Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another story...

Here is another work in progress for my Writing class. Feel free to waste time for which you should be studying (my partners in crime) or looking for cute boys in work (my dear old roommate who I will not name) and read the story. Mostly I posted it for mom (even though I already read it to her) and Granny (mostly) because I think you'll most enjoy it.
Topic: write a couple of pages about an eccentric member of your family.

Meeting the Unknown
Visiting a far away aunt and uncle or grandparent is like a rite of passage- leave home, spend two weeks looking at hundreds of yellowed photos, play cards with old people and leave thinking you’re so much older and wiser for having spent two weeks with the oldest people you know.
My rite of passage came the summer after 8th grade. I was on a plane from California to Ohio visiting my great great aunt and uncle. Aunt Daisy and I just got to know each other at my grandparents anniversary party- she was a breast cancer survivor, inching her way towards 80 while still carrying a drivers license and a love for cards that beat any opponents hand. She was really the reason I was going to Ohio. I was about to spend two weeks with a fun old lady whom I recently met, but was sure would show me a good time. Her husband, Uncle Wallace, was something of a question mark to me. The only things I knew about him could take up the space on his bald head: married Daisy young, likes God and does not like to be called Wally. Somehow my entire family called him Wally when he wasn’t around (which was never) so saying Uncle Wallace would take some discipline on my part. I arrived in Canton, Ohio slightly nervous to meet a mysterious man I needed to affectionately call Uncle.
At the time, there were not many men in my family- no one could seem to procreate anything but girls and the only men I had developed relationships with, besides my dad, were my kind, but gruff grandpas. The idea of spending two weeks with a man who may or may not want to spend time with me was slightly terrifying.
Nonetheless, I was excited for my trip and arrived at Aunt Daisy and Uncle Wallace’s three bedroom house, with a tomato garden bigger than their first floor, smiling. When Aunt Daisy and I arrived I remember seeing Uncle Wallace sitting in a corduroy covered chair the color of brown mustard. Aunt Daisy bellowed in his direction.
“Wallace. Wallace! Ali is here from California,” she said with her cleft palette as she touched my shoulder.
Uncle Wallace adjusted his hearing aide and looked up from his local newspaper.
“Oh, nice of you to be here, Allison,” Uncle Wallace said as he smiled at me while rubbing the top of his head. I smiled back and we both surveyed each other: him through his thick black, plastic framed glasses and me through young, bright eyes. I could already tell that despite the mountain sized distance between us, I found the quirky man in the plaid blue shirt and charcoal grey slacks amusing, if nothing else.
It didn’t take long for my curiosity for Uncle Wallace to develop. Soon after I arrived I unpacked my travel essentials in the guest room upstairs. I folded my clothes and placed them in the dresser, that probably had nothing in it for twenty year, and lined my toiletries on the vanity stacked with books with titles like Mommy Dearest, Lily’s Wish and Love After Midnight.
“Ali, I’m going to pick some tomatoes from the garden if you want to help,” I heard Aunt Daisy say between her Ohio accent and an excitement to have her daily routine mixed up for two weeks by a 13 year old.
“Okay, I’m coming,” I replied, while thinking of a way to mask the smell of emptiness, moth balls and dust that housed the room.
I galloped down the staircase and changed my gait to a calm walk a few steps before the living room. I immediately looked in the corner of the room to see if Uncle Wallace was quietly sitting in his chair, but all that sat in the corner was a tall clear glass filled with some sort of liquid that had a clone like resemblance to the chair it sat beside.
I shrugged my shoulders and walked into the kitchen to find Aunt Daisy.
“Um, hi Uncle Wally, er, Wallace, is Aunt Daisy outside?” I asked quietly, hoping I wasn’t disturbing him from whatever he seemed to be doing at the table.
“Yes, dear girl, she’s outside. Go through the mud room.” He didn’t look up from the disarray laid before him on the plastic tablecloth, but he tilted his head up as if to point like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz does.
A mud room. What was a mud room? This was my first indication that I might need to speak a new language to visit Ohio. I assumed his head tilt was my best clue, but paused before I walked away.
As I looked at Uncle Wallace, glasses pressed closely against his nose, hands working on a machine that I assumed he bought from some 22 year old sales boy looking to be employee of the month, I was struck by something large on his head. I walked past him, hoping to get a better look and saw that a thick piece of medical tape covered something the size of a golf ball. I walked through the mud room to the garden, anxious to ask the only person I really knew in Ohio who the man in the kitchen was.
After about five minutes of putting tomatoes the size and color of apples into old wicker baskets, I decided to casually ask Aunt Daisy questions about Uncle Wallace. The only problem was I felt strange asking her about the giant UFO on her husband’s head. Would she think I was silly or making fun of him?
“These tomatoes look so good,” I said. (I was off to a fabulous start.)
“We eat them like apples around here. I remember how much you liked them in California.” She smiled as she plopped another three in the basket I held.
“Yeah, I love them. Does Uncle Wally like tomatoes?”
“Oh yes, he likes most vegetables. Especially for those ridiculous smoothies he makes.”
“Tomato smoothies?”
“I know, he makes me so mad. All these years he tells me, ‘Daisy, we don’t eat enough vegetables. I need more vitamins.’” “So, I planted more tomatoes, cooked more vegetables. Then he tells me, ‘Daisy, I need more vitamins, I’m getting older and my skin needs certain vitamins to stay young.’” “This was three years ago- his skin was already old and nothing vegetables have can help an old man like him.”
I laughed. “Did you tell him that?”
“Of course I did, that old crow, but that made him angry, which made him want to get me angry. Something he’s very good at.”
“What happened?” I asked, as I put the basket down and picked a few tomatoes while keeping my eyes on the story teller beside me.
“The next day he goes out to buy some groceries- vegetables probably- and comes back in the house with some contraption. He didn’t need to ask what I thought of it because the moment he set it on the table my eyes told him:. He went on and on about how a Vegetable juicer/Smoothie Maker would take care of all his needs and how I could cook less vegetables now. I opened the cupboard behind him and showed him the five other contraptions he bought in the past two years for his skin, lack of hair, eyes and every other health reason he could make up.” She started laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked, curious, although I had an itching to follow suit.
“Because it’s funny. I have no reason to be mad now. It’s funnier to see that old man in there reading about the benefits of squeezed vegetables, which I know don’t do a damn thing.”
We both looked at each other and smiled before returning to the hundreds of tomatoes that spotted the garden like giant baseballs.
I wasn’t ready to ask Uncle Wallace about his fascination for healthful foods, aging tricks, or even his love for church, but I knew that these two weeks would be a learning experience even if it was just through Aunt Daisy.
After a couple minutes of picking in silence, I bit the side of my lip and looked at my aunt.
“Aunt Daisy? Um, I have one more question about Uncle Wallace.” I continued to pick tomatoes, avoiding eye contact with her.
“You want to know what that damn thing on his head is, don’t you?”
I turned my head toward her quickly and nodded.
“Garlic cloves.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

