Saturday, May 31, 2008

Things I don't like in restaurants

1. Embarrassingly named dishes.
My favorite neighborhood joint serves this amazing carrot appetizer. Sadly, on the original incarnation of the menu it was called... Bunny's Fever. (Shuddering.) I ordered it every time, but I really wished I could have just pointed and said, "I'll have, you know, that." Evidently the owners got tired of making their patrons cringe; on newer versions of the menu it's simply called carrot dip. Whew.

2. Wait staff who introduce themselves. "My name is Ted and I'll be your server tonight." Honestly, does anyone feel comfortable with this? I'm always nice to waiters and I tip very well, but dammit, I don't need to be on a first-name basis.

3. Baffling ingredients. For example: what the hell is a sunchoke? And is kokum jus supposed to sound appealing? Putting confusing things on the menu only invites more conversation with the waiter, and we've already established how I feel about that.

4. Foreign-language menus with no translations. See my previous complaint about having to converse with the waiter. I love all kinds of ethnic food, but I also like to know what I'm getting myself into. Of course, if I happen to be dining in a foreign country, non-English menus are OK. (Well, sort of.)

5. 200-item wine lists. Studies have shown that having too many choices freaks people out. And as someone who drinks mostly to achieve a fuzzy feeling, I can't say I require a selection of 15 different pinot noirs. Pick one wine from each of the really popular varietals (ooh, look at me, I used the word varietals), put 'em on the menu and be done with it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The lamest movies I have seen in transit

Ghost Dad (Peter Pan bus to Boston circa 1992). I had to IMDB this one to jog my memory about the plot. Evidently Bill Cosby plays a widower who dies in a taxi crash, but manages to watch over his kids as you guessed it a ghost dad! Orphaned children = laff riot! I can't remember if they all ate Jell-O pudding together. Probably.

2. The Mask (Peter Pan bus, destination unknown, circa 1995). Ever have a nightmare that you were trapped for hours in close quarters with Jim Carrey? Dude, I lived it.

3. Daddy Daycare (American Airlines flight to Salt Lake City, 2003). Admittedly, I watched this one without headphones. Still, I can say with absolute certainty that it sucked. I did, however, laugh at one scene where Jeff Garlin wore badly applied lipstick. No clue what that was about.

4. Alvin & the Chipmunks (Delta flight to St. Croix, 2008). I actually put on headphones for this, but I removed them once my ears started to bleed from the shrieking rodents. I'm not sure if Scientology requires penance, but if so, Jason Lee has about 50 kabillion Hail Xenus to say.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My all-time worst vacations

1. North Adams, MA, 1981. My parents thought it would be big fun to take my sister (then 16) and me (13) with them when my dad took a summer class at North Adams State College. As you know, teens love vacationing in dying industrial towns. For years, my proclamation of "I hate the whole state of Massachusetts!" was a family joke. Ha freakin' ha. For the record, I now love Massachusetts. Even North Adams (well, Mass MoCA, at least).

2. Brussels, 2004. Prior to this misadventure, moules frites would have made the list of what my diet would consist of if nutrition were not an issue. Seriously, half the reason for my visit to Belgium was to eat mussels. It was all going swimmingly until a fateful lunch at the mollusk-shilling tourist trap Chez Leon. I knew something was slightly off with my meal. I did not, however, expect that a few hours later I would be lying on the floor of my hotel bathroom, praying for death. I've been off the mussels ever since. Even thinking about mussels makes me shudder. Please don't mention them around me. Thanks in advance.

3. Spain, 1988. A similar experience to Brussels, only this time caused by eating unwashed fruit in the nasty town of Malaga. Even worse, the evilness struck I was heading back to London by train. Perhaps they've improved since then, but the restrooms on Spanish trains in the 1980s made port-a-johns seem like the ladies' lounge at the Plaza. Please don't mention Spanish trains in my presence either. Mitigating factor: I dropped about 8 pounds in a week.

4. Camping in Lyme, CT, 1999. Oh, yes. Nothing like pitching your tent in the home of Lyme Disease. I spent the entire trip scrutinizing my ankles for ticks. The campground kinda sucked, too.

How about you? Any places to avoid?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rock 'n' Roll Crushes: A Timeline

Age 5: Elton John. My best friend and I fought over who would get to marry him. Kids are dopes. Admittedly, we were weirder than most.

Age 7: Davy Jones of the Monkees. He had a British accent and a shiny bowl haircut. I also liked the way he danced.

Age 8: Paul McCartney. Once I learned that the Beatles inspired the Monkees (gee, who knew?), Davy was out of the picture. It was all about Paul. I thought about proposing to him in a letter, but then I wised up: the guy was like 9,000 years older than me and plus, there was the whole Linda thing. So I wrote and asked him to adopt me instead. He never wrote back, the jerk.

Age 14: John Taylor of Duran Duran. Nick wore too much makeup; Simon, as the frontman, was too unattainable. I never liked drummers, so Roger was out, and honestly, I can't remember a damn thing about Andy. So John it was. He wore hats sometimes and that made him cuter still.

