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Monday
Apr172006

The horrors of childhood

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My childhood was scary enough.
I’m not a big fan of horror movies. That is to say, I don’t watch them. Suspense? Sign me up. Sci-fi? It’s going in the Netflix queue. But horror, the kind directed by Rob Zombie where half-naked coeds get gutted like codfish? Just not my cup of blood-pudding.

That’s not to say that I haven’t watched them. But it was back in junior high with the other 9th grade residents of the Stridex burn-ward. Even then, we were only watching Friday the 13th, Part II, to get my friend’s mom to go to bed so we could watch Ursula Andress in the Sensuous Nurse. Late night HBO in the 80s––what a strange soft-core wasteland that was.

But wanna know what’s really scary? Really scary is serving waffles to my 10-year old daughter and her friends after a slumber party and one of them says "have you ever seen Saw or Saw II? They’re really freaky".

Me in stunned silence: wake up, wake up, the waffles are burning.

Okay, I haven’t seen either movie, but I’m going to go way out on a limb here and guess that these aren’t movies any 10-year old should be watching. Am I wrong? If I am, please present your argument (and your home address so Child Protective Services can come spirit away your children, pets and any living houseplants).

Apparently her dad rented ‘em and watched them with her older brothers. So this little girl who looks and acts like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird just soaked it all in. The parental control knob on her father’s brain fell off and rolled away somewhere beneath the couch.

Call me a prude. Call me old-fashioned. But my oldest is 12, and I don’t let her watch R-rated movies. Ever. Even PG-13 gets a glance of suspicion. If she’s going to see scary movies, she’s going to have to go about it the proper way––by sneaking in when she’s supposed to be watching Herbie-Fully Loaded, the way I did when I was her age.

Wednesday
Apr122006

Playing with your food, and other causes of blindness

flavoredsoup.jpgWhen you live in a quaint (read: boring) little town, the great thing about traveling is the opportunity to try new restaurants. So, when I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming yesterday (not far from Denver) I was giddy as a schoolgirl to treat my palate to something uniquely local. Bison meuniere, trout lyonnaise, oysters Rocky Mountain--basically expecting something from the Ted Nugent school of culinary delights.

Imagine my shock and awe when my traveling companions all wanted Chinese. I’m part Chinese and I’ve eaten a lot of funky food––chicken feet, abalone, tripe, jellyfish. As Chow Yun-Fat said in The Corruptor, "if you wanna be Chinese, you gotta eat the nasty stuff." He ain’t kidding. Still, I’m wary of Asian food in western towns. So I attempted a little dinner misdirection by asking the Pakistani woman at the hotel desk what she'd recommend. Sure enough, she mentioned a Chinese place. (Insert Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho sounds here). I’m not a food critic, but a Chinese restaurant recommended by a middle-eastern woman in Wyoming has a hard time getting past my deflector shields.

But, I was outvoted, so I girded my loins. How bad could it be? I’ve already eaten at the worst Chinese restaurant in the Western hemisphere which happens to be in Hope, British Columbia. Hope, for those Rambo fans keeping score in your fortified bunkers at home, is where the movie First Blood was filmed. I should have known the Chinese food would be lacking by the framed photos of Pope John Paul II that graced every wall. Nothing against Polish people by any means, but let’s settle this here and now. If you promise to never again make Peking duck, we’ll step away when it’s time to make the pirogues.  Deal?

Turns out my night in Cheyenne had a happy ending. The Twin Dragon restaurant was wonderful. Run by a family that spoke chopped Mandarin and little else. The food was spicy-hot, authentic Szechuan style, unlike anything I’d had in a while. I was so happy I even ordered a few things to go, for the desk staff back at the hotel.

Why am I telling you this? Partially because I’m home now, blearily looking past a slice of cold pizza and cruising Emily’s Parisian lunch blog, but I also just finished reading Hush by Anne Frasier on the plane. Whether consciously of not, Anne sprinkled food throughout the story. Even ending on some interesting spaghetti sauce, which you’ll have to read the book to appreciate.

It made me look at the sense of taste that I tend to inject into my own writing. Whether I do it to enhance a cultural setting or simply to establish a time of day, I have food everywhere. Maybe too much food. Maybe I need to switch to Jenny Craig. Joe Konrath says to ask questions on your blog. So I guess I'd better end with a question. Does my butt look fat in these jeans?

Tuesday
Apr112006

Meth by day. Book by night.

