Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Running behind the DDT truck

or... one more reason Gen X is kind of ..."damaged"

#25 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

This is most accurately a 50s memory, but even in 1972, the DDT truck was as popular a neighborhood event as the ice-cream man.  Cough if you did this.

I do not know what inspired us to take to the streets and run into the Fog that Thrills, except that this was apparently a ritual established a generation ahead of us. You can google the title of this entry and find many happy memories of this behavior.   You will also have to add your own, because mine are a little....hazy.

Rachel Carson, that killjoy, raised her hand about DDT 10 years before it was banned, but she may have been more concerned about the bald eagle than she was about us.  I am unable to find a 1970s PSA about DDT, but here is an ad fom the 40s that delights me no end.

"The great expectations held for DDT have been realized. During 1946, exhaustive scientific tests have shown that, when properly used, DDT kills a host of destructive insect pests, and is a benefactor of all humanity."

The 70s ruled in blunt delivery, but you can't beat the 40s for sheer American Might and Hyperbole.  I thought for sure it would claim to have "wrangled Tojo" and won the Olympics.

Now get this:
new theory on obesity links pre-natal DDT exposure to increased weight in adulthood.  I find this hard to conclude, since we are all 20 pounds or more heavier than people our age 20-30 years ago, and this brief article does not say these babies are heavier than babies born to mothers who did not ingest contaminated fish.  And no one seems to have factored for corn syrup and the death of the 8 oz soda.  But then it is my job to draw these things in for you.  You can come to your own conclusions.

Unless the lead paint, DDT, Agent Orange, and radon have ruined you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thinking outside the tin

Not since Katharine Hepburn attempted waffles in Woman of the Year has a career gal in the kitchen been as hilarious as your Miss Bender committed to a Holiday Cookie Exchange.

There are two key factors in how this scene came about:
1) the lengths I am willing to go to expand my social sphere, and
2) not knowing what a Cookie Exchange was.

That is, I thought I knew what one was, because I have a creative mind and I can visualize a lot of detail based on very little input. I knew that this was a Ladies w/Home Crafts event, and very far outside my element, but I thought it was ladies in holiday sweaters getting together to make cookies and everyone would take home their party favor bag of a share of the cookies. Like Jam Grannies, or a Brunswick Stew.

I know my role in these scenes is of the helper monkey: washing dishes, fawning over the host like her maid of honor, and making witty repartee with strangers who have not yet heard my double album.

You are already laughing because you know what a Cookie Exchange is, and for those reasons have never thought to invite me to one. You know Miss Bender has life skills, not home skills – she does not own a cookie sheet, a microwave, a Kitchen Aid. She never has “extra” flour. She uses her 9 inch cake pans to broil hot dogs. Because who could eat an entire cake?

And if you think I had 12 cookie tins or anything resembling them, you are reading the wrong friend’s blog.

To make 12 dozen cleverly designed and packaged cookies was going to require some real project planning, and I was grateful to be unemployed. I already had a deliverable in 2 days because the recipes were due to the Hostess so she could make a cunning souvenir recipe book memento. So any plan I had for “add Grape Nuts to Toll House batter” was off the table (that is delicious, by the way).

I went for the simplest no-bake recipe I could vouch for, which was the Oreo Balls I discovered just a few days before at Susie’s annual bash (shout out, Callahans!). You can find this recipe easily online. It is Oreos and cream cheese, coated in your choice of fondant (Martha Stewart’s word for melted baking chips).

Also immediately required was a run to Christmas Tree Shops for packaging. This was Tuesday – Delivery -6 days. CTS was pretty well picked over. I toyed with a basket idea for a few minutes, but eventually found enough of the right sized tins for about 50 cents less per piece. 100% complete.

The project manager knows there are 3 elements to weigh: schedule, scope, and resources, but hidden surprise always comes in the form of Level of Effort. This was variable X. So I had a practice run.

Here is the schedule breakdown: Friday – trial batch, Saturday – trial tasting, Sunday – project execution, Monday – delivery. All Finish-to-Start; there is no lag time. In case you would like to follow along.

Scope: There is some algebra involved here:
if (1) test dozen takes X minutes from start to finish, Final batch = 12x with some factor of “learning curve” I do not know how to express. But I need a gross of Oreo Balls in equal numbers white chocolate and peanut butter coating. I do not know how many defects to expect per dozen or what will constitute a defect. Because of course there are limited….

I chose a no-bake recipe so I wouldn’t have to buy cookie sheets. I do have 2 hand-mixers (somewhere…) and I figure I can fake the rest.
Step One: crush 4 bags of Oreos. Oh.
Greatest of All Sisters says put them in a gallon Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. “Oh,” I say,” with my rolling pin? What else ya got?”
“You have a hammer?” she says. No flies on her. And she knows me so well.

I begin hand-crushing cookies (with my impeccably gloved hands, because of course I have latex gloves but not a Cuisanart) into a bowl that is clearly too shallow for this purpose. Where do I have a less shallow bowl? The biscuit bowl (hell yes, I make biscuit – Bisquik, fork, milk, bowl, same cake pan everything else is cooked on)? Still too shallow. How about the bowl that all the dishtowels sit in? Dump the towels out right where they are and transfer cookie crumbs again. Look for something heavy to crush them with. Consider the smoothie maker for 2 seconds. Go back to what you were doing.

