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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kitschy Cuisine

I don’t remember the first time I went to Mars restaurant, but my experience at this time warp of an eatery is always the same. Many months will go by between visits and I inevitably forget that they don’t accept reservations.

“Hi, I’d like to make a reservation” I say cheerfully into the phone
“We don’t take reservations” is the response by the clearly annoyed voice on the other end of the line.

Crap, now she knows I’m not a regular, regular.

“Ok, well, is there much of a wait on Saturday around 6?” I ask

It being Friday, I believe I may have thrown her off the scent enough for tonight and have a hope in hell of sneaking in without a connection being made. Maybe I should disguise my voice just to be sure.

Mars is the kind of place that you walk in and immediately consider walking back out. The experience may be best described as the feeling some have towards blue cheese, you know that it’s edible, but just can’t stomach taking a bite. Mars has been around since the 1920’s but sports a healthy 1970’s motif. The smell of smoke greets you like a punch in the face and the excessively loud, often tasteless conversations of the herds of rowdy locals lead you to believe that there might be an actual punch in the face before the night is over. Spinning, honeycomb like devices dangle from the ceiling, whirring precariously off kilter in a futile attempt to clear some of the blue haze. At least one person is smoking a cigar. Wood paneling, artificial flower arrangements and Great Wall of China sized photo enlargements of the area glow in their plastic, backlit cases.

“How many?” the greeter (and I use the term loosely), asks
“Two” I respond with a hopeful glint in my eye
“We’ll call you” and with that, I’ve been dismissed.

I know better than to provoke a sigh/eye roll from this woman by asking ‘how long?’ and quickly scan the perimeter for a place to hold up. Ok, spot between the two drunks arguing over the Bears and Packers or.....or….come on…. spot at the piano.

Piano it is, but this is no victory. A yellow haired woman of about 70 sits behind the piano belting out all your favorites in a raspy voice, Georgia on Your Mind? Wait, did I say Georgia? I mean, Wisconsin. Cute. Leaving on a Jet Plane; for Wisconsin? Right, double cute. And so it goes, glass after glass of merlot, song after song cleverly altered to include Wisconsin. Well at least no matter how drunk I get, I won’t forget where I am.

An hour into the ordeal I’m finally seated awaiting my food. Why did I come here, again? Before I can formulate a response, the answer is placed on a seemingly clean (as best I can judge by tea light) plate before me, ribs. Or to be accurate, the best ribs I’ve ever had. Slightly sweet yet tangy meaty goodness graces my lips. Ahhh, Mars, I’ve missed you.

A neighboring table of 20 begin a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ and I’m asked to join along, what the heck, we’re all family here right?

Satiated and a bit tipsy, I zigzag around other tables of happy customers on my way towards the door, all the while rifling through my purse for an addition to the piano players tip jar.

*

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No More Autographs, Pull-ease!

So, Ringo Starr is officially out of the autographing game come October 20th, 2008. Ok, I can live with that. I mean the guy is what, 68? Leave him alone already.

And then I watch the video.

“I’m warning you with Peace & Love….” Ummm, what? Warning me? With Peace & Love? That’s odd. Toss in a “This is a serious message” and 5-6 more "Peace & Love’s" and the whole bit of strange is over. Apparently you can say whatever you like now if you tack on a bit of popular social commentary or call for change. Awesome. I’ve been waiting a long time for a get out of jail free card like this.

So now I must be off, I hope you will excuse me as I stoke the tire fire in my backyard, Free Tibet!


video

http://www.ringostarr.com/home.php

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Facebook Restored my Faith in the Economy



Just when I was beginning to question the state of the economy, a trip to my local bookstore proved I have nothing to worry about. Facebook, is there anything they can’t do?

Clearly they know something I don’t. $14.99 for a paper, (albeit glossy) magazine about a virtual community a six year old could figure out, fantastic. If this magazine is around 6 months from now I’ll take it as a sign that I can stop checking the stock market every 15 minutes.

A note to any of you Facebook subscribers out there: I’ve compiled a list of MySpace tips on restaurant napkins that I can let go for 12 bucks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

For the Love of Tangents

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation about how asparagus makes your pee smell funny and wondered how you ever ended up discussing this on a Monday morning? (happened to me today actually and thinking back, it began with the color ‘pea green’).

If not for my love of tangents, I might have completed many more large projects instead of beginning and (ok, I’ll admit it, abandoning) infinitely more smaller ones.

I might have purchased a purse at the store as I intended instead of noticing a piece of fabric, deciding to make my own purse, hitting a snag and coming to the conclusion a better plan might be to chronicle the endeavor on a website that I would create (that by the way, took WAY longer than actually making the purse).

