Calling Robots

March 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

All I want to do is book an event space in New York City.

I look suspiciously at the map.  Manhattan is the middle-place, right?  I’m not exactly a fluent New Yorker.  The first medium-tier hotel that pops up, I pop the number of into my phone.  I’ve mastered, I’ve decided, hotel phone interactions.  My first few were creaky – some would say terrified – but while I never had the telephone-training of the 80’s, I was born in them, so I reasoned it must flow in my veins.  I typed out all of the event info in case I panic.  But I’m not going to panic.  Hotels have a front desk, and they’ll send me to their event sales team, and those people will hem and haw about dates and then give me a quote I’m not supposed to like.  I’ve got this.

I was immediately routed into a computer reservations line. I hit the panic button – 0.  Will you please type your reservation number?  a recorded woman’s voice coos.  Crap – I # the back-up panic button.

A heavily-accented young man tells me I’ve arrived at reservations.  “Can you connect me to event sales?” I ask.  He’s confused.  “Room sales, reservations?”  “No,” I haggle, “Event space sales, do you have event spaces here that you rent?”  “Uhhhh–” He hits HIS panic button.  Immediately a woman picks up.

“Reservations.”

Barely does the word event pass my lips before she chimes “Group Sales” and hits another button.  Now, now we’re getting somewhere, button by button, climbing the telephone ladder.

A robotic man’s voice asks me which hotel I’m trying to make a reservation at.  Nope!  I want to ask Group Sales if they have multiple Manhattan locations, I decide, so I can pick between them.  Ahhh, I chuckle to myself silently, I am so clever.  If don’t answer, the robot will have to hand me back right away.

I’m going to need to know which hotel you’d like to make reservations at the voice patiently repeats, with a hint of human annoyance.  Damn!  It’s patient.  I can’t outwait it. I can’t hit a panic button, lest I be routed all the way back to the confused man at the front desk.

But if the robot can’t easily interpret my answer, it’ll hand me off.  “I’d like to speak to a service representative!” I say forcefully.  Maybe it’s even automated to recognize the words and put me through.  I chortle emphatically.

I’m going to put you through to a service representative, but first I need you would tell me what hotel you’d like to make reservations at.

Robotic pushback.   The tones are complex, irritated.  I’m too stunned to say anything for a minute.  Finally, defeated, I mumble the name of the specific hotel location I got the number from.

Just a second.  The voice turns audibly to the side, followed by some quick, emphatic typing.  Nice, I’ll finally get through.  Typing.  Typing?

Oh crap!  I’d though this voice was too nuanced, to aggrevatingly human to be a robot!  I’d just told a service representative that I’d like to speak to a service representative!  And worse yet, their job was SO DEHUMANIZING that they had sadly agreed to do so – if only I’d let them do their job first.

Oh please let them transfer me. Oh please, please.  Don’t make me fess up to my mistakes, just hit that button and send me to the golden city of Group Sales.  I could almost see it, just ahead.

The typing finished.  Thank you.  And how many meeting rooms will you be needing?  The voice was back, and distinctly recorded.

“Is this a person or a robot?” I blurted out.

There was a slight pause.  I am an automated service recording, but I understand what you’re saying, and I can help you take care of your…

Oh God.  It’s self-aware.

…reservation and then pass you along to a service representative.  How many meeting rooms will you be needing?

Don’t hit the panic button, don’t do it.

“Uhh – none – unless you count the event space?”

Just a moment.  It typed in my answer.  No – no – it pretended to type my answer?  Don’t hit the panic button, it’s not worth it.

Thank you for waiting.  Please hold while I connect you.

I breathed, finally, long, and sort of choked it out in the silence of waiting.

From far-off, a woman’s altered voice said, mechanically, Please hold.  It was a mechanical blip in a field of silence.  No music, no — I left the music behind long ago, in the lobby.