So you mix the cream cheese with Oreos until it is smooth. This takes approximately 19 hours.
If you do not have this kind of time, start planning a shift in resources.

I realize I had forgotten the Crisco last time I made this bizarre grocery run (this is the kind of sudden shift in buying habits that you think would trigger a call from American Express, but not in December, kids) so I have to go back out anyway. The Crisco is for the candy coating, to give it that Entenmanns-style sheen, and probably has a scientific property you can explain in the Comments section.

When I got back to the store, I remembered why I forgot it the first time: who knows why it isn’t with flour, sugar, and those ball-bearing decorations. Crisco is filed under dressings and oils. But you knew that, didn’t you? The smallest possible quantity you can buy are these “sticks,” packaged like butter, but you have to buy 3 of them. You probably knew that too. I don’t get out much.

Did you also know rolling pins are $20? I found a flimsy one for $5 and decided if it lived through the event, it had served its purpose. The $20 pin would just be sad and lonely in the pantry, whispering to the sugar packets, who would reassure it, “Sometimes people come’ll see.” The tea bags snort and roll their eyes.

The recipe doesn’t mention this, but between each step, you’ll want to wipe down the counters, yourself, any family heirlooms which will be covered in cookie dust.

What flavor is Oreo, really? It’s not really chocolate, but a uniquely smoky chocklity Starbucks bean taste they might have used as a password in WWII. “Advance and be recognized! What is this flavor, soldier?” (chews thoughtfully) “Is it… molasses…doc?” BLAM.

Balling the Oreo takes some effort (and is funny to say). You can make them any size you like, but I recommend somewhere between superball and cordial cherry. An entire bag of cookies does not make as many meatball sized cookies as you would like, but if you cut them down about 2/3 that size, you can get about 80 out of a batch (1 bag cookies + 1 tub cream cheese). The whipped cream cheese is easier to work with and makes for a lighter cookie. Not that anyone will notice after they have had 5 too quickly in succession. One Oreo is my limit before I feel sick, so I had no trouble surrounding myself with piles of them. I do not suggest that Yankee Candle consider this as a scent.

If you have little kids, this is a great activity for them, because the oven is not involved, and it is just crushing things and making balls of dough. You are going to make as big a mess as they are, so you have nothing to lose.

Coating them is where things get very tricky and you are glad you are working a practice batch.  Remember the missing N=defects per dozen? Turns out…N= 12, until you figure out what you are doing. There is a tool for this step. It is called a candy dipper, and no there is not one in my house. Or a double boiler, or (as we have established) a microwave. So I am melting white chocolate chips and shortening in a bowl inside a saucepan and working on an acme schema of a Paas egg dipper fashioned from the twist ties that came with the vegetable tongs I bought.

I started with the tongs. But they are vegetable tongs, so they have little teeth like an oyster fork and keep tearing off bits of cookie-ball which is rapidly softening in the hot coating.  When I release the tongs to set down the ball, hunks of cookie come with it, and the coating pools (buckets, really) on the parchment, going to waste.

I have wooden kabob skewers, which I have moved twice and don’t recall the origin of. These work well for dipping, fondue like, but I can’t get the ball deep enough to coat it completely, and the skewer leaves a suspicious-looking hole behind, which the coating does not hide. I need a deeper vessel, as it were, so for a few rounds I try ladling up some melted stuff and using that to dip into. It doesn’t help much.

Ladling extra stuff over the ball like they do at the factory just makes a gloppy horror and wastes more precious choco-chips. I am about to go for the handmade wire dipper, when I open the second silverware drawer and find a pastry bag. New, mint-in-package, with coupler and tip. Only the Lord could have put that there. After I ruined it by clipping the bag too high on the first cut, that went right back into the drawer to be reabsorbed into the Cosmos.

I decide to try a spoon. A spoon. Huh.
And with a little patience, wrist action, and constant chilling of uncoated balls, this works. The peanut butter batch comes out looking much more appetizing than the cream-coated ones, but those have a fat base of dripped coating around each one, so they have their own appeal.

To build cushion into Sunday’s program, I pre-crush the rest of the cookies. This is wonderfully satisfying.

Risk factor introduced:
Heavy snowfall expected Saturday overnight through Sunday, and I need to add a mitigation task of an additional grocery run before the storm. This has to be fit somewhere in a day that already includes 90 mins at the radio station, and a drive to and from Surly Acres for Saturday’s party (3hrs total travel plus 2 hours party time - because the storm is expected to begin around 7 in Massachusetts. Never doubt that I am very very good at program planning).

So I go to the radio gig, grocery on the way back to the house, where I package up the test batches (nothing fancy required – clever plating will occur at the destination) and load a few snow supplies into the trunk in case there has been an uncontrollable miscalculation (this means you, NECN’s Joe Joyce).

At the test-tasting, Dr A and JB’s party, they are declared “evil.” I take this as a good sign.
Did I mention that the Cookie Exchange also has a “best in show” competitive edge? I got advance notice that the judges are our Hostess’ teenaged sons. This bodes well for me.