If I had a tattoo on my forehead...

If I could get a tattoo on my forehead these are options I would choose from: Keep in mind that some, but not all of these are meant to be school related.

-I'm 23. Are you jail bait, too old for me or the legit age for making out with?
-I. HAVE. MY. CREDENTIAL. I am not subbing because I'm waiting to be a real teacher or because I have this naive idea to change the world- i just get stuck making $90 a day.
-I'm laughing because small talk is awkward- let's stop.
-It would speed things up if I knew who you were voting for.
-Voting for a woman because she's a woman does not make you a bad ass feminist. Nor does it make me want to date you.
-The only reason I'm not yelling is because I don't want you to think you were cool enough to make the sub mad- I'm that stubborn.
-If it wasn't highly frowned upon for me to tell you to go to hell and then give you a referral, I would.
-Just because you KNOW my name is Ali and not Ms. Brown doesn't mean your friends think you're cool.
-I know you're stoned.
-I know you're not really going to the bathroom.
-You will be the cool one when high school is over.
-I don't really care if you listen to your iPod, but I am the lowest member of the school totem pole.
-Did you know baggy pants were out like 10 yrs ago?

I think I'm going to need a bigger forehead.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ready for Scolding

I know!! I am the WORST blogger ever and deserted my faithful readers over the past few weeks.
Feel free to shoot me, bite me, kick me, curse me, hate me, or do anything else you want. However, if you would like me start posting blogs again, I suggest you refrain from doing anything that might impale my brain, eyes, or hands, as those are all crucial parts of blogging.
I moved into my lovely "suite" in Lincoln; I'm all settled, kinda sorta teaching for the district and am- wait for it- taking a full load of ONLINE (but just as much work as regular) classes. I know! However, it provides me the opportunity to get back on my parents health insurance (I should live in Europe) and I get to learn, which we all know is one of my favorite past times.
I thought that for my first returning blog I would post a piece I created for my Fiction writing class. It was only a one page piece and was sort of just a writing exercise, which will later be turned into a full short story, so bare with the lack of finish, etc. I'm not really looking for a critique- we do that in the online class, but if you can't keep your fingers from judging, then please feel free.
Keep in mind the prompt was to take some characters to dinner and have them talk about the food they eat.
Bon Appetit!
Also, expect to see these topics in several posts this week... Wine Parties, High Fructose Corn Syrup, more stories, and the myriad of annoying gym goers. I hope that leaves you intrigued.

(Sorry for the length, but it was an assignment.)