I had thought I could see Group Sales up ahead, but now I saw only whiteness – silence.  Was this Group Sales?  Did they even know of my purgatorial existence, waiting?

Please hold.

A minute passed.

Please hold.

I wasn’t paniced anymore.

Please hold.

It was slapdash, the occational message.  They knew I would stay, holding here, forever.  Every minute or so, they wanted to remind me I was alive, held by the silence.

Please hold.

I could almost measure time by it, if I hadn’t long ago left time behind.

….

….

….

I’m still holding.  Are you still here?

Your call cannot be connected though to its destination.  Please hang up and dial the toll-free number again.

Holiday Chickens

December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today my house marched outside and chicken wrangled a house christmas card.

Our home is called the HoL – the House of Lorax – I think because it was named by a pile a of hippies trying to satisfy their own sensibilities while appeasing their less mature friends, who were sated by calling it the Glory HoL (Glorious House of Lorax).  I refused to do this and called it the Barn – it looks like a Barn – until it finally made it around to me that the HoL stood for something pleasant, to some people part of the time.

I’m a stickler for house names.  Years of being force-fed glorified titles akwardly slapped on crumbling college-kid dumps had sickened me.  This was further needled by the endless pretention that I should know exactly what house every name applied to, as if it synched with my brain the precise moment some drunk hipster first vomited it out.  I became anti-name.  I was the scrooge of college houses.  I named every house myself, based on the color or street.  Names should be natural, I snapped, flowing from the surroundings the way you would describe an unnamed dwelling to a stranger.  But the HoL has a giant flag in the window that reads, in messy spraypaint, “HOL”, which I have to admit is pretty clear.  And The Lorax is one of my favorite books, so I don’t have a lot of conscientious space to be a jerk about it.

The Chickens weren’t really into the idea of a photo.  Pidge flapped about, escaping from time to time just to perch on the shoulder of the person next to her, beady eyes shouting “You know I’m a shoulder chicken.  Why should I have to put up with this awful holding.”  I clutched Ruby, the only one who’s properly containable, and she just sort of peered at me upsetly and shivered a little.  Quentin mainly tried to head straight for the camera to eliminiate the trouble at its source.  N. and Attila the Hen have always had a special relationship, so, we just let them do their thing, which oscillated between N. pretending Attila was a fighter jet and Attila digging her claws into his hands and climbing all over his cashmere sweater.  Attila’s technically easiest to hold, if you’re not N., and don’t abuse your privileges.

N. and Attila the Hen (Buff Orpington), Me and Ruby (Bantam Silkie), S. and Pidge (Ameraucana hen), A. and Quentin (Ameraucana still deciding her sex).

Happy Holidays!  From me and the chickens and the many people who make this place home.

Green Candy

November 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Miss, miss, I just wanted to–”

I reflexively pulled the box of leftovers and sweater onto my lap, where they didn’t fit, so he could sit down.  I couldn’t help glancing irritably at the empty bus seats around me.

“—tell you I really like your green hair.”

He was standing in the aisle, bending intently and revealing layers of thin gold chains. I opened my mouth for my polite, unfocused thank you, the kind you give a person you’re resigned to spending a bus ride getting propositioned by.  He bowled on past it.

“I really like your green hair, a lot, you see my name” (—something blurred—) “it means green, my last name is green.  So I like your green hair very much, you see. I like green.  I am a green – you have green hair.”

He gestured with a foil-wrapped piece of candy.  Green candy.

“I wanted to tell you how much I like your green hair,” he grinned, chains flapping.  I thanked him and took the candy, moving my body a bit in anticipation of him sitting down.  To my surprise, he had politely vanished.

I tucked the piece of green candy in my bag.  They always told me not to take candy from strangers, but I think this was the first time I’d ever received candy from a stranger – if you except one of my better friends, whose acquaintance was made over a proffered candycane.