Sunday. Critical path day with no room for error. The snow is in freefall, so the supplies we have are the supplies we will use. Pot of coffee is made, cream cheese is set to room temp, a few Christmas cards, a phone call, and we are off.

We are almost at 2000 words. Is the suspense killing you?

The mixing and balling did take several hours, but I took it in intervals so things could chill and rest and I could remove CTS price tags from all the tins, eat some chicken soup, sit on hold with DUA.

Now, as far as coating these morsels… get a microwave. Otherwise, dial-up all your unplayed episodes of "Fresh Air" and settle in for a very long night.

Once I can reduce a task like this to its simple mechanics, I can achieve near flawless execution (or cover for them. Never watch me type). I will spare you that post. It identifies too closely the magnifying glass through which I view the world.

Monday night arrives and I have miscalculated the drive time, having forgotten that no one got to shop during Sunday's snowstorm, it is now rush hour, and I may be (horrors) late.  Cooler gods prevail and I arrive within the appropriate 15 minute window, bag of tins at the ready.  The exchange table is already adorned with colorful cellophane and ribbons, square reindeer plates and more charming tins than mine (that actually match each other), and I promise you 12 of these little fabric ornament boxes with "from the kitchen of" labels.

I know that I have lost on presentation, but even the fabric boxes would be defeated moments later by 12 handmade Vera Bradley type quilted bags perfectly sized to house 1 dozen Walnut cookies.

But I got the Oreos....

The judging was undertaken in the dining room with gusto, managed by 3 or 10 teenage boys (I can never count how many teenaged boys are in a room) and 2 husbands.  There were scoresheets, a ranking system, a little bit of recounting.  I was in the kitchen party, with the hostesses college roommates, learning stories she would prefer I hadn't, so I missed learning I had come in 2nd. 

Well, 2nd is pretty good, and the fruit tarts I bowed to were very yummy (I am always more pie than cake myself).  I did score Rookie of the Year and held my own.  There were no prizes anyway.  This is why I love this woman -- mostly for the dismissive way she responded to the question "what is the prize?"

To summarize:  3 ingredients, a thousand tools, a kitchen covered in goo, but a better conversation-starter than hot wings that the fellas like even more.

DrawingIn goes on hiatus again through the holiday.  But don't let that stop you from clicking and commenting.  it is nice to come home to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stop making things up

Earlier today I was reminded that I have been meaning to react all out of proportion to something. 

This is the jigsaw puzzle my travelling companion selected from the "library" of our hotel to entertain us through the evening.  She does things like this because she is able to walk away from a puzzle when she is tired or bored.  She is also able to order wine and enter bookstores and know her limits, with only a marginal regard for what any of those does to my brain.

That is not my rant.
My rant is....
who decided that this group of people would hang out together in the Hereafter, and that they belong in paintings together
Most importantly, what in the backyard F^#%$!@ is Bogie doing with these people?

Dean: 1955, aged 24 , car crash
Marilyn:  1962, aged 36, overdose
Elvis: 1977, aged 42, heart attack
Bogart: 1957, aged 58, cancer

They have the entire Other Side to roam around, and they choose to hang out together - in diners, bar rooms, in store?

Bogie was in silent films, for crying out loud. He was born in 1899. Why would he befriend them?

Lauren Bacall is 85.  Widowed at 33.  I don't expect she has waited this long to have to squeeze into seedy master shots with this band of misfits.  (Ha - I said Misfits)

Bacall, whom everyone calls Betty, except her husband, who called her Baby (shudderrr), strolls through the Pearly Gates and spots Tracy and Hepburn on the tennis courts.

Hepburn:  Spence?  Spence, look, it's Betty!
Tracy: What's that, now?  well whadda ya know about that?
Tracy:  Betty!  Over here!  Well look who's here - now we can really get something going.
Bacall:  Well you look tuh-riff-ic.  What a treat.  Do you know where I can find Bogie?

[silence.  fiddle with racquet strings.  Tracy steps apart from 2 women clearly taller than he is.]

Bacall: Spence?  Kate?  [gives The Look]  what's happened?
Tracy:  At the poolhall, sometimes.  Maybe the diner.  After dark.... [trails off]
Hepburn:  [steadies her gaze ] "Diamonds are a girl's best friend....?"
Bacall:  What, Channing?  I just left her.  She really did bury us all.
Hepburn: Take a breath, kid.  He's with Marilyn now.
Bacall: [slow burn]  Is that so.
Tracy: It doesn't mean anything, kid.  He's just been passing the time.
Bacall: Does she know that? 

Come to think of it, why isn't DiMaggio in a puzzle with Marilyn?  Marilyn, DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, and JFK in Yankee Stadium. That's a puzzle I want to see.  Dean, Sal Mineo, and Montgomery Clift, with Elizabeth Taylor stretched out on the pool table.  Or she's still alive, isn't she?  Elvis, Natalie Wood, Nixon, and a leopard.  I don't know why the leopard - it would just be a good puzzle challenge. 

do not buy me this puzzle

Ok, last stupid 4some pic.  If anyone knows the official name of this motif, please enlighten me.

