« March 2010 | Main | May 2010 »

29 posts from April 2010

April 30, 2010

New Orleans and Treme!

New Orleans and Treme!

By Kathy Sweeney, a Big Easy Virgin

Blog NOLA_french_quarter We are planning our first trip to New Orleans to celebrate Kate and Rachel's graduation -Go Class of 2010!! I am like a kid in a candy store (btw, from the back I do get mistaken as a kid at a candy store and I always get free stuff if there is something I can't reach, but that's another blog).  

The music!  The food!  The dancing!  The music! The general hijinks and fun!  Pools on the roof! The music!  

Everyone in my house is excited for different reasons.  Kate is arming up with a case of memory sticks for her camera and debating on how long it would take for her to become a doctor.  Not a medical one, either.  She's looking forward to seeing the architecture and the cemeteries and taking a zillion photos.  Most will not contain people.  Sigh.  Artistes.

Blog treme_hbo Ty seems to think he's going to see, as a young friend and part of our travel entourage put it "illegally dressed women".  I told him one does not just sneak into Bourbon Street Clubs.  His response: a smirk and "Lot of Pride on Bourbon Street" - which is a great line from David Simon's new HBO Series, Treme.  Ty loves music almost as much as I do, and to say that he likes to eat - well, at 15, who doesn't?  Plus, I think I saw him digging out beads from a new year's eve party.  I'm pretending I don't know.

Tom and I are looking forward to some time away with just the family.  We are so lucky in that we still have the best time with our own kids.  With Kate off to college this fall, things will change.  I don't want to talk about it. And I also do not want to hear the words "shave", "razor" or anything else in connection with our son.  I mean it.

For me, planning trips is at least half the fun, so I've been online checking out all the fabulous stuff in New Orleans, and downloading music like a jazz fiend.  

People who know me well say that this city was made for me - and it sure looks that way.  It has its own personality and the people seem tough as nails.  It is a city worth supporting and saving - just like my own city. We didn't suffer the kind of devastation that NOLA did, but we do fight to keep our identity amid major economic changes.  New Orleans is fighting for its survival.  Tourist dollars help.  So it's actually a humanitarian trip, right? heh.

Blog NOLA music_paulinbros Plus, did I mention that I hear there is music and dancing all over the place? Rothenbergs have been there - love the city, and can't wait to go back to share it with us virgins.  I've heard there is better music on the street corners - musicians playing for quarters - than you hear in some major concert venues.  Dancing in the streets is the norm, not something that causes the neighbors to call the cops.  And the food?  I saw a photo of a table with an actual plate of real butter AND a bowl of Hollandaise sauce.  Could you die? Obviously, yes.  But what a way to go!

I know many of you have been there - and some of you hail from Louisiana.  Please share some suggestions - and for those of you who haven't yet visited there, tell me what you think anyway.  We are narrowing down hotels and starting to plan the places to see.

Blog Treme Simon And for heaven's sake, watch "Treme" - HBO on Sunday nights.  I would watch anything David Simon produced - I still wish we'd had another season of "The Wire", set in another favorite city - Baltimore.  Treme is wonderful, and according to the locals, it's real.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

April 29, 2010

If Stephen Hawkings Says So . . .

If Stephen Hawking Says So . . .

by Nancy    Go to fullsize image

Earlier this week, Stephen Hawking came out against seeking alien life on other planets.

Stephen Hawking, of course, is an astrophysicist and the smartest man in the world.  (That's what my dad said, anyway.) So  earlier this week when he said, "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational," it seems as if we should take him seriously.

But he went on to say that beings from other planets would be out roaming the universe because they used up all their own natural resources and would be looking to suck up the resources of other planets and civilizations.  Which, Hawkings thinks, would be Bad.

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

Okay, I'll give him that point, but pardon me for suggesting that the smartest man in the world may have watched too many episodes of Star Trek and Star Wars and all those other movies that have the word "star" in it except maybe A Star is Born, which has nothing to do with aliens.