Beef and Crumpet
Jim opened the solid cherry wood door with one hand while answering the buzz on his Blackberry. He rolled his eyes as he entered the foyer. The last thing he wanted to do on a Friday night after flying from London to New York was eat at some up and coming wannabe Manhatten hot spot, but work was work.
He approached the host’s podium, “Yes, hello, my name is Jim Crumpet, I’m here for-” “Jim Crumpet from the International Food Journal?!” “Er, yes, I have reservations at 7 and I’d prefer if you wouldn’t mention my connection to the um, Journal.” “Yes sir. Excuse me. I’ll go see if your table is ready.” As the twenty year old hostess smoothed his gelled hair and quickly left the waiting area, Jim turned his head when he heard a loud laugh behind him. The man met Jim’s eyes, “Howdy.” Jim lifted his head as a hello before he turned and rolled his eyes.
The host came back with a huge grin. “Ah, Mr. Crumpet there seems to be a slight problem. We seemed to be overbooked at the moment.” “And that means what exactly?” Jim said, leaning his upper body over the podium. “It means I can put you at a table with someone else or you can wait, but it will be two hours.” “What?! Two hours? I have been on a plane all day, I’m starving and you want me to make small talk with some ninny or wait for two bloody hours?” Jim folded his arms across his broad chest awaiting an answer. “Yes, I’m afraid that is the case.” Jim exhaled heavily. He tapped his brown loafer and smelled a mix of salty meats and fresh tomatoes. He knew he had no choice. “Fine, I’ll share a table with someone.” “Okay sir, I’ll see if I can find someone willing to share.” As the host was about to saunter away, he stopped.
“Um, excuse me, I’d be happy to share a table, buddy.” The man behind Jim took off his cowboy hat as he spoke to the host. “Wonderful! If you’ll come this way I can seat you both.” The cowboy led the way and Jim shook his head. “I can’t believe this,” he mumbled as they passed plates of salmon and tangy dill sauce, sweet smells of sugar burning on crème brulee and the clatter of pots and pans in the open kitchen.
The host sat them at the table and handed them long black menus before quickly scattering off like a mouse.
Jim perused the menu quietly, up and down searching for an appetizer. “So, partner, whatcha thinking about?” the cowboy said, while stroking his 5 o’clock shadow. “Well, I’m obviously trying to pick an appetizer.” “Righto! I guess I’ll do the same.” “Uh huh,” Jim said while pausing his eyes on the third item on the menu: Artichoke and Olive Bruschetta, served with olive oil baked bread and broiled elephant garlic. Jim closed the menu and scanned the room looking for the waiter. He met eyes with a young woman with a long blonde ponytail. She walked over to the table, smiling, “Good evening, gentlemen! Welcome to La Fleur.” “Well thank ya, honey,” the cowboy said. “I’m ready to order a first course,” said Jim. “Okay, let me just get my pen and pad here.” “I’d like to start with a glass of your 2006 Chardonnay and the Artichoke and Olive Bruschetta.” “Excellent choice! And for you sir?” “I was going to have the same, you wanna share?” Jim hesitated, but thought anything to speed up the process would be best. “Fine, we’ll share.” The waitress smiled and closed her ordering book audibly. “Okay, I’ll be back with that wine asap!”
Jim tapped his fingers on the clean white tablecloth. “My name’s Dallas by the way. Dallas from Dallas.” He laughed at his own joke. “Jim, Jim Crumpet,” he said as he shook his rough hand. “So Jim Crumpet, where the heck ya from?” “From London, actually.” “London?! Well, that sounds mighty fine, and what do you do out there in ole’ London?” “I’m a food critic actually.” “Well that sounds spectacular. I’m in the food biz myself, yes siree. I own a cattle ranch out there in Dallas and I’m just out here promoting my beef to new restaurants.” “Oh, how lovely,” Jim added, thinking how foul owning a beef ranch must be. Dallas continued to talk about raising cattle, raising kids and “the good ole’ life” in the “Big State”.
“Okay boys, I’m here with your bruschetta and wines!” the waitress said short of breath while she tried to carry the heavy tray. “Finally,” Jim said, as he breathed in the vinegar smell of the artichokes and the warm smell of the toasted bread.
The waitress left the warm plate and the wine. Jim lifted his glass and sniffed the citrus smell of the wine. “Whatcha doing there, buddy.” “Well, I’m smelling the wine to catch the flavors before I take a sip.” “Huh, I just always go for it.” “How fascinating, but how can you truly taste the light orange flavor if you just ‘go for it?’” Jim asked, while using air quotes. “I don’t really taste that. It’s more, uh, it’s more like um sour.” “Well, that would probably be a little lemon too.” “Hm, well I say we dig into this bruschetta, here.” Both men scooped some artichokes and olives on a toasted piece of sourdough. “Yum, gotta love anything salty, especially if it’s beef.” Dallas laughed again while Jim orderly took a bite, sipped his wine and took a bite again. “I hate to keep asking you what you’re doing, Mr. Food Critic, but uh, why the back and forth?” Jim exhaled through his nose before he answered. “Well, to get the true taste of the food and wine I must pair them.” Dallas tilted his head and looked at him. “You see, the olives bring out a sweeter flavor in the wine. Try it.” Dallas took a large bite of bread and took a gulp of wine almost at the same time. “Huh. I don’t taste anything different, just makes my throat kinda burn, my man.” Jim lifted the right side of his lip in disgust. “It might help if you wait to drink your wine until you fully finish your bruschetta.” Dallas attempted to try again and Jim opened the menu. “Let’s just order soup, shall we?”