I might have taken the most direct route home from work instead of noticing an interesting road, wildly cranking the wheel at the last second, finding myself face to face with a church pew pillar I couldn’t pass up making my own, and ending up discussing the history of the piece with the seller for half an hour. (very interesting fellow by the way).

I might have went to the grocery, bought what I intended to buy instead of noticing a Prickly Pear, taking it home (couldn’t resist that you know) and eating a pretty bad piece of fruit. Ok, that one may have been a mistake.

I guess my point is (wait for it, wait for it…) that while I could be the owner of a functioning purse today, could have made it home a few minutes sooner from work or eaten something that didn’t stain my counters blood red, I also would have missed out on much of the ‘interesting’ in my life.

Tomorrow I plan on going for a run, wonder what I should name my new dog?

*

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dante's Inferno


It’s warming up to a perfect 72 degrees. I open my windows to coax one of the last truly beautiful autumn days into my home and hear something indistinguishable over a loud speaker, check? Test? Something is going on.

An auction, my neighbors’ house. Through the trees I can make out items being arranged. I’ve never met them. Are they moving? Did they die?

Glassware, linens, artwork and furniture lay sprawled over wagons and grass.

“Did you know her?” a stranger asks
“No I didn’t” I reply somewhat embarrassed
“I guess she lived alone” the stranger offers

So she died. I can’t help but wonder if I missed something. I begin to search for things I hope not to find, evidence that we might have been friends.

The first few tables are safe. Porcelain horses and mass produced dinnerware. Rounding a corner, a loud flowered chair assaults my senses. Must have been a collector. Massive amounts of stamps and coins are neatly displayed under glass. I remember the last time I thought I might like to collect something, I was 12.

It’s clear that she was not a young woman. American flags with varying numbers of stars and old NRA posters line another table. Fabric and clothing circa 1930 fill box upon box on the ground.

And then I see it; Dante’s Inferno, 1880 folio alongside a vintage Tennyson. Gustave Dore’s beautifully illustrated pages draw me in. A look to my left reveals hundreds more. Classic literature, gardening manuals and cookbooks quickly expose at least three commonalities between this woman and myself.

I will bid on the folio.

I patiently wait as item after item is sold. I am drawn into conversations. These are my neighbors. A teacher, a bicycle enthusiast, a gossip, a city official. I hand out my business card and discuss how I can become more involved in my community. I need to redeem myself.

The flowered chair sells for $5 after a little coaxing.

I ease through the crowd as the auctioneer moves closer to my book. Children walk by with hotdogs and I realize I haven’t eaten. I cease making eye contact with anyone who might speak to me, bid against me. Bees attracted by sugary sodas hover over the crowd and I begin to feel the nervous excitement of a live auction. I have never done this before.

I curl and uncurl my bidders’ card anxiously. 71, 71, 71, I repeat to myself. I don’t need to remember, it’s written on the card. Why am I trying to remember? My heart skips a beat as they raise my book in the air and announce they have an absentee bid. I decide on $100 max., maybe $125.

“$25? 25 dollars where?” the auctioneer bellows
I raise my card, he’s seen it.

The call for $30 brings another bidder from behind me. I won’t look back, afraid I will recognize my opponent and feel the need to relinquish the prize to a new aquaintenance.

I quickly run through possibilities of who the other bidder might be as the auctioneer again looks to me,

“$35?”

I raise my card and nod.

Back to my adversary at $40:

Accepted.

Back to me:

“$45?”

I nod again and this time, a pause,

“50? 50? 50 dollars where?” the auctioneer yells in sing-song. He is searching now, clearly having lost the other bidder.

And with that, it’s mine. Could it have been that easy?

“$45 to…what’s your number” he asks

I turn my card over to look, why? I know this, 71.

I wade through the crowd clutching my book, searching for the look of disappointment on my adversary’s face, nothing. I pause on the outskirts of the crowd to revel in my victory. I’m admiring the well worn cover of the Inferno when I hear a voice,

“Congratulations on your purchase” a white haired man of about seventy, camera 'round his neck says in a British accent
“Do you enjoy art?”
“Yes, I do. Painting, Photography, Literature…” I respond
“Well, that’s all we really have isn’t it?” he says

I had noticed this man wandering through the crowd as I waited. Noted his camera, kicked myself for not having grabbed mine. I racked my brain for something else to say, I felt the need to make a connection.

“So, you’re local?” I blurted out

How could I have said that?

“Clearly not” he responded smiling

“Right, I mean, now” I said trying to recover

“Well, now yes, but I’d rather be in Paris this time of year.”

I commented that “Yes, it would be nice, although I’d never been”, as he continued his story of his travels with the airlines.

“I’ve been all over the world, well almost. There are a few places I would still like to see” he offered “But there is still time”

“Yes”, I agreed, “there was.”

Having said all he came to say, he nodded in agreement, smiled and walked away.