Or maybe it does.  Go to fullsize image

Anyway, the point is, there wouldn't be much of a space cowboy genre if not for evil aliens seeking out planets in order to destroy them for their own evil reasons, but in real life maybe that's not the case.  Maybe aliens would be looking for us to share cultural riches.

Or maybe not. Go to fullsize image

My mother goes ballistic on the subject of NASA. She thinks it's stupid to be flying around in outer space when we've got business to attend down here on terra firma.

Today I'm doing some flying of my own (on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where the speed limit is--oh, nevermind) heading for Crystal City, home of the Malice Domestic mystery conference, but also a name that ought to appeal to any aliens cruising around outer space looking for riches (crystals!) or a rumble.(The Pentagon's right next door, but the Marriott has a really bitchin' bar scene.) I'm not attending the conference this year--Roxy Abruzzo hardly seems the type to be welcomed by the teapot set--but I'll be in the hotel for a day of meetings and then a dinner with my agent and editor, which promises to be a Hoot. Then I'm going to visit my grandson. Bobby.

But I'd like to know what you think of Stephen Hawking's ideas:  Do you believe in alien life? Do you think we should be sinking billions of tax dollars into the search for ET?

Most important of all:  Don't you think Justin Bieber is dreamy? Or is my grandson cuter?



April 28, 2010

Monkey and Pineapples

Monkeys and Pineapples

By Elaine Viets Monkey in jungle

A writer’s life is impossibly glamorous. As I write this blog, I am wearing a bathrobe and sitting at a desk so messy it looks like the city recycling center.

Fortunately, I get out of my office for my dead-end job mysteries. That’s when the glamour really ratchets up.

For "Half-Price Homicide," I did my research at Hibiscus Place Emporium, a designer consignment shop on upscale Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The shop sells – or rather resells – expensive clothes and rich people’s knickknacks.

Rich people are cheap.

No, that’s not fair. Some rich people are cheap. They don’t give their unwanted Waterford and leftover Limoges to the church rummage sale. They sell it at consignment shops and split the money with the stores. The rich hang onto every nickel for good reason: if they were poor, they’d have to get real jobs which pay virtually nothing.

Cleaning lady So there I was at Hibiscus Place, dusting warty porcelain pineapples and lamps with monkeys wrapped around them. Whole monkeys, not pictures.

Don’t ask me why, but rich people love pineapples and monkeys. I’m told these dust collectors are witty. If rich people are overcome with wit, they buy lamps with monkeys wearing TURBANS.

Personally, I think pineapples belong on plates, monkeys in the jungle and turbans on people, but I lack rich people’s knickknack appreciation gene.

When the rich person tires of the monkeys and pineapples, they squeeze the last bit of money out of these er . . . items . . . by selling them at Hibiscus Place.

Anyway, it was my job to dust these monkeys and pineapples. Did you ever try to get the dust out of the ridges on a Limoges pineapple? Let me tell you, if their rich owners had to, these knickknacks would be out of style faster than you can say Dole. Pineapple

In "Half-Price Homicide," my ninth Dead-End Job book, the consignment store became Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts, and I got revenge on those blasted monkeys and pineapples.

I broke them all. Or rather Helen Hawthorne did. In self-defense. She was being chased by a murderer.

Guess what? I enjoyed that destruction even more than she did.


Half-PriceHomicide The tour for "Half-Price Homicide," my ninth Dead-End Job mystery, starts tomorrow. Here are some of the highlights. More details are at www.elaineviets.com. Just click on "events."

Thursday, April 29, the Howard County Library in Columbia, Maryland.

April 30 – May 2, Malice Domestic Mystery convention, Arlington, Virginia. (Nancy Martin and Hank Phillippi Ryan will be there, too.)

Sunday, May 2, Barnes & Noble Annapolis Harbour Center, Annapolis, Maryland. (Look for Hank Phillippi Ryan.)

Monday, May 3, the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pa.

Wednesday, May 5, the Boone County Library in Columbia, Missouri.

Saturday, May 8, the Ladue Barnes & Noble in St. Louis, from 2 to 4 PM.

Then it’s home for some Florida signings before I hit the road for North Carolina.