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By Day
It’s been a busy week. Including the weekend, which I spent writing and designing an anti-meth campaign we’re presenting in Cheyenne, Wyoming tomorrow.

Meth is one of those strange drugs that thrives in rural areas like Yakima, Cheyenne and even Great Falls. The perfect drug. You tweak for three straight days, clean your whole house, pluck out your eyebrows and then pick at open sores while your teeth rot and fall out. What’s next? New SuperCrank 3000––one puff and you start lactating (men too) and your eyeballs pop like zits. But hey, as long as you suck on a pacifier and dance to ambient-techno Whitesnake remixes, it’s all good people.

By Night
Despite having my precious weekend writing time swallowed up by my interdiu occupatio––my day job, I’ve managed to make a sacrificial offering of this thing called sleep. The net result: I’m ahead of schedule on the rewrite. The end is near.

Also, I applied to my first juried writers’ conference. Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp in Virginia, June 12-17.  A handful are accepted each year and I was one of the chosen (geeky) few. Granted, I’m straying over into "elf & unicorn" territory a bit. OSC is a great author, winning Hugo and Nebula Awards back-to-back and has had NYT bestsellers in a variety of genres. I’m still aiming higher for later in the summer–-hoping to get into one of the more prestigious (non-geeky) juried conferences.

Okay, time to pack for my trip. Can I wear my olive sport-coat with crystal meth, or do I need to wait until after Memorial Day?

Wednesday
Apr052006

Schlock the Vote

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"The missles are flying. Hallelujah, hallelujah!"--Greg Stillson
For those that don’t know (because it’s so ridiculous I never mention it) I’ve been an elected official for five months now.

Don’t get too excited. I’m only a lowly neighborhood councilman. Sheboygan, Wisconsin’s Annual Kielbasa Queen has more power and authority than I do.

But it has been a learning experience. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

They mayor swears you in
On the vacant waves of public-access television no less. He must have thought I was a reject from Animal House, because when he got to me he reminded me that when he says, "I (state your name)…", I’m not supposed to literally say "state your name." No cool nicknames like Otter or Boone were handed out, but I did get the equivalent of a pledge pin. Apparently ritualistic spankings are reserved for school-board members.

Vegans don’t like the smell of juicy delicious BBQ
In my first council meeting someone from "the public" complained about the barbecue smell coming from Tony Roma’s. I actually laughed out loud, and almost choked up the riblets I’d had for lunch. Upon further examination of his skinny emaciated physique, rangy beard, and Meat is Murder tattoo—it turns out he was a vegan, protesting the consumption of meat in general. One person’s BBQ smell is another’s stench of death. I don't like the smell of brussel sprouts, but you don't hear me complaining.

Entrapment doesn't always involve prostitutes
Helpful tip of the day. When a policeman pulls you over and asks how fast you were going, they’re trying to trick you. Sure, you were doing 89 in a deaf school zone, but you say you were only doing 50––just to round it down a bit. As long as you admit to being over the posted limit, The Man owns you in court. If you say "I dunno" then he’s forced to rely on his radar gun which doesn’t look so good sitting on the witness stand.

Old laws create memorable recreational opportunities
The beauty of learning about local government is finding out about old laws that still exist. For instance, in Montana, rifle hunting within city limits is illegal. But hey kids, what about bows? Surprise! They’re still legal in some places. So the next time you’re in the Blockbuster parking lot and Bambi walks by, feel free to nock that arrow and shoot him in the head. No law against cock-fighting in your gated community? Have at it. Just remember, no wagering.

Not everyone creates the illusion that they care. Some are genuine
The one really cool thing was meeting Mickey Fearn, the director of Seattle’s Office of Social Justice. Mickey’s job description is simple. Prevent racism. That’s like solving world hunger or curing 8th grade acne. Yet this man took on the challenge. I learned more about the subtlety of human dynamics in one weekend with Mickey than my entire college career. No joke.

Anyone with a pulse can be elected. Just look at me
I’m the poster child. There were three vacant seats in my district, so in a momentary lapse of reason I signed up at 4:59 PM on the last day of filing.  I ran unopposed, did no campaigning, and took it all in a one-man landslide. I was out of town on Election Day, but knew that as long as my wife voted for me, I was in. Even then I had to do some serious 11th hour rallying to get her off "undecided".

Basically, it's one meeting a month. And there are real issues. School zoning, water use, and that pesky no-touch ordinance at the local strip club. That's gotta go. My campaign slogan for 2008: "No Stripper Left Behind". (Don't forget to register).