Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I'd like to set fire to her pain

Thursday, May 31, 2012 By

I know I'm about to alienate most of my (now-tiny) readership, but I have to admit something that will make me wildly unpopular.
I'm tired of Adele.

Yes, I bought her albums. And I enjoyed them. And Emerson used to sing along with her on the car radio until one day she looked at me with big, Manga eyes and said, "Dis song make me sad, Mama."
Word. Dis song make me sad, too.
Look, I can relate to Adele's music. I own "19" and "21," and I hope that she keeps making music until "99." And I think she's fricking hilarious in interviews. I bet she's super fun to hang with. But I can't listen to her until she changes her tune, so to speak.

Because so much of what she writes (and thank god she writes most of her own songs) is about heart break. She takes every failed conversation in a relationship and picks it apart like zombies to a freshly-killed corpse (y'all thought I'd post an entry without mentioning zombies? It's like you don't even know me). 
Adele wades through her failures.
She wallows in them.
She wails.
Every dang song is about how much she hurts.
Hey, Adele, everybody hurts. But the R.E.M. song "Everybody Hurts" was at least on the same album that gave us "Nightswimming," a song about happy-go-lucky skinny dipping. Balance, baby. You can't kick us in the crotch for 12 songs.
And every song on "21" was about how much Adele's heart hurts. Well, she can just shut up. Because the rest of us - those of us who didn't just buy a freaking English countryside estate on which to burn her exes in effigy, or whatever she does to quell her pain after chasing pavements all day - have to pick up the pieces of our lives and soldier on.
We schedule summer camps and do housework and worry about our jobs, the bills, the attorney's bills, new software, old laundry and the soul-sucking commute into which we willingly entered because we knew, in our hearts, that this situation was the best option for our children.
And then, while I am embroiled in that commute, trying to see out the back of my head for the Morning Asshole who thinks he's going to get to work faster by weaving in and out of traffic without proper signaling, Adele invades my car radio with her searing misery.
Adele. Seriously. Get out of my car. You are bumming me out.
I don't want to roll in the deep, or set fire to the rain, or chase pavements, or find someone like you - because "you" are a liar and a jerk.
So, thanks, Adele, but I'll sing along to something else in my car. For two hours a day. Here's my new Heartbreak-Free Playlist:
  • "I will Survive," Gloria Gaynor
  • "Hit the Road, Jack," Ray Charles
  • "Stronger," Kelly Clarkston
  • "Kiss Off," Violent Femmes
  • "Respect," Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding
  • "Since You've Been Gone," Kelly Clarkston
  • "F*** You," Cee Lo Green
  • "Hate on Me," Jill Scott
  • "Heartless," by The Fray
  • "My Favorite Mistake," Sheryl Crow
  • "These Boots are Made for Walkin'," Nancy Sinatra
  • "That's Life," Frank Sinatra
  • "Song for the Dumped," Ben Folds Five
  • "Outta Me, Into You," Ani DiFranco
  • "Go Your Own Way," Fleetwood Mac
  • "Don't Stop Me Now," Queen
  • "Cry Me a River," Justin Timberlake
  • "Cry Me a River," Diana Krall
  • "Would I Lie to You," Eurythmics
  • "Goodbye Earl," Dixie Chicks
  • "Bye Bye," Jo Dee Messina
  • "Tyrone," Erykah Badu

Totally unrelated: This chart made me laugh.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why Kant I answer?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 By

"Mom?" Emerson asked one evening, just as I was drifting off to sleep. I jerked awake.


"Why ders bad guys in da world?"

I really have no idea. Why ARE there bad guys in the world? We can talk about psychopathology and antisocial disorders and just plain jerks, but I honestly do not see any benefits to being "a bad guy." I think about it for a second, but as my brain is in the process of shutting down, I've got bupkis.

"I don't know, honey. That's a question for the philosophers."

"The philosophers? ... Where are dey? Can we call dem?"

Well, no. We can't just call the philosophers. First, the philosophers I know of are dead. Second, most of the reading I have done about philosophy over the years has been co-opted by a single Monty Python song. Really, universities, if you could put all of your lessons to goofy lyrics, your students would remember them a lot better.