That’s a lot of travel. I’m particularly proud of "Half-Price Homicide," which got a starred review in Publishers Weekly. I hope you’ll enjoy the plot twists. Helen will get everything she wants and regret she gets what she wants most.

Hope to see many TLC regulars when I’m on the road.

April 27, 2010

The Key to the Eternal Girlish Figure

By Sarah

Wanna get people to change their habits? Appeal to their vanity.

Not a new idea by any means. The anti-smoking commercial that had the biggest effect on me as a  Brooke  teenager was Brooke Shields washing her hair and complaining about the smell of cigarette smoke. Numerous trips to the Boston Museum of Science to look at decayed lungs, ho hum. Thinking boys wouldn't like me if I smoked, yup. (In high school. Later, not so much.) 

And it was the threat of wrinkles which convinced me to wear sunscreen. Not skin cancer. Wrinkles. It worked. I happen to be relatively (relatively) wrinkle free.

Okay, vanity will motivate us to quit bad habits, but what about good habits, what about our reason for existence such as procreation. Celebrity athletic person Jillian Michaels lit a firestorm last week when she said she'd rather adopt than give birth because she wouldn't want to "do that to her body."

Never mind that giving birth is what her body is designed to do. And, considering her shape, probably pretty well.

But the firestorm wasn't in protest - it was in agreement! Lillian  

Seems a whole generation right under my age bracket has decided either not to have kids or to adopt because women (and their partners) do not want to ruin their figures with childbirth. I find this fascinating since someday their figures are going to be ruined anyway - with death.

Do they not get this?

Not that I have any desire to talk these people into changing their minds. No, no, no. If you've actually considered not having kids because of your size 28 waist then, please, head directly to sterilization. By all means enjoy your cruises and vacations when other people are tethered to their school schedules. Please do spend oodles of money on fusion Portugese-Nicaraguan cuisine and study the ceiling fixtures when no one stops by your death bed.

What bothers me is not the childless, but those who adopt ONLY because they want to keep their girlish figures. Am I the only one who finds this a little sick? Sure, you could lie and say you chose to adopt because the world is already overpopulated and there are so many impoverished orphans waiting for good homes. You know how I feel about people spewing forth offspring like rabbits. Nu-uh. Not a way to be a human.

That said, as a parent I'm not sure a slim physique is enough to continue the commitment of parenthood. Once you agree to adopt, that's it. (Unless the child happens to be Russian in which case I guess you put him alone on a plane with a one-way ticket.) And what should the child's reaction be when he or she begs for an adoption story at bedtime? Daddy insisted Mommy stay a size 12 and so we had you?

Scarlett  All I can think of is Scarlett O'Hara and her refusal to have sex with Rhett because she didn't want another baby to widen her waist and drop her boobs. This is what writing professors mean when they say "show" the character, don't describe her. Just when we're beginning to warm up to Scarlett and hope against hope that she might find some normalcy after all that Tara burning hoohaa she goes and does something stupid like throw away Rhett. All for her figure. 

Shoot. Even we readers could tell that Rhett would still love Scarlett, maybe love her more like he loved Belle Watling and Mammy. 

Scarlett was a fool, we thought. A selfish, self-centered, couldn't see past the hand in front of her fool.

Now, she'd be trendy.

Am I wrong?


PS - I'll be flying over your head today, all day, from Vermont to New York to Minneapolis to Alaska. So if you see a plane in the sky, wave hi!

April 26, 2010

No, really, it works! Or--does it?

 by Hank

I thought I’d heard wrong when the announcer said it on TV. It crossed my mind—did he say “cheese?” And then because I have the attention span of a mouse (thanks to Facebook and television and probably too many Legion of Super Heroes comic books as a pre-teen) I promptly forgot about it. (Although a mouse might have thought about cheese for longer. Anyway.)


But then I whapped my shin against the coffee table at a hotel in Ithaca New York (it was worth it) and I remembered the cheese thing. That during the Olympics, the announcer really had said that slalom    Lindsay medal contender Lindsay Vonn was putting cheese on her badly bruised shin.