The next morning, I plopped back onto the bus and customarily opened my bag.  Out across my lap marched all the ants that had snuck in there overnight.  As I tried to pretend I wasn’t being suddenly overwhelmed by insects (sit still, don’t flail, sit still, don’t flick them at people), I finally grokked the age-old advice: really, don’t take candy from strangers.

The Ginkgo and I

November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

For about a week I was puffed up from my wild chestnuts.  Chestnuts not exactly being a chupacabra, no one was very impressed, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like King of the Edible Plants Several Blocks from my Home.  Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing out on a lot of secrets.  It didn’t help that I was more interested in what some savy Asian families were collecting on the street than what nearby herbs neo-hippies recommended I make tea with.

As I boasted to some of my co-workers, I nudged them to ask if they, perhaps, knew any edibles I’d missed.  One of them paused. “I’d always see people coming on campus to pick whatever was falling off the Ginkgo tree,” she laughed, “I remember because it smelled terrible.”  Ginkgo, eh?

In high school, they were one of my favorite trees, largely because I knew their name.  We’d had a falling out when I noticed their leaves looked a bit like Tulips, and became unable to distinguish them from Tulip trees, or remember which one it was good luck to catch a leaf from.  I knew there was one on my way home, and I knew I’d spotted something golden under it this morning running to the bus.  Jackpot.

Sure enough, there was fruit.  Small, round gold fruit the color of apricots and the shape of a cherry.  There were only a few fresh ones on the ground.  The Ginkgo itself had no trace of fruit.  Did they fall from a different tree?  I looked around, walked in some circles, jumped up and down.  Finally I spotted them.  High up, far above where I could reach, the Ginko was heavy with gold.  Of course.  Someone had already come by and taken everything within a ladder’s reach.  So there *were* edible!  I scooped up a few and dashed the final blocks home like a madman.

STEP 1: SMASH!

Googling was in order.  I heartily enjoyed this article.  To my disappointment, the outer fruit (actually sarcotesta) itself isn’t edible – it’s the white nuts inside that are prized.  I gingerly smashed the fruit gently under my shoe to push out the nuts.  The vague smell of dog shit wasn’t quite the vomitrious horror I was expecting.  Well, then, survived that.  What next?

STEP 2: CRACK!

Ok, I had the seeds.  They weren’t white as I’d been promised.  With the application of a nutcracker I found that sure enough, the little white nuts were hiding inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3: PEEL!

Wait, those still aren’t white!  They’re just little green beans!  Onward, I suppose?  The instructions said to gently peel off the layer of film surrounding the nut.  It said to wear gloves in case I had a weird reaction to it – I went in bare-handed.  No nuts scare me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 4: UH…BOIL?

Ok, I had four tiny bean-nut things that were a little worse for wear from the peeling.  I had no idea how to eat them, and the internet was conflicted.  I boiled them for a while, which was fun to watch, but ultimately didn’t make them look any more appetizing than a waterlogged pea.

STEP 5: FRY!

Taking a page out of the article I liked, I pulled them out of the pot and into the pan.  I fried them in salt, pepper, and a pinch of flour….ok, so I’ve never been adept at following instructions, and surely throwing some flour in the pan is the same as deep frying.  It did the trick, though!

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point N. came home.  “I cooked us Ginkgo nuts!” I proudly held out my open palm with the four tiny beans in it.

“Wow, that’s…really not enough for dinner.  You know that, right?”

Well, ok, so I had to cook an entire other meal.  I won’t bore you with the details of that.  But the four little nuts were so good we both gobbled down two and wished we had more.

Everyday now I crunch over the golden nuts and leaves of that living fossil on my way home.  It’s tempting to scoop them into my pockets and roll them out on my back patio, just to taste them again.  But not quite tempting enough to make me arrive home and greet my boyfriend with kisses and squishy, shit-stinking pockets of Ginkgo.  Someday, I tell the nuts and I -crunch- -crunch- past them, I will return with my plastic bag.  And they squish and say, no you won’t, you’re lazy, and we’ll be all rotted by then.  Shut up Ginkgo nuts!  You’re too much work anyway.

