Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Calm Within the Storm


At the beach the other night, I watched with glee as the sun set on the western horizon while a massive thunderstorm crept in from the southeast. I thought I was leaving at the perfect time: Just before the storm’s leading edge arrived, I turned back for one last look at the clear orange sunset—and it was on that side of me that a massive lightning bolt struck the point a few hundred yards away, leaving just enough time for me to announce “Fuck?!” to the other handful of beachgoers before the earsplitting crack-BOOM of thunder.

And though I upped my pace a bit carrying a metal beach chair the quarter-mile home, I couldn’t stop smiling with every new boom (that, among other things, conveniently assured me I had not yet been struck dead). And when I got there, the darkness having arrived faster than it might normally, I didn’t even turn on the lights—just opened all the blinds and sat (in the AC, ’cause it was hot as a motherfucker) blissfully surrounded by the thunder, lightning, wind and rain.

From what I can gather, lots of people like thunderstorms.

For me, they’re a simultaneous soothing and stimulant—maybe like when smokers say a cigarette calms them down. (Or when I say alcohol energizes me.) But this week, since welcoming summer thunderstorm season with open arms, I haven’t quite been able to describe the nature of a good storm’s effect on me.

It might be that a thunderstorm generates a sort of survival instinct that draws you out of yourself, diminishing all other stressors with pure, instinctual focus. But then there’d be terror, too, right? I dunno. I’m sure that’s what it does for the cat, anyway.

Or maybe, along those lines, it’s an adventure—something like how I think of sports. A distraction. A game that’s temporarily thrust upon you, and you get to navigate these strange circumstances for as long as it lasts.

Maybe it’s sort of the opposite: That as a child, a serious thunderstorm ensured the cancellation of a soccer game—the erasure of all immediate obligations and impending conflict.

Some people have ventured that it’s the violence and chaos of a thunderstorm that suits me. I’m not sure about that—although I love the reputation. As though they imagine me still and grinning while I savor the thrashing trees and lightning and stinging rain.

But I don’t think “I love chaos” is an accurate bumper sticker for the jittery, paranoid neuroses that generally drive me.

Similarly, I think, maybe I like to sympathize with a storm, because it gets to generate a noise and destructiveness that I can rarely achieve. And even more rarely get away with. Oh, do I like to scream and throw things and hit people—but then there’s all that paperwork and apologizing to be done. But an unthinking, uncontrollable, all-encompassing, kick-over-the-trash-can, chuck-a-bough, blow-up-a-breaker, rattle-the-windows, guilt-free tantrum? Sounds lovely.

Still and all, I’m so profoundly soothed by storms that the violence seems beside the point. The sheer physical relaxation I feel is like…it’s sort of like when you get your hair shampooed at the salon (or barber, or whatever)? You’ve got your neck in the curved sink thing, eyes closed, and there’s warm water flowing over your scalp—and then, then they have to get to the back of your head so they lift your whole head up and so fully support its weight that your neck is suddenly free from all duties and achieves an almost spiritual relaxation. That kind of calming.

The best description might be rather meta, in that thunderstorms are my Thundershirt.

All that being said, you just know what’s gonna happen, right? Within the next 72 hours, there’s sure to be a massive storm that scares the absolute bejeezus out of me, ensuring I’ll never again curse a sunny day.

But until that happens…

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Disaster Preparedness Wake-up Call

An adventure in stream-of-semi-consciousness.

4 a.m., and it’s the absence of noise that wakes me up. Power’s out. Must’ve just happened, ‘cause the blades on the ceiling fan are still coming to a halt. Also: I’m still breathing. Little-known fact: Without electricity, a CPAP machine is nothing more than a snorkel with a box on the end of it.

So: I awoke in silence, a deathbox snorkel strapped to my face.

Now, I tend to look forward to rough storms. Not that I want people to suffer property damage or anything else; I just like good, aggressive weather. Tropical Storm Mosh Pit. I try not to be too cavalier about it, but my first reaction to a storm warning is not fear but excitement. Oh yes, I am Hurricane Hubris. Obviously I need a reminder now and then that storm porn is going to be a lot less fun if I’m not prepared.