I had this image of a slice or two of orangey American Am cheesecheese taped to her leg. You know? Peel open the individually wrapped slice, apply to skin, secure with an Ace bandage (?) and voila—well, voila what? I had to wonder.


Did the cheese somehow suck the bruisedness out of her injured leg? And if so, how? I mean, what kind of cheese would do that? Parmesan?Parmesan


  I suppose she could have gotten a big bucket and put her leg into it, and then dumped a few dozen green containers of that Kraft green stuff on it. That seemed unlikely. Or maybe she used blue cheese? Which would smell awful (or wonderful, depending on your taste) and maybe there's something in the blue mold that counteracted the, uh, whatever it is in a bruise and made it all well.  Swiss cheese would be easy to tie on, just loop string through the holes.  Brie? You could just plaster it like paste on the bruise, and use the white skin to keep it off your ski pants.


Come on. No cheese makes make any sense. I didn't think any of those were what Lindsay had done, but I was still pretty baffled by the cheese thing.


Still, stranger things do work. I'm convinced sugar cures hiccups. Don’t you do this?  You put a teaspoon of sugar in your mouth, all at once, and in my experience, the hiccups stop. Why? According to something I found on the web, and it seems reasonable enough, sugar is "believed to modify the nerve muscles that would otherwise tell the muscles in the diaphragm to contract spasmodically and contribute to hiccups."  Whatever. It doesn't make sense on the face of it, but it does work.


And toothpaste gets rid of tarnish on silverware. Do you know about this?  If you run out of silver polish, toothpaste works just as well. Apply, rub with a soft cloth, rinse. Shiny silver! And no cavities. 


Static guard stops flyaway hair--just spray some on your hairbrush. You know clear nail polish stops runs in stockings, even though that doesn't matter because no one wears stockings anymore.


Of course,  baking powder down the drain. No, wait, I mean baking soda. (I always get those mixed up, sigh.)


And let me just say.  Can you imagine the board room  sales session at the Arm and Hammer office?Baking soda

 "How are we going to sell more baking soda?" one suit asks. "Hey, I have an idea," another one says. "Let’s tell people it makes their sinks smell good. We’ll tell 'em--just pour a box down your drain every month, and you won't have sink stink."


The room fills with laughter. "Buy the product and pour it down the drain! Perfect! But no one will ever believe it!"


And a legend was born. So, how about cheese on a bruise?


I did what we all do when faced with a conundrum, I went to Google. And I searched for “Vonn cheese.”  And there were about fifty million articles. But the first one, in Slate, described how the skiier “wrapped her injured shin an a soft Austrian cheese called  topfen.” Because she had been told that it would make her bruise heal more quickly.



Ooh. Topfen. Sure. (Here's what it looks like.)


 Does that make any sense? Well, apparently Lindsay thinks it does. But according to Slate, “While no one has performed controlled clinical studies examining the effect of topically applied  the cheese on bruised tissue (Hank adds: duh) or any other musculoskeletal injury, experts believe that the skin's outermost layer, the stratum corneum, would likely prevent any beneficial compounds or microorganisms from reaching deeper tissues like muscle.”


I must say I'm not surprised. But who are we to dismiss solutions that might actually work? The world works in mysterious ways.   


What secret remedies do you have?


April 25, 2010

Dressing Room Hell

TLC was proud to learn that guest blogger Dana Cameron was nominated for an Edgar Award AND an Agatha Award for her short story, "Femme Sole" in the "Boston Noir" anthology. Naturally, Dana has to dress for this success. That led her to a place many women have visited.

Dressing Room Hell 29252-royalty-free-cartoon-clip-art-of-an-evil-and-greedy-devil-with-a-red-face-smoking-and-grinning-by-andy-nortnik

By Dana Cameron


Writers—especially crime writers—often say that they write because they can fix things in prose they can't in real life. Among the most satisfying for me, I'm ashamed to say, is I can dress my characters better than I dress myself. The historical stories I've had published recently are especially satisfying. In "Swing Shift,"I savored — and stole — images of jazz clubs from first-person descriptions. I incorporated pieces handed down from my grandmothers (the scrofulous "mink" that bites its own tail is evocative, if not wearable, and the black clutches are well-loved favorites). Besides, the 1940s are present enough in our cultural memory that if you see the words "gloves," "stockings," or "fedora," in a story, you get a pretty good picture right away of how folks look. Even in "Femme Sole," set in the 1740s, it was a joy to go clothes shopping for my character, Anna Hoyt. I could lift images from period paintings and I knew, to within 85 to 90 percent sureness, she was dressed appropriately, garter to gown.