Save a spot at the piano for Lauren Bacall. It is going to be a long afterlife.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What I am doing instead of updating this blog

You were such a loyal Readership during NaBloPoMo.  I fed you content; you showed up.  At least, I have to believe you did; otherwise, I was being played for a fool during a month when I really didn't have a lot of time to spare.  Then I disappeared for 10 days.  No drama, nothing mysterious.  I have just been doing something else.  And, hello,  I gave you 1700 words on Memphis, which ought to show you how much I care.

As it is, it is 8am on a Saturday morning, and I haven't even gotten out of bed, but I am producing for you.  I did/do have some different plans for this morning, which include lying in bed and reading while the morning sun is still on that side of the house.  How Wamsutta sheets of me. 

I have been doing a lot of stuff in these chilly December days, but none of it makes much bloggening on its own.  Wouldn't you much rather have me list it for you?  Taking Inventory.....

Job Hunting is a crashing bore
And I told my outplacement counselor so.  She was trying to do her job, so I stopped short of "get off my back, woman - if I wanted to be nagged I would get married," but seriously.  Do same and I mean it.  It was our last meeting anyway.  I could have given her a load of what she wanted to hear - that interviews are steady and I had business cards made, that I take strangers to coffee and am having my suits taken in ( apparently rage weighs about 8 pounds).  All of which is true, and would have made for a more staid conversation, but instead I told her I find the whole thing boring and I would like it to stop.

Networking is much more interesting.  I have had some interesting conversations with people doing fascinating things.  I have caught up with some of the greats of my past who inspire me to see me old self as new potential.  I have brainstormed with my fellow (now former) Mill Workers about what has been working for them, and how we can help each other. 

The gym is free
Hooray... Global Fitness.  Something is wrong with my favorie bike, though.  There are 2 and one has "parts on order," and the other needs to be re-calibrated, so you don't have to hold the handlebars in a hard left turn to stay straight on the route.  I started some elliptical thing instead.  Joining the regulars are Pink Pants (self-explanatory) and Is He My Neighbor? (I can no longer tell if I know him from the gym or from the driveway).

The Finishing School is gathering a Readership at last.  Our first call for contributors some years ago yielded little response.  With the help of Facebook (and a lot of you moving up or out of your careers) we have been able to widen our slate of contributors and readers. Bender & Minchin continue to try to up our traffic, improve our standing in search results, and eventually get someone to spend some money on us.  Your clicking there a minute ago helped.  Your writing for us would help more.

Armchair Traveler went on-line.  I don't usually plug the Armchair in this space.  But we are pretty pleased with the live streaming and now podcasting we have been able to get working.  Armchair Traveler completes its year-long salute to the National Park Service next Saturday.  subscribe to and walk around with me in your head.  I have to, so it's only fair.

A day spent not Christmas shopping with one of the Moms was a real delight for both of us.  It is true what they say about how long you can park yourself at a Starbucks holding empty cups.  We gave each other a lot of life advice with the understanding that neither of us is likely to act on any of it.  And we love each other for that.

Man, I love Netflix.  This may be my equivalent of eating frosting out of the can, but I only watch a couple of hours a day, and rarely when the sun is up.  (don't think that so noble - the sun is only up 7a - 4p up here).

I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women, and I will write more about that later.

I drove the new car in the snow.  We will learn to understand each other.

What do you got?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Like, that totally happened

Working at the library's public computers (because the internet adapter on this machine is finicky) next to 2 high school girls supposedly (supposably) studying but mostly berating each other for, like, being distracting.

Suddenly the one on my right turns to me (without salutation) and says "Do you know what the word subtell means?"

I narrow my eyes, clueless, "Show it?"  I said, because in the textspeak of the young, why use modifiers and other unneccessary baggage?  She does: subtle.  Oh.

I say, "Oh, subtle.  The B is silent, so you say 'suttle.'  It means... "  every word I can think of is a Latinate that is likely beyond the girl in the moment learning "subtle."  "It's like, played down, underhanded -- well, not underhanded, in a sneaky way... But if you say, 'that was subtle,' you mean it was---"

"On the DL," she says.

"Yes!"  I say, actually poking her like some crazy kickball coach.  It occurs to me she knows the word; she's never seen it.

I had that same problem with epitome when I was her age.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The friendliest city no one is visiting

My first visit to Memphis was about 1992, to a work conference at Rhodes College, which is what is considered "Midtown" Memphis.  Outside of Graceland, this is where most of the tourists go - Zoo, Pink palace, Art Museum... even the bumper stickers say "Midtown is Memphis."

Which leaves the poor downtown district all dressed up with no one to serve.  This photo -- not from our trip -- is a fairly true representation of Beale St foot traffic, and this is likely a Friday or weekend night.  At the beginning of the week, and certainly on the Friday following Thansgiving, the streets were empty.  It was like renting out a downtown for your vacation.

Fully staffed.

The other title of this post could be, "What if they gentrified and nobody came?"

The large office buildings and storefronts along Main, Union, Front, and the numbered streets were bought by commercial developers as condo space, retail, and business, but missed the market -- by time or appeal is not clear -- and this move-in ready infrastructure is available for the taking.