This night, it wasn’t even raining out. Consider it a dry run.

OK, maybe it’s because the breaker box is on the outside of the house (but mostly it’s because I am quite paranoid—and more so in the middle of the night), but the first thing I think to do, upon waking up and realizing the power’s out, is protect myself from possible invasion. I mean, duh. I stumble through the house to make sure both doors are locked, enduring an aborted appendectomy attempt by the bicycle handlebars en route. Then I wonder at my invisible enemies’ potential battle plans, peering through the blinds in search of what seemed like the flicker of a flashlight beam in the yard.

(Yeah, it was lightning.)

If they have flashlights, I think to myself, then I’m really glad I have pants on.


And yeah, I dunno why someone would have to cut the power to break into my 600-square-foot apartment in the middle of the night—never mind why they would want to break into my 600-square-foot apartment in the first place—but brain’s gonna go where brain’s gonna go. And, ever-helpful, my brain seeks refuge in the calming mental sanctuary of an 80s slasher movie.

So, if someone’s coming after me, I’m probably going to need a flashlight. Where is the flashlight? No idea. Good thing my phone’s all bright…aaaaand about to die. Oh well, I’ll just have to plug it in.

Oh. Wait.

This is bothersome to my bothered brain, because if someone does try to break in, I’m going to need a phone with power in it to call 911. But a flashlight is also important, so I can size up my attacker and/or scout possible escape routes. Natch.

From what I can tell, after 10 minutes of shining my apps into all the corners of my apartment at 4 a.m., I…don’t actually own a flashlight. Good to know. I do, however, have six matches and a vanilla-scented votive in a wee little flower pot. So I spend a few more minutes poking around with my illuminated flower pot, then finally decide that if I’m going to look like an idiot, I might as well be in the dark.

…but just in case, I grab six extra votives as I had back to bed.

And I wait.

Dude, island is dark. I think of the benefits of letting my eyes adjust to the darkness, but there’s not even enough ambient light to adjust to—nothing but the setting moon.

And it’s quiet. So quiet.

Well, intermittently.

Oh, hey, y’know what doesn’t stop when the power’s out? Peacocks.

Also: CJ, ever the watchkitty, who lies in the ready position at my side, ears cocked forward and tail thwacking my ribs, as though monitoring the movements of something lingering just outside the door…

ARGH. Not helpful, cat.

Eventually, I drift off, dreaming of all the fun I’m going to have amassing a disaster preparedness kit—oh, the things that I’ll buy! Such a wonderful shopping adventure I’ll have, and I’ll never have to worry about the power going out again.

The fan starts whirring again around 6.

Sure enough, I’ve been unable to relocate my disaster preparedness enthusiasm in the daylight hours. What do I even need to buy? Canned goods? Pfft. And do I really not have a flashlight? I’m sure it’s around somewhere…

Powerlessness never seems like such a big deal, until you find yourself in the dark, counting matches and clutching a slowly dying flower pot.

Edited 6/20 to add:

The beginnings of my preparedness kit. In case of emergency, just look for the drunk chick suffering from sodium shock.

The beginnings of my preparedness kit. In case of emergency, just look for the drunk chick suffering from sodium shock.

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Just Give Me Some Season(-ing)

There’s a small but vocal part of my brain that gets mightily embarrassed when I write new lyrics for pop songs. And whenever she gets going, the rest of my brain just sings louder.

Right from the start
You were a chef for healthy hearts,
And I reject your dictum.

You made me eat the parts of things
That weren’t all that pretty,
And with every bite, I icked them.

You’ve been using fat-free cream, uh-oh.
You’re taking all the taste from me, uh-oh.
You tell me that a pat’s enough.
I say tough.

Just give me some season,
Just a little salt’s enough
…plus some pepper.
We’re not broken just bland,
And we will learn to cook again.

It’s in the fats,
All these butters should be eaten in vats.
We’re not broken just bland,
And we will learn to cook again.