The closest I get with dressing myself is about 50 percent, a recent improvement. When I first started out, my writing group had an intervention, dragging me to the mall before my launch party. Apparently, they didn't think my overalls, paired with my husband's sweaters, would make the impression they wanted for me. Apparently, they didn't think grown-ups wore overalls out of the house, never mind to writing groups (or book launches).

Opinions on the subject vary, but let's just say, the credit card company later called to tell us someone had made some "purchases at stores not usually frequented" by us.

Oh, how I long for Garanimals for grown-ups. Match the picture of Jane Austen with the other picture of Jane Austen, and, hey presto! You're ready for cocktails at Malice. Two pictures of Mary Shelley and zoom off to Bouchercon! Never, ever match Sylvia Plath with Virginia Woolf! Bad author, no bourbon.

Dante-alighieri I've tried personal shoppers, with increasing success. Early on, I was trapped for hours with a shopper who was convinced I needed Chanel-style skirted suits. They were lovely, from an aesthetic point of view, but made me look like a bumpy green refrigerator box. Now, paired with cute jeans and good shoes, someone hipper could have pulled it off, but that's not where this shopper was going. I tried to explain that I was not a dowager duchess on her way to tea in an ancient Daimler filled with yapping corgis. She nodded; I sighed with relief. The next selectionsSilviodante were more youthful, but when I pulled on the sheer leopard-skin shirt, shot through with metallics, and (I kid thee not) rhinestones, I suddenly heard "Woke Up This Morning" playing in my head, and realized I looked like a refugee from The Sopranos—and not in a good way. I'm pretty sure Dante --  Alighieri, not Silvio --  anticipated that dressing room when he envisioned Hell.

More recently, I've had better luck—and more fun. I like clothes; I just don't know what to do with them—yet. Fashion is a grammar. Style is poetry: you riff on the essentials, refer to the classics, and then break the rules to make it your own. Until I can do that, I'll continue learning from highly-trained professionals. My husband will send them holiday cards and mini-muffins, in celebration of being freed from hours waiting in the "Man Chair" outside the dressing room. Until that time, my characters will always have a little more style than me.

NOTE: Dana is looking forward to seeing everyone at Edgar® Week and Malice Domestic. To find out more about her novels and short stories go to www.danacameron.com.   Bostonnoir_small

April 24, 2010

The Perfect Fake and the Real Deal

The Perfect Fake and the Real Thing

By Elaine Viets

Retail offers endless opportunities for rudeness. I should know. I’ve had jobs in shops on and off since I was 16. I’ve worked with customers – and for bosses – who inspired me to craft murderous tales where they died horribly.

But retail isn’t always nasty. Occasionally, I see incredible acts of kindness.    Fashionista

I did the research for "Half-Price Homicide" at Hibiscus Place Emporium, a Fort Lauderdale designer consignment shop. When I was there, the store was owned by Manny Lopez, a young man from Ecuador. Manny taught me that real Panama hats are actually made in his country, not Panama.

Manny also possessed amazing tact. Hibiscus Place sells designer purses on consignment. Many of these purses cost $500 to $3,000 new. To me, anything that costs $3,000 should have wheels and a motor, but I’m not a fashionista.

Hibiscus Place clients would bring in expensive designer purses that were barely used – sometimes still in the original boxes – for consignment sale. They got half the selling price and Manny got the other. It was a good system. Many women will not leave the house without a purse sporting a designer logo.

But designer purses are easy to fake. Manny saw a lot of those, too. He refused to sell them at his store. His customers could tell the subtle differences between the genuine article and the imitation.