Eating Wild Chestnuts

November 2, 2012 § 6 Comments

N. loves dead ends.  Every sign that warns there’s no reason to go down a road, means I’m about to get forced on a detour. I was suspicious at first of the sheer effort of walking down a road you know isn’t going to work, but at the end of every unwelcoming turnaround there’s something valuable.  An old, tottering house; a bush shaped like an elephant; a lost park.  I’m starting to see the light — or rather, see charm in the dark, wet places where streets go to die.

We try to go to a nearby garage sale every weekend, just for the chance to walk the neighborhood and stare at people’s porches and lawns.  Headed back from allowing me to buy about 20 pairs of 80’s earrings, N. spotted one.  This particular dead end I grumbled over.  It was settled unpleasantly at the far-off bottom of a hill.  As we started down, N. began lecturing on the dream of living in houses no one has an excuse to walk past.  For an extrovert he’s surprisingly into hedgerows.

We found the “dead end” was a false advertisement — “Jesus, it turns into a bike path” N. exhaled in disgust.  I’m not clear how a dirt path through the light, idyllic woods that spread out past the houses was a crime against neighborhood privacy, but any excuse to ditch a dead end is a good one.

As we retraced our damp steps, a car pulled past us and parked in front of something that looked to be more 3-boat garage than domicile.  Out spread a grandmother, mother, and daughter, the latter scuffing her feet sulkily on the pavement.  I wondered why they were dragging their feet on getting into their house — if that was a house?  Or if they lived in land-boats?   Ugh, this hill was a bother.  N. craned his head back.  “Hey – there must be some sort of delicacy there,” he observed. “They’re collecting something.”

They didn’t live there at all. I made a quick U-Turn.  Under the tree were large, green, prickly fruits, which they were rolling under their shoes.  I’d spent a good portion of the morning examining these same prickly things, unable to find one the squirrels hadn’t trophied.  “What are you collecting?” I half-shouted a few times, trying not to look like a jerk hollering at a nice Asian family.  Finally the mother stepped forward and smiled and opened her hands.  There were fat, smooth nuts there in brown and green. “Chestnuts,” she pointed to the green ones, “these aren’t ready yet.”  I bent down to pick up one of the empty shells that had the little, deflated brown seeds I’d seen this morning.  She tut-tutted.  “That’s no good — and you’ll prick yourself.”  The little brown smudges I pulled out didn’t even look related to the lovely nuts she had found.

We thanked them and skipped off – mystery solved, wa-hoo!  It was only a few more blocks home, and we spent the way kicking at every prickly pouch we found – empty, empty, empty.  Near our house was another prickly-pod tree.  We were so excited we ran up to it and tried to pick up the little pouches – “Arghh!” – and dropped them in pain.  She was right.  We tried to imitate how they’d rolled them under their shoes, feeling for nuts inside, and then cracking the pouch with our feet.  Still empty.

Opening Chestnut Burrsgingerly opening Chestnut burrs with our shoes

“Hey!  I found one!”  N. held up a fat nut, ecstatic.  “The green prickly things are fresher.” Sure enough, some of the green burrs still had something in them – often one had been pulled out, but there would be a second nestled inside.  “Oh, and there’s some over here!” ones that had fallen out of the shell, unmolested, blending into the dirt.  In ten minutes we each had a full handful, and had never felt so rich.  Ah, how scarcity makes the heart pound!

our haul of fresh chestnutsN. is very excited about the Chestnut haul

We about tripped over ourselves the last block bubbling home to show everyone the nuts, which, it turned out, aren’t as cool if you didn’t just learn what they were and find them all where you thought none were left.  We looked like the nuts, and the nuts looked, well, inedible.