Anyway, I told her I would look into it. She's primarily interested in ethics, but she has also expressed interest in ontology - "What does it mean dat we're alibe on dis earf?" Side note: I originally typed that as "oncology." Totally different realm of study. Anyhoodle...

Y'ALL. Never tell Emerson you will do anything. She remembers it. She chronicles it. She demands daily updates. So I started googling things like "Greatest living philosophers" and "philosophy for children."

The first search term got me living theologians, which - while not unrelated - were not what I meant.

The second search term turned up a whole movement about which I had been previously unaware. Philosophy for Children ("P4C") seeks to teach children reason, logic and argumentation. This is something Emerson has already mastered because she regularly kicks my behind in casual conversation. I'm interested in learning more about this, but it still isn't what I was seeking. Again, bupkis.

I begin to consider calling an old philosophy professor - the one who called me stupid every day as some wacked-out experiment in motivation - then realize it would be tantamount to child abuse. My other philosophy professor died years ago. The closest I can get is a priest or minister, who may have the best of intentions, but who would also have a dog in this fight. Hee! I just remembered that "dog" is "god" backwards. Perhaps Freudian that I chose that particular phrase, but I'm going to let it stand. And, anyway, we're back to bupkis.

But... wait! I do not have bupkis. I have an eclectic mix of personal and professional contacts!

I was sharing the above story with my coworker, as moms do, when she lit up: "I have a son-in-law who is a professor of philosophy at Boston College."'

Shut. The. Front. Door.

"Are you freaking kidding me?"


We fired off an email to him right then and there.

Now, I'm not fooling myself. I sent an email to a Ph.D. professor at a major American research institution specifically requesting 10-15 minutes of time to speak with a FIRST GRADER about some questions she happened to ask me. This is probably not what he had in mind when he spent tens of thousands on private post-secondary study. So I can't say that I'm clicking through to Gmail every 15 minutes to see if he's responded.

Except I totally am.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Having THE Talk... well, almost

Thursday, May 10, 2012 By

Emerson is a happy child, who laughs a lot. But that doesn't mean that she hasn't been impacted by the changes in our lives. She sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and peppers me with questions. Sometimes it's related to court proceedings or generalized fears. But the other night, it was a question of a different sort.

"Mama? How does the baby get out of your tummy?"


Hold the phone.

The difficulty with this question isn't the question itself; nor even the answer. It's what happens when you follow the question to its logical origin: How does the baby get into your tummy? And then we're having THE Talk. About sex. In the middle of an acrimonious divorce.

At this point, my best option is to fake a seizure, don't  you think? I would really rather spend $1,000 on an ER visit than have this conversation twisted and played back in court like my worst nightmare. 

That's the real bastard of contested divorce proceedings. It restricts the decisions you make as a parent. Because I've always promised Emerson that I would tell her the truth. If the answer is available, I give it to her straight, but phrased in an age-appropriate manner. If I don't know the answer, I say so - and we look it up. If I'm not comfortable talking about it, or if it's the wrong time for the question, I say that, too.

But when I know that my discomfort with talking about a subject is in conflict with expert opinion - or is simply ridiculous - I try to push past it.

"The baby comes out of the mommy's tummy through her vagina."

"WHAT?!" Emerson shoots straight up in bed. "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!"

I snort into my pillow. "Nope. That's how it happens."

"Ohmygosh! ... OhmyGOSH!" she laugh-shrieks. "... That is jus' blowing my MIND right now!"

She repeats that a few more times - "ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh" - and kind of hops up and down on the bed. She's freaked out, but also excited. She has learned something significant. She has glimpsed the knowledge of grown-ups, and can't decide where to settle her mind.

"This...! This...! This is... SCIENCE!" she finally exclaims.
"Yep. This is called biology, which is the study of living organisms. Part of that is how they reproduce," I explain. This conversation - this scientific discussion - I can handle. I table my idea to fake a seizure to get out of this conversation.

"So... the babies come out of their mothers' vaginas?"
"Yes, in animals that don't lay eggs, or reproduce through cellular replication - which is a whole other thing, nevermind," I answer.