One afternoon, I watched Manny with a sweet-looking older woman who wanted to sell two fake purses.

The purses were fake – even I could see that, across the shop – and there was nothing subtle about these imposters. Their dull metal trim and poorly matched print fabric were two of the more obvious giveaways.

But the fake purses had been gifts from the woman’s son, and she treasured them. She had no clue they weren’t real designer bags. She wasn’t trying to cheat anyone.

The scene with Manny and the woman was so amazing, I wished I’d taped it. Instead, I put it in my ninth Dead-End Job mystery, "Half-Price Homicide."

In the novel, the fictional store owner is named Vera and Helen Hawthorne is working yet another dead-end job at the designer consignment store. Here’s the scene from "Half-Price Homicide."


Grandma  A short, sturdy woman entered the shop. She looked like the perfect grandmother. Her blue pantsuit had a tabby cat on the front. She had fluffy white hair and a sweet smile. She opened a plastic grocery bag and brought out a purse wrapped in a white towel.

Perfect Grandma carefully peeled away the towel and said reverently, "This is a genuine Louis Vuitton."

Helen could tell it was a fake and a poor one at that. The classic brown monogram Vuitton bag had missing stitches on the leather handle tabs. The brass fittings were dull and the nylon zipper looked cheap.

"Was it a gift?" Vera asked.

"Oh, yes," Perfect Grandma said. "My dear son Edward and his wife brought it home from their Caribbean cruise. They bought me two designer handbags." Her face was pink with pride. "I wouldn’t sell this one except that my Social Security doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. And I have my Gucci." She patted another obvious imitation.

"The Louis Vuitton is a beautiful purse," Vera said. She held it up and pretended to admire it. "I wish I could buy it, but we’re overstocked right now. But thank you for bringing it here."

"Maybe later," Perfect Grandma said, and swaddled the purse like a newborn.


Manny had no retail reason to be kind to Perfect Grandma. She couldn’t even afford to buy his real designer purses at Hibiscus Place. He let her keep her pride and her illusions.

She’ll never know what Manny did for her. I hope nobody tells her the truth about sonny boy’s gifts. Half-Price_250

"Half-Price Homicide" will be in stores May 4. To order your copy go to www.elaineviets.com. If you’d your copy autographed, choose Mystery Lovers Bookshop from the three stores on my home page.

April 23, 2010

Manners, Mancini Style

Manners, Mancini Style

By Me, Margie aka Mistress Manners

Blog manners chart If you've been awake, like me, you've already figured out that people are dumbshits. Okay, most people.  Not you on TLC, of course.  I'm talking most people who wander around out there with their heads up their asses. Forget doing anything about these stunads.  Like SNL's James Carville says: "you don't engage these crazies." SNL is funny and Hader kills. Plus, my friend Bobbie Faye knows Carville and he is totally cajun loco, which is some crazy-ass crazy.

Blog el camino It's not like we can't do anything to help the rest of us deal with Joe the Dumber and his El Camino collecting pals.  Some people tell me the old antique cars like the Gremlin and the Pacer are the ugliest ever (WTF kinds of names are those for cars?  Was this before people could read words?) but I think the El Camino is the dog of them all.  It's supposed to be half car, half truck, and they are so old they don't even have satellite radio.  Half of anything is no good for anybody and I think you know what I mean.  No offense to our cousin Tino, who had one of his boys removed.  His wife Tina says he still delivers the goods and she would know. Plus they've got like 13 kids.

Yeah, okay, Manners.  Here is my simple advice on Manners:  Get. You. Some. 

Like, if you are in a nice restaurant with kids and Aunts around, don't go screaming dirty jokes or bad words. And take off your hat.  Everybody already knows your hair is for shit, and trucker hats are so far over that they should be worn only at Halloween.  Not even truckers wear them, and I know this because my cousin Vi is a, uh, hostess at a Truck Stop.  You know, one of those big ones with the showers.