Now, how do you eat a chestnut?  We sang Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… over and over again…but decided not to risk an open fire.  It turns out the theory is about the same.  You cut an X in the skin of the nut across the flat part.  Lay them out on a tray and cook them at 425 for about half an hour.  You can see the skin start to peel back as they bake.

Chestnuts, X'ed, ready to bake in the ovennuts X’ed and ready to bake

When they’re done, you peel off the rest of the skin yourself, before they cool and it hardens.  N. was a natural.  I crumbled them and had to keep sneaking the mess I was making into my mouth.

“Havf you thried thes?” I turned to N., worried.  He was just swallowing one himself.

“Yeah.  They’re kind of…bland.”

There was very little nutty about chestnuts.  Their texture was related to chalky but altogether less dry.  Their flavor was unexpectedly light; a little bitter.  We frowned.

The more I tried to peel, the more I destroyed and had to scoop up into my mouth to avoid making a mess.  And you know what?  I think you just need to adjust to them.  Four or five in, and they were delicious.  Suddenly sweet.  I was dipping my hand back into the bowl all night for more soft, white something.  It definitely has a taste all its own.

Cooked and peeled chestnutsbaked, peeled, and ready to eat

I used to think I saw the homeless, the dejected, walking under that tree.  Always dragging their feet, always Asian, always clutching a bag.  Now I know those bags aren’t for lugging around half-soaked possessions – they’re for chestnuts!  They’re not shuffling because they’re derranged – they’re cracking nut cases!  Suddenly I see them every day, every time I go past, lingering to pick up secret things.  How many people are roaming the streets of Portland, harvesting chestnuts?  Is there territory?  Are they for sale, or do they go straight to the family dinner table?

a fresh chestnut, still in the burr

Most importantly of all – what I can’t stop thinking:  what other secrets foods do they know, that I don’t?

{ On this note, see my follow-up story on eating ginkgo nuts a few days later. }

{Before you eat chestnuts, learn the edible varieties here.}

How to Make Cheap Clay Fangs

November 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

Halloween this year worried me in one way: I was going as my D&D character, a tiefling (human with part demon ancestry), and I had no idea how to make her characteristic pointy teeth and ugly tusks on the cheap.  A friend, T., said she’d had luck making vampire teeth out of Sculpey III – just moulding it to her tooth, baking it, and then sliding it on so it stayed all by itself.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.  I gave it a go, and here’s the result:

ImageIt’s a pretty self-explanatory process, but I’ve typed it up anyway.  I ran into a lot of folks at the party who were as surprised and excited as I was to learn that you could make cheap vampire teeth / fangs / monster teeth / ugly tusks / whatever nasty teeth you desire, my friends.  Hurrah!

Disclaimer:  Not for kids.  I take no responsibility for anyone choosing to put non-edible substances in their mouth. This method isn’t recommended so much as it is awesome.

1. Buy Supplies.  Any Michael’s will carry Sculpey III, although I recommend calling a locally-owned craft store if you have one and asking if they have it instead.

 I would have preferred the ‘translucent’, but they were out, so I bought pearl, which was kind of sparkly.  The shade of white mattered less than I thought – but that’s probably because I burnt it.  One little pack will be enough for an army of teeth.

2. Make ‘em.  Form the Sculpey III into the shape you want (ie…a point), then push it over the tooth you want to cover.  You want to get clay on both sides of your actual tooth so it can get a good grip.  Slide it off once you have the tooth imprint, and gently plop it on tinfoil for baking.

3. Bake ‘em.  I think Sculpey III is supposed to be baked in the oven (no microwaves, folks) at 375 degrees for a certain amount of time per 1/8 in., but I’m not so good at following directions.  What I learned was:  bake them for as little time as possible.  Check on them after a few minutes.  If you let them cool off and find they don’t harden, well, stick ‘em back in.  Mine burned very quickly, leaving me with unsavory blackened fangs.  Sculpey III is best baked on a tray made of tinfoil.  Let them cool completely before trying them out to see if they fit.