AutoZone and Toyota still hold the downtown, the courthouse system (including law offices, bailbonds, and copy centers) is plentiful, and several major hotels and historic attractions (more below).  There are just no locals.  Staff we talked to at hotels and restaurants said people live and work outside of this small square, and the people who do work in the area serve the tourists, and don't have the kinds of jobs that put them outside on daily errands.

The Main Street trolley, which cuts through the middle, and loops around the river, has reduced fare of 25 cents at lunchtime, but is ridden mostly by tourists treating it like a sightseeing tram (which it does very nicely) and mothers with strollers and too many shopping bags.  At the end of the trolley loop is a giant riverfront warehouse converted to lofts, where the trolley stops at the entrance awning, and where every unit has a view of Arkansas.  Now leasing at about $500/mth or you can buy for under 200K in most buildings.

Not that the trolley is necessary; we walked every block of this district -- more than once -- when we weren't riding by carriage (cocktails delivered to your pumpkin!) 

The only place we encountered crowds was at the 11am Duck March, and then I expect these people took off for Graceland, the casinos, and the zoo, leaving us as the mayors of downtown.  We decided our secret names to the locals were "them ladies," or some variation of it.  Perhaps "Austin/Boston," since that story always generates conversation.  One docent asked if we were sisters or classmates, and I remembered that you have to love the South for keeping the word "classmates" in normal conversation.

If you are planning your trip to Memphis (and would you please, these people are like Canada-nice, the food is good, the music great, the streets are clean, and the sights plentiful)  here are our recommendations, with traffic-driving links.  Every one of these venues can be found in the outlined area. ("A" is our residence -- formerly the Wm Len building, now turned hotel).  Incidentially, this building, and 11 thousand others are registered as Historic Places -- this is more than Boston, and certainly Austin -- and doesn't include those that were listed but demolished during urban "renewal."

National Civil Rights Museum - This can take a few hours, if you tend to read everything, which we do.  Even without that detail, plan an hour, and be aware that school groups may be attending, which could also slow you down.  NCRM has opened a 2nd site across the street that leads you to the boarding house and the bathroom window from which James Earl Ray sent a single shot.  The sightline is shocking, and the fact that the building still exists is even more so.  Lots of information here about the investigation and conspiracy theories, which is too much after everything you have been through at this point.

Beale Street - go a couple of times.  There is food, music, souvenirs, and a Bourbon Street vibe without drunks, hookers, crowds, hurricane carts, strippers, and whatever that smell is.
We recommend Miss Pollys, BB Kings, Blue City Cafe, Schwabs (even though it closes at 5, we could see it was awesome).

Rock and Soul - I list this under must-do because you can get both Stax and Sun exhibits in the same tour, plus the rest of Memphis's music scene.  By this means, we skipped both the Sun tour (which seemed inflated for Elvis pilgrims) and Stax, but you could easily do all 3 in a day.

Belz museums - I am putting this under must-do because I dragged my feet and arched my back about it and I was wrong-wrong-wrong.  All respect to the MFA's Asian collection, but the people want spectacle.  How there is any gigantic jade and ivory left in China is a mystery.  (right: a section of a carving of a mammoth tusk.  And it is not the only one.  deal with it, MFA).
The Belzes also run the Urban Land Institute, working to revitalize the riverfront neighborhoods.

Bardog - we adopted this local because the hotel did not have a bar and because it had a Memphis-business folk Happy Hour scene.  The food is much better than the menu indicates.  Order the "chicken cutlet," which is actually marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and pepper jack on grilled Texas toast with shoestrong fries.  That, kids, is how to describe that sandwich.  Consider it.  You have a great little bar.

Worth the Price
Hughey's -  Burgers and bar bands.  Some of the food in Memphis is trying too hard, but if you keep it real, you will eat well.

Flying Fish - Woodman's southern style: fish in a basket, beer in a bottle, Pete's on the table.  More expensive a lunch than you expect, but you are not going to fry okra at home, are you?

Center for Southern  Folklore - free - art gallery/event space, and apparently a co-op celebrating folk art and history .  This was the best giftshop we visited in terms of variety, price, and service.  We also learned about the Labor Day music festival there.

Peabody ducks - because they are free.  But come at 10:30 and wait around, because if you come at 11, you can not actually see the ducks.  They are very short.

Carriage rides - there are several companies, but they all feature cinderella lights and a friendly dog.  30 mins for $45; 60 for $75 (per carriage load).  This is a good  starter tour to give you a sense of where things are, and entice you to go off Main and Beale.

The Tea Shop - The Tea Shop was in view of our window, and next door to Bardog.  The Tea Shop is the kind of local insider's place that would not bother to have a website.  Most tourist staff will not recommend it, because it is not soul food or BBQ, and the food is nothing at all special (unless you have missed your pimento cheese sammich, which they serve).  But it is where real Memphians are, the hostess/owner will call you "darlink," and you will experience the true integration of this unique southern culture.

Cotton Exchange - this is a surprising tour that uses an iPod soundtrack and neighborhood walk to make the information more lively.  The exhibit also includes interviews with Exchange members and their descendants, and underscores that cotton is not a bygone industry.  As usual, there was not quite the book I was looking for in the giftshop to "say more."

