Monday, August 31, 2009

Cleveland Co-Operative Stove: Future Dig Site for Kensington Middle School Class of 2089

This was a fortress in the Mid-Cycean wars of the 2nd century. It was defended by the dying empire of the Titratians against a 700 day siege by the invading hillsmen of Cycea. (Class, be sure to keep together, and don't touch anything)

This is the gate that held back the bloodthirsty hordes of Night Otters, who were starved for weeks before being let loose on the evening campfires of the enemy. (Bridget, what are you whispering about? Pay attention.)

This is the courtyard where the glorious and brave Peter fought the evil Muskmen, warriors of the dead who fought side by side with their trained Mountain wolves.

Through this window, the stricken queen and her attendants gazed upon the burning barracks, and then killed themselves with knitting needles to preserve their virtue for the afterlife.

In the secret garden, Princess Reyna met with her lover, the manipulative King Olnes, who used her affection to gain the fortress's defensive secrets. She was later hung from the pillars and slashed by steel whips for her treachery. (Bridget, what did I tell you about making things up? No Jimmy, they did not hang anybody here. They made stoves here.)

The battle was long, bloody, and brutal. It spared no living person, animal, or plant, turning the fertile castle gardens into slurry of tainted red mud. (Jimmy, there is not blood on the ground. That's clay.)

Through this shaft, the royal archers positioned themselves for deadly attacks with their poisoned arrows, but eventually fell to bites of millions of lethal spiders planted by spies to grow in the ducts and burrows of the castle walls. (Daniel, put that spider down right now! I will take you all back to the bus!)

Here, the wretched Titration king was forced to sign a treaty granting all Cyceans power over all the kingdom, after which he was decapitated and pulled to pieces by horses. (Bridget, if you do not stop scaring Jimmy, I am going to call your parents.)

The citizens of the kingdom could only cower as the Cyceans lit off a massive display of missiles and fireworks over the burning fortress, to celebrate their victory.

But little did the hillsmen know that one artifact had escaped the destruction, ferried away by loyal servants and couriers to a place deep inside the Black Forest, an item that would one day spell their destruction, much as it had been the downfall of the Titratians.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bellevue Train Museum

We were driving around on our way to the caverns, which took us miraculously through Downtown Bellevue. Anytime I head west, I end up in Bellevue. It is a magnet to the secret rural desires of my martini stained soul. We found the church that was on sale last year for 70,000. It was a haunted house the first time I saw it. It's a daycare now. But it's still next to the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum. I haven't been inside the museum yet. Instead we pulled over and I wandered around the empty railway cars. It was a rainy Sunday, and no one was around, though there was a muted light coming from inside one of the offices. Inside was probably some middle aged volunteer, playing Bejeweled and drinking Diet Coke, waiting for anyone in rustbelt Ohio who might still be interested in the trains that have crisscrossed their towns for a hundred years.

In an alternate world, I would have bought that church, and lived in it, with the engines and cabooses in my backyard.

I have no bent to engineering or mechanics. I have no idea how these things work. But I love the sounds they make, and I love the motion of them. If it is big and metal and moves, I want to be around it. Remember Richard Scarry's Cars, Trucks, and Things That Go? And the pickle truck accident? Remember seeing the impossible giant tankers waiting on the Cuyahoga river, filling up with salt and gravel and mountains of unknown rock? Remember the engine they have at COSI, which moves back and forth on a track in a room, while kids (you, me) sit in the engine room full of power?

One day when I was very young, pre-teen, I took the train from my grandmother's house in Philadelphia to New York. And I took it back. It was the best part of the day, rocking back and forth on the dirty beige upholstery, watching generic landscape swish by. It's best to move very fast, wherever you are going. Its best to be sealed up in steel, careening through air, untouchable.

Remember The Boxcar children?

I'm in a funny kind of mood. I want to be safe wherever I am, and the only things that make me feel that way these days are monoliths of rock, brick, metal, wood. I want to be in structured large spaces, alone. It's like autumn starts to sniff around and the bear in me starts looking for a flat cold floor to stretch out on, where the weather becomes only a muted noise banging on the walls. Old things that have proven their stamina already. It's hard to be lonely in places like that, for me anyway.