"So.... did I come out of YOUR vagina?"
"Oh, yes."

She stares at me, fascinated, occasionally glancing down, much to my amusement. My promise of honesty stops long before a pelvic examination.

"Well... when a mommy's body is ready to have the baby, everything gets kind of... stretchier," I explain, oversimplifying by about a million percent.

"Like... it opens up a little bit?"
"Yes, a little. Although not enough to make it easy, that's for sure."

She laughs, heartily. "Is it like when you poop?"
"Well, sort of. But it doesn't come out of the same place, obviously."

"Yes. Girls have three openings to expel things."

"And... boys only have two? One for poo and one for pee?"

She considers this for a few minutes. And then...
"Nothing good comes out of a boy's body, does it?"

And THAT is when I faked the seizure.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

I'm all out of stories

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 By

"Tell me a story, mama," Emerson said.

It's a nightly ritual. We read a book or we tell a story. Sometimes we share (mostly) true stories about relatives in childhood, like "The Time Mommy Fell Off Her Bike in the Middle of the Street and Cried a Lot." Sometimes she wants a "made-up" story, like "Emerson and the Tale of the Solid Gold Bootie" (an instant classic).

But last night, after 48 hours of minimal sleep due to her illness, I was tapped out.

"Let me read you a story," I suggested. "What would you like - Harry Potter? Junie B. Jones? Captain Underpants?"

"NOoooo! I want a made-up story! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeth?"

"I just don't have any ideas, Doodle," I sighed. She's 7 years old, after all. That means I've told her approximately 2,500 stories. There's only so much I can do. Not even Hans Christian Anderson had such a demanding audience!

"PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEETH!" she begged, and clung to me. And then my brain melted and I heard my mouth agree.

"Okay. But give me a starting place."

"Umm, how about zombies?" she said. This girl knows her mama.

"Okay," I agreed. "There once was a Sheriff whose name was Rick Grimes..."

Friday, May 04, 2012

Dining in a small town

Friday, May 04, 2012 By

Recently, Gawker gave us this awesome piece about small-town food journalism. The companion pieces are hysterical! It reminded me of growing up in a small town outside of Atlanta, Ga., and I thought I'd share my rambling memories.

I remember when the second McDonald's opened in Conyers, Ga. Up until that moment, kids' birthdays were backyard affairs - but a lucky few got to choose between a Burger King birthday party (with gold paper crowns) or a McDonald's birthday party (with a vastly superior playground).

Then they opened the second McDonald's, right down the street from Burger King on Hwy 138. This road was the main drag, the strip all the late-70s/early-80s teenagers cruised in their Firebirds and Mustangs and hand-me-down Lincolns. And even though most people in town had to drive right past the Burger King to get to the new McDonald's, every kid I know had their birthday party at that Mickey D's that year.

To the residents of Conyers, rating a second McDonald's was A Sign. It signified growth, change... perhaps even status. The town colloquially divided the two locations into "The Old McDonald's" and "The New McDonald's," and West Avenue's business appeal faded like the sun-bleached railroad ties that constructed the playground of The Old McDonald's.

Soon after, the Wendy's in the A&P Shopping Center moved to the same stretch of highway as its two competitors. Gone were the faux Tiffany lamps and newspaper-printed Formica tables. Blond wood and burgundy vinyl surrounded the all-you-can-eat salad bar. It was a dominating expanse of exotic vegetables like shredded carrots, pickled beets and chopped broccoli, over which spilled a splatter-pattern of salad dressing, reminiscent of the Spin Art toys that were so popular at the time. SAHMs of Rockdale County hated that toy. But they loved that salad bar.

Slowly, other restaurant signs winked on in the darkness: the "fancy" locally owned Italian place, with its overcooked rolls and pasta slick with cheap olive oil; the Greek pizza place, with the temperamental owner who hated teenagers and kicked us out more times than I can count; the Arby's that opened right beside the four-screen movie-theater-cum-arcade. I think I ate curly fries every day of 8th grade.