4. Rinse mouth and Repeat.  It took me a number of tries to get each tooth right.  Out of my first batch, only one slid onto my tooth to my liking.  Others had moved before or during and didn’t fit, or broke when I tried them out.

What I found myself doing was sliding on the fang that I liked from the first batch, and then making several versions of the fang next to it.  You have to wear the one that already works, to make sure they’ll butt up against each other just right and fit together.  So I’d wear my left fang, and mould 4 different right fangs, bake them, let them cool, and usually one of those 4 would work perfectly.

I made 4 fangs for my top teeth, and two short tusks for my bottom teeth.  I’d burned most of them so badly that none of them matched the look I was going for, so I painted the front of them with acrylic paint and glazed them.  I can’t recommend this as you really shouldn’t put acrylic paint in your mouth…although, you should’t put Sculpey III in your mouth either.  If anyone has a mouth-approved solution for painting burnt fangs, let me know.  Whatever you do, *never* use oil paints in situations like this.

 5. Stick ‘em.  Some fangs held onto my teeth pretty well on their own, but others would slip off the moment I took moved my mouth.

I stood in the pharmacy line at Walgreens, and brashly asked the lady at the window to recommend a strong denture glue.  Without batting an eye, she said Poligrip was the most popular.  I’d tried Fixodent once, and found it mealy – plus it had failed to hold on my plastic vampire fangs.  Whether it was medium or brand at work, the Poligrip worked excellently.  Just squirt a little bit into the part of the fang that touches your tooth, stick the fang on, and hold for a few seconds.  I’d bring the tube with you in case you need to reapply – or lend your fanged friends some.

Removing the fangs is easy, just wiggle them a touch and pull them off, totally painless.  The denture glue, it turns out, is more of a suggestive paste than something that forms a bond.  If I hadn’t been so lazy I could have easily taken out the fangs, rinsed the globs of denture glue out of my mouth, eaten tasty party treats, re-rinsed, and stuck them back in with another glob o’ glue.

Upsides to this method:
– It was cheap!   I’ve passed over expensive fangs time and time again – and finally I’ve found a method that fits my pocket along with my teeth.  One little pack of Sculpey III will last me for many experimental teeth to come.
– I was able to make unique short bottom-tooth tusks for my character.

Downsides to this method:
– You’re putting Sculpey III in your mouth.  It’s not edible, folks, don’t sue me.
– It can be hard to make fangs with a particular shape unless you’re good at shaping clay, and it can be hard to get the coloration you want.  I just wanted clunky monster fangs so I was perfectly happy.  If you want the look of professional fangs, there’s no shame in buying them.

A side note on making the horns: I couldn’t find ultralight sculpey to make the horns out of so I bought the silly-named “Pluffy” instead.  It worked great, as did the cheap paint-on glaze I finished it with. 

On Fire

May 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night I lay in bed waiting for N. to get home. My mother is one of the nicest people I’ve ever known and was therefore reading to me over Skype. The distant explosions don’t exist, I told myself. Don’t pretend you’re living in an alternate history. Don’t look out the window. People’s fears feed them tales that every tap-tap-tap is a burglar or bomb. Don’t be like that.

I broke down around the time I decided it was a volcano. From atop my mounded laundry I peered out, across the city from my latticed attic window. I knew losing my glasses that afternoon was a bad idea. Far from being restorative, afternoon napping had resulted in what I could only assume was a poor pun – glasses-napping. Or they had fallen on the mound, and I was crushing them trying to get a better look at the volcano. Through the green leaves and the blur, there were far-off sparks of orange and red. I watched them rise and fall, waiting, breath paused for another color, listening to my mother’s voice. In the dark, I knew she couldn’t see me pressed by the window, waiting for the colors to change. Half a minute later a burst of blue signaled, “you’re crazy,” and I curled back onto the bed. Maybe someone set a fireworks factory on fire. Why would they all go off at once like that, one endless, constant noise?