Once upon a time people and children and farm animals and clothing and coal and liquor and tin cans and guns and tractors and radios and vegetables and letters traveled in these boxes across the plains and mountains, on slick steel rails, bouncing back and forth and up and down. And they came to Ohio, where they stopped. Then someone stuck them in a park, where local kids could love them when they were little and throw rocks at them when they grew up.

More trains here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Seneca Caverns: The Caviest Cave in the USA!

What terrors lurk beneath these green (alright, dark scary green) fields?

First of all, I am not joking, that is their slogan. I first saw the sign during my awesome Find the Secret Missile Testing Site in Sandusky road trip, on my way back from the Sorrowful Mother Shrine. That was last summer, and I was determined to go spelunking Ohio Style before this summer's end. That style would be, by the way, walking in comfortable shoes with railings at opportune spots, and smoking copious cigarettes before going down.

Ohio is full of hidden treasures, like the dinosaur petting zoo. And Mystery Hill. I assume there is a cemetery next to Mystery Hill, since there is a cemetery next to everything in Ohio. This sign, for instance, is next to a cemetery. Which was in the parking lot of the gift shop for Seneca Caverns.

And everyone in those cemeteries died from not being able to figure these damn nail puzzles out.
There are certain things you can expect to find at every rural tourist trap: shot glasses, painted sea shells, and fucking nail puzzles. The cave tours leave every 20 minutes, and we got there just as the other tour was going down. So we had plenty of time to wander around trying to get those damn nails apart, and I almost convinced myself to buy a unicorn icon on painted wood, but settled instead for pocket gemstones. They also had these gorgeous geode bookends and slabs, which weren't badly priced, but luckily our tour started before I folded.
Somewhere in China, a village of small children is adept as hell at putting those nails together.
The group coming up the staircase at the end of their tour was composed of a few families, with young kids. They looked exhilarated as they emerged, breathless and smiling. It was a good sign. We were the only ones on the last tour of the day, so they showed us into this room that no doubt would have been improved by some anxious kids.

The Waiting Room.

Cave entrance - complete with creepy iron gate.

The tour guide we had still went through all the stories, even though it was apparent all we cared about was running around and being snide city kids. Here's a few "facts" (I'm not vouching for the truthiness of any of this)

- The caves were discovered by some boys in 1872 when their dog and the rabbit it was chasing fell down a sinkhole. We asked. No one died.

- Mr. Bell bought the cave in 1931, inspired by a visit to Mammoth Caves. According to our tour guide, during the Great Depression when a bunch of people owed his law practice money, he had them pay off their debt by shoveling the layers of mud and glacial slime filling up the cave, to develop it for tourism. For 6 months. At .35 an hour.

- The humidity in the caves is so high, when Mr. Bell left a bag of cement down there overnight, the next day it had already hardened. The bag shaped cement is still there. I saw it.

-Nobody has ever really hurt themselves going down. Which I find surprising because the tour was actually more strenuous than I was anticipating. It's 110 ft down and then back up, and it's not super hard, but you have to be careful where you step. I knocked my head like five times stooping under the tunnels. My expression when I finally emerged was more like slave worker in coal mine, less excited breathlessness.

-The cave is still operated by Mr. Bell's son. He was behind the little wooden ticket grate smoking. Don't you wish your family operated a cave? Mom, Dad, where was your foresight? It's the only business that never has recessions. You never run out of supply, there's always demand. And I could have been up to my ears in nail puzzles my entire childhood.

Above is a picture of the underground river, quaintly named Ol'Mystry. It's the same water that flows through to the Blue Hole , completely clear and devoid of oxygen. The State oxygenates it for their trout hatchery in Castalia, which by the way is the place to go if you ever want to see a really clear stream teeming with very large healthy fish. That's kind of a natural wonder on it's own now. Just look along the right edge of the picture, you can barely see the water line. No one has been to the bottom of the river, so no one knows how far down it goes, but it has flooded to the top of the cave before, and in droughts has gone at least another 200 feet down. How cool is that? I mean, really. Aquifers are awesome. That right there is why Ohio is farmland. That is actual meaningful cause and effect.