We skipped it, but doesn't mean you have to
Some of it was time, some was money - most was we decided to eat instead.  These were on our list, but didn't make the final cut.  Check them out.

South Main Arts - while you are at the civil rights museum, you are in "South of Main," where a few antique stores and Pearl's Oyster House may attract your attention.  Gulf oysters - not so very far to travel.  (notice the picture on wikipedia - we really aren't kidding)

Mud Island was closed for the season, but I can recommend this day trip from my previous visit.  Engineering stuff for dad, activities for kids, and one damn minute for mom.  I noticed that the website spells "mud is land," which is actually the history of this little land mass.  Another place where you should expect field trips.

Gibson Guitars - My "classmate" thought she should leave some things for her return with family

Full Gospel Tabernacle - sadly, there was no Wed night service due to the holiday.

restaurants we missed because there are only so many meals in a day: Rendezvous, Wangs, Flight, Sauces, McEwen's

You can skip...
Victorian Village - unless you intend to re-hab and buy one.  Think High Street/Sycamore in Petersburg, but in the 1970s, before anyone had bought them.  It was a long and sprawly walk including crossing Danny Thomas (you wouldn't like him when he's angry) to get to a few white elephants, fewer of which are occupied, one of which is open to the public.  The desk staff at the hotel made fun of us for it.  Click the link and you've done it.

Majestic Grille - or just have a drink there.  The building is lovely, and the service (as always) attentive, but Meh on the food.  GThis was our most expensive meal, but not the best.

Felicia Suzanne - I want to rate this higher, because the European-style waitering and the room felt very fancy, and the chef sent an amuse that was the world's best little crab puff, but the food was actually complicated in its presentation, and ordinary in flavor.  The fact that I kept calling it Francesca's also hints at the impression it left.  If you are looking for your dress-up evening out, you might consider one of the others we missed.

Not in the neighborhood, so we didn't go

Thanks Memphis - that hit the spot.  We hope this helps drive some business.
not too much now....

Friday, November 27, 2009

South of the Border

#24 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

His name is Pedro.  He lives nowhere near Mexico (say it in Spanish) but on 301S on the border between the Carolinas.  The "South" you are entering is South Cuh-lyina, a different country indeed.

In its day, it was the Tijuana of the east coast, where beer and explosives could be found after enduring the drive through the dry northern counties where cigarettes are farmed.

It took some digging to find the official website.  They need some SEO help from the Googles.
But you better believe Google can see Pedro from space.  He is 97 feet tall:

SOB has dining, shopping, overnight accommodations, attractions, all in quotation marks.
But don't think Pedro is lost in his kitschy past.  SOB also has a blog, and sometimes it gets updated!  It's name is blog.  Enjoy.

I am going to open the comments section up to the Readership to share their SOB memories.  I expect some of you have driven right through it on your holiday travel this week.  Pop a Blenheim for me and unwrap a Moon Pie.  You are going to have to wait for Memphis stories to be posted later.  I have a hand cramp.

Share your Pedro stories, and enjoy paging through these archives.

Stuckey's... just cuz

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Permanent contraception

or... don't name your baby Adiana.

I came across Adiana in my job hunt.  I have just linked you to it, so you could read the rest, but something tells me that it not what you come here for.  You come to see what threads the Drawing In Room can weave together with this to find something wholly new.

As Tevye says, "Well I'll tell you.  I don't know..."

Adiana is the trademark name Hologic has given its outpatient "alternative" to tubal ligation.
"You know you're done with childbearing. You also know the form of permanent contraception you want - no hormones, no anesthesia and no surgery. For women like you, there's Adiana Permanent Contraception."

uh-HUH.  Go ahead...

The failure rate is slightly higher than ligation (your or his) and has the same "risks/disadvantages" of having surgery except, says the fact sheet "Most women return to their normal activities within a day."

"It works by stimulating your body's own tissue to grow in and around tiny, soft inserts that are placed inside your fallopian tubes."  Again with the inserts.  You guys and your inserts.  You would keep the barbeque in there if you could.

"It leaves nothing in the uterus that might limit future gynecologic procedures."  Am I having more procedures?  Of course it leaves nothing in the uterus.  You just told me you left it in my tubes, this piece of styrafoam.  It is actually made of silicone.

Other things they stuck in us they were wrong about
- Dalkon shield
- Carboxymethylcellulose

The procedure takes 12 minutes, they say, which is how long it took to kill 500 people at The Cocoanut Grove.   (just something else to link to, in case this bores you).  You have to click a little further to find out how long the entire process takes. 

Here's your timeline:
- decide you are ready. 
- wait for your next ovulation - before it, actually.  You might also want to stop having unprotected sex, though the website does not advise this.
- if you have just given birth, wait 3 months.  Everything in medical science takes 3 months. 
- 1 or 2 hours before, take an anti-inflammatory (you know, so you can resume those normal duties)
- accept a local anesthetic into your cervix.  (scooch...scooch..)
- 60 seconds of "radiofrequency energy" in each tube
- now count your 12 minutes
the website says, "Before you leave the doctor’s office, you will receive discharge instructions."  That's not what they meant.  This is where a 2nd proofreader comes in handy.
- for the next 3 months you are still fertile.  Keep using your preferred birth control method.
- have your uterus filled with dye and x-rayed.  If the earplugs they put in there have sufficiently closed off your tubes, you are permanently sealed
- continue to menstruate, which you enjoy so much
- live with it, because there is no do-over

You can watch the vaguely described procedure here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

thirtysomething in retrospect

I have been working my way through Season 1 of "thirtysomething," a series which divides friendships just as much now as it ever did.