When I was younger and lived in Vermont, every Fourth of July we’d journey across the lake to see the fireworks. The water would be dotted with boats, as far off as I could see, crowded in to watch. It was the only time we’d go out on the lake at night, so I remember clearly the dark, and fleeces, and the bright red and green lights on the prow. My parents always told me what the colors meant, and I always forgot – I just knew that out in the blackness, they kept the other boats away.

Poised over the dark water, the fireworks were spectacular. You could hear cheering. In my memory each burst was a separate event. Everyone on land and lake was following the same teasing trail, and the unfurling explosion of color as it showed us briefly what it was meant to be. Then it would fade, and, still dazzled, we’d watch for the following trail, listen for the whistle. And again, and again. The spacing gave way to anticipation, and to appreciation for every blazing design. There was a moment to point, and say, that one! That’s my favorite kind.  Slowly, the whistles doubled. Color on color, they sped up, and then erupted into a full-volume spectacular. The finale was lavish, the fireworks undistinguishable as they exploded all together, letting us know that it was ok we were tired from clapping and it was about time to go home.

Friends often say the best fireworks they have seen are at Reed College. Several times a year, the college shells out for expensive, open-to-the-public displays of celebration. It’s wonderful.  Those who complain about undue noise are missing a little chunk of enjoyment in life, and I like to think they can turn that around at any moment. Reed College is giving back, in those loud evenings, to the community. And what they’re giving is a fireworks display that many say rivals or outdoes the city’s. I enjoy watching them, up-close on the lawn, huddled in with friends. They come with music, and they arc in meticulously planned pattens set off by a machine. Still, there’s no relationship with the fireworks of my childhood.  No pause to just listen for the whistle, for the clapping to fade to silence while we imagine what the next spark will bring. For me, there are too many fireworks.  I want to pause them, to slow them down and watch each one grace the sky. I want them to feel valuable again, unwasteable, fireworks so large your uncle couldn’t afford to smuggle them in from Canada.

I don’t really mind, though. I just rock and hear the hum of the boat in my ears.

I had some friends over for my birthday few days past, intent on doing the best thing I could think of, which happened to be sitting in the backyard roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. We were out there just long enough to find that burning old drawers will not make a good cooking fire before the rain came.  N. and I stood sadly, surveying his smokey little concoction, before pouring yellowed cans of year-old yard Pasbt across it.  Inside, a friend has brought fat sausages filled with Mongolian Beef and Gator*, and the marshmallows were forgotten.  I knew it was a good party because someone interrupted a boy asking me for a prop to make him look pregnant, to ask me for a tie to put on a girl.  We sat up til 3 AM, hooked on Cards Against Humanity.

This afternoon I was unsurprised to find the cupboards empty except for cheap hot dogs, marshmallows, graham crackers, and big bars of chocolate. Happy Memorial Day weekend. I checked to make sure no-one was home before sticking a couple of pudgy white globs onto a wooden meat skewer and cranking up the gas burner. Blue means extra-hot, right? Within seconds I discovered the secret: holding a marshmallow within about a half a foot of a burner would instantly set it aflame. Time and time again I blew it out and inched it forward again. WHOMPH! Darn.

Oh, whoops.

It's blurry because I'm panicing.

Somehow through repeated engulphments, the middle melted into a perfect s’more. I don’t know how there was enough between two marshmallows to coat my face, my hands, my phone, and still fill the graham-cracker crust, but it spread itself out. Which is why I am sitting here, sticky, happy, and reflecting on flame and explosives.

Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend, folks.

* fat sausages courtesy of Sheridan Fruit Co., which I have often passed wondering if they sell cheap fruit. They don’t, they sell expensive fruit. But their true strength lies in the most delicious sausages I’ve tasted in Portland, OR. I’m a loyal fan of Otto’s Sausage Kitchen, and the Eastmoreland Market has an unforgettable spicy italian with fennel – but these were unbeatable.