Of course, our guide also pointed out the flip flop some girl lost over the edge. A flip flop bouncing against dark cave walls in a nonexistent underground current for the rest of the millenia.

It's an hour tour, but I think we were down there for a good 45 minutes extra. Which made me stand up a few friends for drinks. But luckily, everyone likes rocks as presents, right? Right guys? Guys?

For more badly lit pictures of rocks, go here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas: Hey Las Vegas, stop whining about how nobody acknowledges you as a dining scene. F-ing sick of that.

So I’m not gonna lie. Last week I watched the Top Chef Masters Finale, and then didn’t stick around for the premiere of Top Chef Las Vegas. There were extenuating circumstances. For instance, I was pissed at Hubert Keller not winning. And I didn’t like that blue dress Padma was wearing in the promos. Also, the first episode of every Top Chef season is the throw away episode. There are too many contestants, and some of them are real jerks, and nobody looks good by the end. After watching Bayless, Keller, and that Italian guy throw down, I wasn’t in the mood for botched scallops.

This week, thanks to the endless generosity of cable, the premiere was replayed and I watched the end. It was exactly as annoying as I thought it would be. There’s always that one really dreadful chef that just sticks out beyond the rest of the curds, and they get sent home, and then everyone prepares to buckle down. This time it was Seitan girl, forever known now as Seitan girl, which is gross. It makes me think of a really disgusting Japanese version of a sex doll.

We all knew Eve was going home this week. What was she doing there? She kept making these hapless loosie goosie faces, and cooking unappealing dated things. I’m sure she is a very nice girl. But nobody, except Jesse, was worried last night. Jesse is always worried. She needs to stop cooking chicken.

But maybe she just isn’t cut out to deal with this crowd, because it’s a very good crowd. I mean, there’s like 20, 25 James Beard nominees? And Jennifer, the dark blonde horse. My theory about Jennifer is that she’s the secret love child of Eric Ripert, and has worked her way up through his restaurants anonymously, to prove to her father she can make it on her own. She’s the seafood queen, but for realsies, not in that fake boasting way that one contestant always claims early on. Remember that guy? Who couldn’t skin an eel? Maybe Jennifer sold her soul to a talking Halibut. I'm not convinced that's not a Ripert family legacy anyway, talking halibuts, wish granting, inability to move your forehead muscles.

So Jennifer is one of my favorites. MIT Kevin, the relevant part of the Pickle Brothers, is next. I don’t understand that nickname, but it’s catchy and reminds me of Richard Scarey. I like Romulus and Remus, otherwise known as Brian and Michael, (otherwise known as “something dramatic and secret has happened to drive these two brothers apart, into distant cities, each striving against the dark shadows from their childhood through the art of food, one destined to kill the other in a distant future”). And finally, I have great hopes for Mattin, the small country mouse whose only dream is to work in the kitchens of the great Parisian chefs, and also to defeat the army of evil rats, and marry the princess.

I am a little disappointed that the cream rose to the top so fast this season (see the credit I'm giving myself?). But I appreciate the twists the producers have added, to bring out more bloodshed. The 15,000 dollar quick fires for example. Should be some good crying over medical bills and family obligations thanks to that shit. I guess they needed more incentive to bring in the better chefs? Also Gail’s new laser eyes are awesome.

Till Next Week.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is what goes on when I'm not paying attention...

So here are some things that have happened:

1. I got a new cat. My mother forced her on me when I came over to meet her new dog. Buster is a rangy West Side mottle mutt, who scurries away from people like we've got socks full of oranges behind our backs. He has legs like a greyhound, but the muzzle of a boxer. He likes fuzzy things in his mouth. Anyway, so I'm all like "aw, nice dog" and then Mom's like "hey do you want a cat? Do you want this obnoxiously affectionate grey cat that hasn't left our porch for two weeks and keeps sneaking into the house and seriously wants only to be loved and petted at all times 24 hrs?" So in a matter of 20 minutes, all the arguments I've made against this two cat system go out the door, and the damn thing already has a name. I tried to make it Fiver. But it was Nina, and I couldn't help it. I took her to the vet, and they said "no fleas, already spade, she's got a cold so quarantine her for two weeks". Hey, no problem there. Any excuse to put off the inevitable screaming showdown and inevitable piss all over my bed. Edison vs. Nina, available on Pay Per View 8/28.