For every one of my dear friends who enjoys vampires, space travel, Middle Earth, and Lost, there is a show about whiny self-sabateurs that love just as much.

Dr A said to me, in her literary criticism
professor's assessment, "I think we have found the difference in our ages."

Yes, one's attraction to thirtysomething is driven to some degree by the age they were when they originally watched it, but it is not that simple.  Plenty of people exactly my age (23 when this show came on the air) would rather shave their in-laws than impose these people on themselves.

But we are not talking about them.  We are, as always, talking about me.  ("Deal with it, Michael," says my inner Stedman)

I have tried to encapsulate what attracted me to this show, and for me it holds up Plus.  Plus the crazy hair and the fashion show, the "hippy" flashbacks which I had not remembered, and which i think are anachronistic.  If this crew is thirtysomething (Melissa, the youngest, says she is 31 in the pilot) then they were born in 1948 at the latest, and this crew is not 39.  They are 36 at best, I will say, which would make them born in 1951 and just barely Flower Children.  But I'll play along.

Thirtysomething premiered the same year Cagney and Lacey went off the air.  Out with the brown, in with the pinstripes.  I chose this cast photo because both Michael and Eliot are wearing their signature pants.  This is Ellyn's best hair, and she had some nightmare hair.  Sadly missing: Nancy's butterfly hairclip.  That did not catch on.  Combs, yes, randomly placed binder clip, no.  But Michael and Eliot will wear these pants every day like cartoon characters.

I had just moved to the big city to begin my Adult Life.  This program became my manual of how not to be, and how to deal with those who were.  In my life, I do not encounter many of the undead, or Hobbits.  I do, however, encounter Hopes and Michaels, and very many Garys (Garies?) in my day-to-day.

Understand that as much as I loved-loved this program, I hate these people as much as anyone does.  I do not want to be at dinner with them, much less in a marriage.  And yet they are us, aren't they?  Their fights are not clever, their expressions of love are awkward. Their compliments back-handed.  This is not Aaron Sorkin -- who we love, and whose characters we want to be like because they always say the right things, with footnotes and hyperlinks.   This is not Edward Albee, all shreiks and scotch, and giant Pronouncements.

This is Zwick & Herkovitz.  They wrote Family; they will eventually bring us My So-Called Life.   They know that the harder we try to say the right thing, the worse it comes out.
It makes us uncomfortable just to watch.  We grab our hair and moan, and flop back on the bed.

Recently an NPR reviewer gave the thirtysomething boxed set a so-so review -- admitting that the show finds it stride after a few choppy starts, but rolling its radio eyes at some of the plotlines (Michael keeps cancelling squash!  Janie doesn't want to nurse!).  Later in the series when the plots get bigger and ickier (just like life - the new Boss is an asshole!  Nancy has cancer!) our characters have not learned much that lets them handle these problems any better.

You are one of these.  You are all of these.  And you are surrounded by them.  Maybe you don't need another hour to see it in front of you, but it is cheaper than analysis (with suspenders and shoulder pads).

Hope: peaked too early, experiencing her first real hardship: ordinary life
Michael: aspired to the Madmen life of his father's generation without knowing how hard the old man had it
Eliot: married too young to his first girlfriend
Nancy: aspired to the domestic life of her mother's generation without realizing she hadn't married her father
Gary: very sad the 60s are over, even though he was a teenager during them
Melissa: very sad the 80s are over, even though she appears to deny it
Ellyn: resents living in the shadow of her best friend, but won't move on
the kids: the center of everything and completely ignored

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sentimental lady

So you're singing along to the radio, and you find yourself thinking, "Those are the words?  What does that even mean?"    If it is not a Paul Simon song, chances are you are singing it wrong.

This is not the kind of moment where you are singing "Tonight's the Night" in front of your 7 year old, then realize you sang that song when you were 7, and maybe they should have had helmets for that.  My childhood next-door neighbor woke up to the line "Just a come on from the whores on 7th Avenue" when we were about 20, but again... I am not talking about Paul Simon.

This is more that kind of mis-heard song lyric moment like "There's a bathroom on the right," and "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy."

I looked up "Sentimental" on the Kiss this Guy website before I looked up the real lyrics, just to see if others were as misinformed as I was.  What I sang was, "Fourteen jars and a will to be married."  (what?) so I tried again.  14 chores?  A will to be merry?

I started from the top again: "You are here and warm, but I could look away and you'd be gone.  Cause we live in a time when meaning falls like... "  summer?  "...from our eyes.  That's why I travel far, cause I come so together where you are."

Ok - stop here.  He's a trucker of some kind, or a drifter who follows her a far way in order to get himself together.  But she keeps leaving.  She is not very sentimental.  Or her journey is.

