over. This would be a lot easier if I had, oh… a couch? Nah – too luxurious. A chair, even. But no, the furniture in our living room consists of space, air and atoms. Is there hope for the future? Only time will tell. And by “time,” I obviously mean “street shopping and maybe dumpster-diving.”