2. Here is an example of Ex Boyfriend Logic: "You don't love me because you won't be my friend while I fuck other girls. It's unfair for me to lose my best friend because I don't want to go out with you anymore, you are being unfair and cruel." Here is another example: "Your hurt is not greater than my hurt. I've been hurting for years because you wouldn't let me date other girls, which was unnatural to me, why don't you care about my feelings?" Here is my logic: I don't drink nearly enough given my motivations. Also, I refuse to forgive people for things they don't regret. You get my forgiveness when you want my forgiveness, not just cause you think I should.

3. I have worked 24 days in a row, on Saturday it will be 26. I kinda feel like not stopping, like I'm halfway through some sort of marathon, and I made it this far so why not farther? Why not see how much I can work before the ringing of the phones becomes a constant whine in my middle ear and I start dreaming of org codes. And really, that's not a reason to stop. That's just a sign your body is morphing into the most efficient mode, your cells are tuning themselves to the correct frequency. It means I might be able to work forever! I will be super Cubicle Girl, they will stick me in a warehouse somewhere in the Badlands, underneath the rock, where I will file and grind and smile for eternity. You know how exercising gives you that adrenalin rush and you can become addicted like a 3 dollar meth whore? Well it turns out the same is true for not sleeping enough, not talking to people except at work, and sitting in air conditioning grayspace for 11 hours at a stretch.

4. I am off for the first time Sunday. I will drink in the sunshine. That phrase means two things, duh. It will probably rain and I will also drink in the rain, I'm not picky. On Monday, I will look for mold and graffiti, and I will be so happy to crawl into dark places that it will be OBSCENE. On Tuesday, I will try and clean my house so that certain people who are coming into town at certain times soon will be able to come over and suppress the urge to have me committed and/or dewormed.

5. When I get really physically down, like achey and tired and hungry, it reveals to me what I really give a shit about. Music and TV especially. Don't waste my time if you suck dude, and no, I'm not going to try and like you because all these other people like you. If you don't hook me in a short minute, f you. And conversations. If I've had even half a conversation in non-working hours with you in the last three weeks, you're special. You're gold dude. I haven't cooked a SINGLE THING. Carrots. I want roasted carrots.

6. I am relatively sad about all the things I've missed, the Burning River Festival, and the Assumption, and basically all the reasons Cleveland gives you to get wasted outside with strangers. But I did (just now!) get an email from Cedar Lee telling me I'd won tickets to HumpDay next Thursday. And September is always good to me generally speaking. September is the kind of month that says "wait, remember to enjoy yourself, be sated and calm." So yay, Bridget's back in the world of natural daylight!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why My Mother Doesn't Like Mad Men

It seems appropriate to me that the Mad Men premiere should take place the weekend of the Assumption of Mary, a celebration of motherhood. For those of you not raised on unleaven bread and communally spit-in grape juice, that's when Mary, instead of dying, was raised bodily into heaven. Technically making her luckier than Jesus, who had to shed his mortal coil first.

What's the connection, you say? Well, if you watch the show (which you should, tonight, 10pm, AMC) you're thinking I'm going to draw some Betty Draper metaphor here. You're wrong. In many ways, fuck Betty Draper. I'm a Peggy Olson girl. Just dressing impeccably and having nervous breakdowns does not make me a fan, even though January Jones is the closest thing to Grace Kelly I've ever seen alive. She's a living Barbie doll.

The connection here between Mary Mother of God and the best drama on television at the moment is my own blessed mother. A devout Catholic, a humanitarian, a nifty nurse, adopter of strays, and a huge TV addict. She doesn't have cable, normally, but I thought for sure if I brought over a DVD, she would get into this show. After all, period costumes? Witty dialogue? Realistic depictions of social issues? So my sister and I went to the video store last Thanksgiving, and railroaded my brother into getting the first season of Mad Men as our family activity for the day.