Let's get to the chorus, because what I am singing is what an Up With People ambassador troupe might sing if they had learned the song phoentically.  If, by now, you are screaming the lyrics at me... I can't hear you. 

"Sentimental gentle wind.  Come into my life (love?) again, sentimental lady, gentle one."
Christine McVie whines "all that I need is."  He interrupts her.  This may be why she leaves everytime he looks away.

"All of the things that I said that I wanted come rush awry? in my head when I need you.  14 jars and a will to be married.  All of the things that you say are very....(catch breath) Sentimental gentle wind..."

Sentimental Lady is listed three times on Kiss this Guy.  Here are some variations:
"14 joints and a barrel full of cocaine"
"14 joints and a well-diggin' Mary"

also "Sacramento lady, share the wine."
Now, "Sentimental" is already provided for you, so why would you mess that up (ya well-digging Mary...)

here they are, as written by Bob Welch
You are here and warm
But I could look away and you'd be gone
Cause we live in a time
When meaning falls in splinters from our lives
And that's why I've travelled far
Cause I come so together where you are

And all of the things that I said that I wanted
Come rushing by in my head when I'm with you
14 joys and a will to be merry
And all of the things that we say are very

Sentimental gentle wind
Blowing through my life again
Sentimental lady
Gentle one
Now you are here today
But easily you might just go away
Cause we live in a time
When paintings have no color, words don't rhyme
And that's why I've travelled far
Cause I come so together where you are
I've decided that she's terminally ill, and not just a tease.  Leave it to Rider to point out that Bob Welch and Jame Gumb were separated at birth.  She didn't "go away," she's in the cistern.  Jame comes "so together" where she is.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cyber Monday calls for Regretsy

Many of Drawing In's regular readership are fans of (and contributors) to the Etsy website, where craftsmen and women sell their homemade goods.  It is nice that the cottage industry has an outlet, and people can connect in that way we hoped the Internet would.

Miss Bender recommends you try some Etsy shopping for this holiday drive, especially if you are not so crafty yourself.  And if, along the way, you discover that Etsy submissions are not juried... there is an outlet for that too.

Regretsy - a museum that explores the idea whether everyone who likes "to craft" really should.

Neatly categorized and easily browsed, Regretsy brings together everything we love about Engrish, the "Blog" of Unneccessary Quotation Marks, Found, and Real Corporate Email (not online, only in my heart), with the Gothic Pathos that tears out your heart on PostSecret.

All of these will give you plenty to do besides shop.  But everyone will think you are, and won't interrupt because it's a surprise.  Oh, I got a surprise, all right....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Watch this space

Miss Bender needs a break from her strenuous downtime, and is going on vacation --- offline.

Because she knows you need your blog-fix, and because she honors the commitments of Can't Blog No Mo, you can continue to count on daily updates.  Some will be more entertaining than others; none will be more pedestrian than this one is so far.

So let me try to find an interesting topic to leave you with, to justify your clicking over here instead of spending 4 hours on You-Chube, which I know you can.

I read this advertorial in Vanity Fair that tried to claim that Louis Cartier invented the wristwatch, and I found that suspect.  It seemed like the wristwatch was around before WWI, and I had once heard a story that it was invented for the war because everyone was up to their fob-chains in muck.  I had also once heard that it was originally a signal among urban homosexuals in a time when most gentleman still wore their watches in their pockets. 

On closer reading, as I began to circle and underline key lines of page 104, I realized that they (Laura Jacobs) are/is claiming that Cartier invented the "modern" wristwatch, taking it beyond "just a pocket watch on a strap."  Oh, Ok.  The Tank is the watch in question, which is celebrating a 90th anniversary.  The traditional 90th anniversary gift, of course, is life support.

Sources tell a few versions of the original story, but what they share is this timeline:
- wrist watches are for ladies
- wrist watches are for soldiers
- wrist watches are the norm
- people tell time off their phone

An open content article on eZines (Short History of the Wristwatch) recounts a legend of a busy nanny who strapped a watchface on her wrist with a ribbon.  Possible, but household staff of this kind tended to wear the pendant-style timepiece, upside-down so they could read it.  According to Masterpiece Theatre, anyway, where I get all my information about the Victorian/Edwardian area.

Sources agree on the WWI angle, though Qualitytyme credits the Boer War for introducing it earlier, and cites a 1900 catalog testimonial to back them up.

Cartier does deserve some credit for classing up the watch.  Alberto Santos Dumont was a manly-man adventurer who made wearing a Cartier watch desirable, and the mark of a Modern Man.  We are very fortunate his hat didn't have this same effect.  I am unable to find a portrait of him wearing a watch.

 To quote wikipedia: "Alberto Santos Dumont asked his friend Louis Cartier to come up with an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls while timing his performances during flight. Cartier and his master watchmaker, Edmond Jaeger soon came up with the first prototype for a man's wristwatch called the Santos wristwatch. The Santos first went on sale in 1911, the date of Cartier's first production of wristwatches."

I was unable to verify the "gay signal" story, but if one folows the watches-for-ladies/fashion-for-fops connection, you could see how such a story might start.

Here is a handsome gift item for the man you love -- or the man he loves. 
Also, if you search for a keyword set like "wrist watches gay history," you will be offered this story.