Blog manners swift kick Or - if there are two lines of traffic that are supposed to, y'know, merge, then don't be an asshole and try to keep the other guy from merging.  I don't care if you're driving a Hummer - and don't think we all don't know about the whole over-compensating thing, hamster boy - you are going to get dinged by me in my new Lincoln and then my cousins who own the body shop are going to come and collect from you to fix it.  It has a custom paint job, plus special "M"s where those other dumb letters used to be, so it ain't cheap and they don't take insurance neither.  So, see, wouldn't it be easier just to take your turn instead of having to get a bunch of cash to pay my cousins, who will then totally know where you live? Good manners help everyone.

Next - listen up people who carry signs and have rallies or demonstrations.  Feel free to take a position. Although, seriously, have you seen some of these nads?  That much ugly anger tells me one thing: they wouldn't know a good position if it took 'em hard against a wall.  Or wherever.  I think most of these people would be much cooler and less likely to say rude shit if they were having sex.  Or at least a decent orgasm.  If you are over 21 and don't know how to fly solo, get a damn toy already.  Don't make your horniness a problem for the rest of us.  Totally selfish.  

Blog manners whip Anyway, so if you are going to take a political or social position on something, use words that have some fucking connection to your cause or whatever.  News flash: Hitler was evil on earth.  You don't go comparing anyone to Hitler.  And these death threats? Hello?  Want to get your pansy ass arrested?  I don't think so - unless you are a closet BDSM freakozoid who doesn't care if there is no safe word.  Prison is no place for most of these wipes. 

While I'm on the subject of vocal locals, here's another thing - stop treating people like scum just because they are different from you. That shiv cuts both ways, baby. Because guess what?  You are different from somebody else too, y'know.  And you might accidentally drive through the wrong neighborhood or whatnot especially if someone is chasing you and then blocking off the alley.  Capisce?

Last one for now:  don't go experimenting with something and then act all shocked because you get offended. Just in via freakin' Pony Express:  not all places or websites are for all people.  If you see a joint with flashing neon tits named "All Naked All the Time", don't book the place for your niece's First Communion.  Idiotas.  Or, don't do like our cousin Lucia and open up Chatroulette on the Church Rec Room PC "just to see if it's real." That girl is beyond dumb and I think some of those poor ladies there to set up the Fish Fry might be totally scarred for life. What does this have to do with manners?  Madonna Mia!  It means there are other people on the planet besides you.  Scemo. 

Uh oh.  Just got a text from Rocco that if I don't get there in five, my highlights mix is going to turn my hair green.  That is bad news for everyone involved.  I can't do everything around here - plus being late is totally rude.

Gimme some suggestions here for my new book-in-progress:  Mistress Margie's Manners. Uh, please.

April 22, 2010

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

by Nancy Go to fullsize image

Now and then, I am reminded that I'm not from around these parts. I grew up on the outskirts of a small, conservative rural town, on the edge of a national forest--a town where we left our doors unlocked. Our dogs ran loose.  Our neighbors raised Shetland ponies, and I remember the morning we woke up to a newborn foal in our backyard.

But earlier this week as my husband and I entertained our daughter Sarah for dinner (pot roast) in our little house in a charming city neighborhood, I happened to glance out the dining room window to see two boys come sauntering up our street.  Since the street is only two blocks long and a dead end at that, we know everyone who lives here, and the two boys were strangers.  (Does anybody know the source of the phrase "strangers in town where strangers ain't welcome"?)

And they were jiggling the door handles of every car parked on the street.  They especially coveted my neighbor Gene's little red Mustang. Disappointed to find the Mustang locked, they checked all the other cars and even strolled up a few driveways to check availability. 

It took a lot of guts to come looking for a car to steal at 6:30 on a sunny evening in a residential, right?  Guts or stupidity, I guess.

The police dispatcher couldn't answer right away because--we learned later--there had been a "big shooting" a few neighborhoods over.  When the officers did come--long after our young would-be thieves were gone--someone was already stowed in the back of the cruiser. The police apologized for being late.  They had been "slammed" that evening doing other crimestopping.