My mother was not having it. She wouldn't even watch it. According to her, it reminded her too much of when she was a secretary in the 60s; the smoking, the drinking, racism, uncomfortable bras, and rampant sexual harassment. She found nothing entertaining in the nostalgia of a time period that represented everything that the 70s, and she, had rebelled against.

The interesting part about this is that my mother's attitude towards this show seems to be the minority. Over half of the audience from last season seemed to be over 50, at least according to this. Of course, that could be because nobody my age watches tv anymore, we all watch it online or wait to get it through Netflix. It certainly seems to be true that all the people I know who watch it are girls hovering around 30 who spend too much money at vintage stores. But that might just be all the people I know anyway. It's been widely proclaimed to be a feminine show, and 2/3rd of the writers for the show are women. It's a period soap opera. Girlfriends get raped. Office assistants have abortions. Housewives have neurological breakdowns. Every single husband or boyfriend cheats.

Maybe the disconnect here is that people would rather forget that the world used to be this blatantly bad, and so they can watch because they don't put themselves in that dirtiness. All these problems still exist, but we've hidden them under a guise of trying to be politically correct, and making an effort to see ourselves as evolved. The fact that the show also gives us beautiful dresses and glamour, that the characters themselves are oblivious to their societal ugliness, it allows us to write off these moments as soap opera rather than facing the fact that all this crap really happened to, and was perpetuated by, people we still know. We react in the same way that the characters react to it, incorporating it, accepting it, but not getting angry about it. Yet. I have high hopes for the story arc.

Mad Men's depiction of the lives of our mothers should act as a magnifying lens to anti-feminist sentiment, classism, and racism in our own lives. It should point out to us how much they fought against to make our lives better, and how we shouldn't allow the same shit to happen today. Every character's storyline points out another aspect of America's problems and America's ugliness. What I enjoy most about the show is how it deflates the generalized view of the 60s that has become acceptable history. My mother and father lived through the 50s and 60s, and understand the details. But for my generation, the details are lost in stereotypes of flower children and McCarthy monsters. We dehumanize, romanticize, and forget. I wonder if this has happened to members of my parents' generation - they choose to forget and accept watching from a distance, not directly associating themselves with any of it. Or is the demographic audience age so high because they do remember?

Of course, it is a show about an advertising agency, not Everytown USA. And it's an entertaining show. But I understand why my mother doesn't like it. Sometimes you remember all too well, and you just don't want to.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

God Gave Rock and Roll To You

This Saturday, come to Now That's Class for Pink Eye Magazine's Release Party. There's some bands. There's vegan food. There's pictures of some school I didn't show you on here, and a story about chalkboards being attacked by chairs, and some shit like that. Pick up an issue at these lovely local places.

Also, this Saturday, Doug's Birthday! Wait, was that supposed to be a surprise? But I know all about the cake! In fact, my birthday present for Doug is that tonight I tried to get his boyfriend back on fucking track making that cake. That's not entirely true. I'm getting you something else.

I mean, I am now, right?

Doug is a loyal reader, also super sweet, super smart, and full of great opinions about local politics. Happy Birthday Doug! If I had more money, I would buy you cable so you could overdose ecstatically on Fox and Friends. I guess that's not a very friendly present, huh?

I'm not entirely sure if I should recommend Billy the Kid to you, or not. But remember that Nazi Zombie snowmobile movie? It's On Demand right now, even though it's not hitting the Cedar Lee till September.

And in case you haven't picked it up from my Twitter/Facebook/mental telepathy updates, I've decided I AM America. Dunkin Donuts tells me so, and I believe them.

Love you, B.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Please Excuse the Interruption

So work offered me a lot of OT, like a LOT. As much as I can wrap my chubby little fingers around. This means I won't be doing anything cool or fun most likely, and I won't post much, and you will all leave me and forget me like the fickle strange lovers you are.

I'm sorry to everyone I'm ditching plans on, but my car needs new tires.

See you in a few weeks!