I’m sorry, it’s your heavy hand
Where all this salt is coming from.
I thought that it was good.
(No, it needs everything.)

Your palate’s running wild again.
My dear, you’ve eaten everything.
Please watch your BMI.
(Yeah, this is fattening.)

You’ve been using so much cheese, uh-oh.
They say it’s linked to heart disease, uh-oh.
I really think you’ve had enough
Of that Fluff.

(Oh, I love that Fluff.)

Just give me some season,
Just a little salt’s enough
…plus some pepper.
We’re not broken just bland,
And we will learn to cook again.

It’s in the fats,
All these butters should be eaten in vats.
We’re not broken just bland
And we will learn to cook again.

Oh foie gras terrines.
(I’ll fix us some greens.)
We’re helping our spleens keep our system clean.

(You’re building a chin.)
You’re really too thin.
Oh nothing tastes as good as red meat.
We’ll just eat.

Just give me some season
Just a little salt’s enough
…plus some pepper.
We’re not broken just bland,
And we will learn to cook again.

It’s in the fats,
All these butters should be eaten in vats.
We’re not broken just bland
And we will learn to cook again.

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Food Fail

Today's trashcan tells the tale. And it's a sad tale, too. Especially for the rejected apple.

Today’s trashcan tells the tale. And it’s a sad tale, too. Especially for the rejected apple.

When my intestines started barking around 11 this morning, there were a few possible culprits.

Most signs would point to the pepperoni-and-cheddar sandwich I had for breakfast. (On whole wheat! Healthy!) (…with mayo.) However, the grumbly tummy also could’ve been tied to the triple-grande mocha that had so jolted my system I actually found myself wondering if the grumpy little barista had laced it with cocaine. I don’t know why a grumpy little barista would exercise her anger by being so generous with her cocaine stash, but logic is not the strong suit of the hyper-caffeinated Banana.

Come to think of it, that pepperoni had probably expired, too.

Things seemed to have settled down after a trip to the gym, but I wasn’t gonna let my digestive system off the hook that easily. For lunch, I got a Tropical Smoothie, which I’m pretty sure is just semi-frozen, fruit-flavored chemicals with soy protein. It led me to conclude that if shit’s gonna taste like Robitussin, it ought to at least get you drunk.

What makes all this worse is that I usually take a good bit of pride in my culinary sophistication. I can appreciate a well-cooked fillet or a fresh, simple marinara sauce; I exist in a constant state of craving for foie gras and proper Hollandaise.

And then I think, “Ooh, questionable cured meat and orange dairy! What a way to start the day!” and proceed to dose myself with stimulants and hospital-flavored milkshake. It’s not so much bad eating habits as laziness combined with a lapse in dietary prudence: Thinking up a good meal was just too much effort, never mind actually executing one.

Well, at least I took my vitamin.

Aaaaaaand now I’m eating croutons right out of the bag. Dammit. Who put these here?!

I mean, it’s acceptable—trendy, even—to appreciate good food and still crave the occasional McNugget. Anthony Bourdain openly admits his love for KFC mac ‘n cheese. But I’ve yet to eat anything today that even qualifies as food. It’s hard to picture Mario Batali chowing down on some potpourri and Play-Doh and then licking the carpet.

Wait, actually, that’s pretty easy to picture. Bad example. (Also, whoa: Things Mario Batali and my cat have in common.)

Anyway, parents to the rescue. Though Ma and Pa are the ones who introduced me to 50s-tastic fare like fried Spam sandwiches and mayo-topped canned pear salad, they also laid the groundwork for my appreciation of real, home-cooked food, made with fresh ingredients and love, seasoned with salt and expletives. For tonight’s dinner, they’re serving smoked Boston butt, fresh-cut coleslaw and homemade, baked mac ‘n cheese. Not only would my grandmother have recognized these things as food; she’d have shown you how to cook ‘em.

After dinner, I’m thinking I should probably head to the grocery store. I’ve got nothing but tonic water and pickle relish in my fridge, and that makes me scared for tomorrow.

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