Later in the evening, while I was in my office--which doubles in the evenings as the family TV room--Jeff watched The Pacific. It's a WW II miniseries that features a lot of gunfire and screaming. I had a distinct, disembodied feeling that evening that I was a long way from home.

Go to fullsize image

My mother still lives in my hometown, which has remained so small that everybody pretty knows everybody else's business.  There, the big story a couple of weeks ago was that the local police had come upon a man in the road, who, according to the police report was "giving mouth-to-mouth resusitation to a possum."  The possum had been dead a considerable length of time.

The possum resusitator is in jail, awaiting bail.  The car-stealing boys are still at large, as far as I know.  Or maybe they're in their junior high classroom today.

Ever feel as though you've traveled a long way from where you started? 



April 21, 2010

Tuna Dogs and Puzzle Bones

Tuna Dogs and Puzzle Bones   Andrew Zimmern

By Elaine Viets

Andrew Zimmern travels the world eating food that most Americans would throw out – or throw up. In Chile, Andrew ate fresh-killed lamb’s blood with lime juice, cilantro and onion. Iguana is "kinda like chicken," he says. In China, donkey "tastes like veal, cooks like beef."

Teeny, tiny mud fish, stirred live into a boiling Chinese soup, have "a slippery, gooey texture, like a Q-tip rolled in Vaseline."

I hope the fish never know they died in vain.

I’ll stop there, while you still have an appetite. I read these stomach-turning details in an interview with Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s "Bizarre Foods with Andrew" on Gadling.

As I read, I realized that my culinary experience is no match for Andrew’s, but I’ve forked in my fair share of bizarre foods.

Unlike Andrew, I’m no globe trotter. Most of my bizarre foods experience came from not-so-exotic St. Louis. My family was German-American, and the old krauts I grew up with did not waste food. These Depression survivors fearlessly chomped whatever was put on their plate.

Here are a few bizarre foods I’ve eaten in the USA:

Puzzle bones and sauerkraut. Puzzle bones are the old nickname for bovine neck bones. My grandfather adored puzzle bones with sauerkraut. I was a picky eater. Boiled bones with gray shreds of boiled meat and strings of sauerkraut were bad enough. But the first time I saw a fat rubbery vein pop out in a neck bone, that was it for me. I’d rather starve than eat more puzzle bones.

The texture? Warm cellophane on hot rocks. The meat shreds were tough and the sauerkraut was, well, sour.

Tuna dogs. Not turkey, tuna hot dogs. Tuna

Back when good Catholics had meatless Fridays, Mom served tuna dogs. Boiled. The tuna dogs came out of a can and should have stayed inside. These rubbery white tubes were purgatory on a plate. We prayed for deliverance from tuna dogs for the forty long days of Lent and blessed the pope who saved us from tuna dogs on meatless Fridays.

The texture? Squishy. The taste? Bland.

Brain sandwiches. Half a calf brain, breaded, deep-fat fried and slathered with ketchup. This meal was a true horror show, an autopsy on a bun. Brain sandwiches have an estimated 3,000 mg. of cholesterol – nearly a year’s worth in one meal. The calorie count looks like the national debt, and when you add the French fries and beer (it takes a lot of beer to down a brain sandwich) you might as well quit eating food after March. You’ve used up your annual calorie and sodium allowance.

Brain Brains were difficult to prepare. The cook had to remove the outer membrane and soak the brains in salt water or they tasted bitter. Today they are served mostly in old-timers’ bars.

The texture? Done right, brain sandwiches are light and fluffy, a saloon souffle. Eat one prepared wrong, and you’ll never try another.

Pig ear sandwiches. This is soul food in St. Louis. Pig ears are delicious. Imagine crispy pork rinds, covered with tangy barbecue sauce and mayonnaise potato salad served on a bun. Yum.Pig

Texture: Crunchy.

Gator bites. Florida dives love to serve gator bites, deep-fat-fried chunks of prehistoric reptile. "Bite back!" the menu usually proclaims and after a drink or two, that sounds funny. Gator bites are supposed to taste like chicken. They don’t. Saying that is fowl play.

Gator Texture: Fried rubber. Next time, I’ll eat alligator shoes instead.