But for a "real" dining out experience, Rockdalians still had to travel to the culinary cluster surrounding the two closest malls, South Lake Mall in Jonesboro and North Lake Mall in Tucker. Y'all. We put the full weight of our proud Southern literary tradition to bear on those mall names.

At either mall-adjacent development, we could enjoy any culinary offering that mid-market suburbanites could imagine - from the exotic fried-with-sauce offerings of Main Chow Mein in the mall food court to the full 38-page menu and hanging-fern treatment at Bennigan's.

But it wasn't until I was in high school that it happened. You heard the whispers. You couldn't believe it. But then site prep started and suddenly it was real. It was The Great Coming of The Applebee's. A real Applebee's in our town! Y'all. It was a bar and a grill. The importance of this combination could not be understated. It was like the virgin run of the Reese's cup. Who put their peanut butter in my chocolate?! Doesn't matter. We're getting The Applebee's. Lo, how its light shine in the darkness. And it was good.

I'll admit that The Applebee's Bar and Grill had its naysayers. "It'll never last," they said. But it did. In fact, it thrived. And there were The Mozzarella Sticks. And though The Mozzarella Sticks were but few, a miracle occurred, and The Mozzarella Sticks did multiply and feed the masses. And the people rejoiced.

Tragically, I never ate there. I was very busy being a Sort-of Socially Conscious Person who hung out in Little Five Points, signed a lot of petitions I never read, and refused to eat meat. Dropping in on philosophy classes at New Acropolis didn't leave much time to spend money with the Proletariat. As a result, I missed a Rockdale High School Rite of Passage: That Applebee's Date Where You Tricked the Waitress Into Selling You Alcohol.

And the one time I intended to eat there - at the cast party after our high school Spring Musical - I totaled my parents' Oldsmobile on Salem Road with four other people in the car. Yea, though I walked through the scene changes of the musical with the wholesome religious message hidden amidst debauchery and gambling, I will fear no dark blue or maybe black pick-up truck that turns left in front of me when I have the light. A-hole.

I went off to college and the Conyers haute cuisine scene kept growing. Other restaurants joined The Applebee's. There was the short-lived Boston Market and some other small chains, and then the one-off local eateries that people referred to colloquially by location: That Thai Place in the Kroger Shopping Center; The Sushi Place Over By the Publix, and The Sushi Place Over On the Access Road. Finally, there was The Great Hooters Controversy. And rebels did protest the addition of The Restaurant of Sodom. But the zoning commission found no legal reason to refuse it. And the complimentary hot wings did grace the zoning commission's meetings for eons.

About 10 years ago, they opened Stonecrest Mall two exits away from the main highway. There is yet a third McDonald's across from the mall - in addition to various Darden and Brinker corporate restaurant offerings that are packed out every night. In about 20 years, Conyers/Rockdale County will probably serve as another cautionary tale of unregulated growth, a la Jonesboro/Clayton County. Though, technically, the mall is in Lithonia, but no one seems to realize that.

"The Old McDonald's" was torn down decades ago, and a Longhorne Steakhouse was built in its place. That Longhorne Steakhouse was then replaced by another Longhorne Steakhouse. In the future, aliens will visit the site and some extraterrestrial archaeology grad student will excavate the layers of construction and then write a thesis about how we built monuments to honor cows (Here's a secret: Egyptians just thought cats were just really tasty).

In time, the small town I grew up in was replaced by a traffic-choked suburban strip mall collective that is almost indistinguishable from any other of the small municipalities that surround Atlanta and transition commuters from urban center (Fulton County) to suburbia (Rockdale County) to Piedmont forestland (Newton County).

But there is a movement to preserve the "historic" Old Town Conyers, the four-block radius of two-story storefronts that adjoin the old railroad depot. There's a Thai Palace in an old historic house on Railroad Street. There's a homemade ice cream store called Creamberry's just a couple of blocks over. The old Evan's Pharmacy still offers lunch counter service and fresh lemonade.

Things are moving along in Conyers. You can get almost any cuisine you'd like. And they even have a tourist trap. The Whistle Post Tavern gives out free drinks whenever the train rumbles through Old Town. Y'all... it's a bar and a grill.