Age 24: Kurt Cobain. Nothing to be ashamed of here. Even dead, he's still hot.

Age 30: Tommy Lee. A brief aberration brought on by too many viewings of Motley Crue: Behind the Music.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My favorite list-themed works of pop culture

Ed. note: It has come to my attention that I am totally ripping off a rather amusing blog called 5ives. Before Merlin sues my ass, I'm taking the bold step of scrapping the five-item policy. Sometimes I'll put six things on my list. Hell, maybe I'll go crazy and do seven. And if I'm feeling selfish one day, I might just keep it to three. How do you like them apples? (This is all so liberating.)

Now, on to the list.

1. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. In which our hero (who's actually a bit of dick) makes a list of his five most memorable break-ups and sets off to find out Whatever Happened To. Along the way, he shares several of his other top fives, from American films (No. 1: The Godfather) to Elvis Costello songs ("Alison") to Bands or Musicians Who Will Have to be Shot Come the Musical Revolution (interestingly, Simple Minds tops this one. Not sure why he's got a gripe with Simple Minds. Maybe it's a British thing).

2. Violent Femmes, "Kiss Off." Gordon Gano takes one, one, one 'cause she left him, and two, two, two for his family, and so on. He forgets what eight was for. That's so cool.

3. Amelie. The narrator lists each character's tiny likes and dislikes. En francais, no less. Among my favorites: "Philomene likes the sound of the cat's bowl on the tiles. The cat likes overhearing children's stories." Très cute.

4. The Book of Rock Lists. It's hard to overestimate the impact this had on me when I was a kid. It's where I learned Johnny Rotten's real name ("Famous Pseudonyms of the 1970s"), the identity of the Rolling Stones' "Angie" ("25 Songs About Real People") and that "Great Balls of Fire" might actually be, well, dirty ("Best Songs to Pass the Censor"). I read it so much that the cover fell off; I have it here now, yellowed masking tape and everything. 

See? Only four. Ha!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Things of which I have an irrational fear

1. Roller coasters. I'm the one who holds everyone's stuff when they go on the Cyclone.

2. Vampires. Dracula in particular. And -- OK, this is embarrassing -- the Count from Sesame Street. I had a nightmare about him once. Go ahead, laugh. Let's see how well you hold up when a Muppet tries to sink his felt fangs into your neck.

3. Merging. Yeah, yeah, I make a big deal about the environmental benefits of public transporation, but here's the real reason I hate cars: my driving sucks. Even thinking about how to speed onto a highway makes me queasy. Almost as scary: turning left at a four-way stop.

4. Going to jail. I'm such a freakin' goody-goody that this is highly unlikely, but there's always the chance I'll get framed. Extra bonus fear points for foreign prisons. For this, I blame Return to Paradise.

5. Stilts, and the people who walk on them. Seriously, WTF? It's just not necessary. In the Virgin Islands, there's a tradition of dressing up as Mocko Jumbies, which are essentially scary clowns on stilts. With all due respect to the culture, I can't begin to express the fundamental wrongness of this.

C'mon, chickens — what are you so afraid of?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Words or phrases I would (or do) feel stupid saying

1. Da bomb. I recently told my husband the recycling container he installed under the sink was "da bomb." Which it is, but I'm still cringing that I described it as such.

2. Wonderful. It just sounds phony. One of my friends took an instant dislike to someone simply because she uttered the sentence, "Brooklyn is wonderful." I consider that a cautionary tale.

3. Fo' shizzle. I can't talk the Snoop talk. Some would argue that's a good thing.

4. Sweet (as in "awesome"). This one's dangerous. I started saying it to make fun of people who say it, but it's slowly creeping into my normal vocabulary. I must stop before I start pronouncing it "scha-WEET!," without irony.

5. Asshat. A little too high-concept for me. I'm more of a jackass girl.

And yours?

Monday, May 12, 2008

What my diet would consist of if nutrition were not an issue

1. Cheez Doodles

2. Lobster rolls

3. Nathan's hot dogs (hold the kraut, for God's sake)

4. Coffee gelato

5. Movie theater popcorn

Songs so sad I can hardly stand to listen to them

1. REM, "So. Central Rain." Yes, the lyrics are inscrutable. But the "I'm sorrrrry" chorus kinda says it all. As a matter of fact, about 75 percent of REM songs from the '80s are capable of making me teary. Damn you, Stipe.

2. Peter, Paul and Mary, "Leavin' on a Jet Plane." OK, so it's a freakin' Peter, Paul and Mary song written by John freakin' Denver. Shut up. It's sad. I played it on my final college radio show, days before I fled the country for what I hoped would be my fabulous life in London. A friend called in to say I was an insufferable sap. He wasn't wrong.

3. Bright Eyes, "The First Day of My Life." I have high hopes for the couple in this song. It's got something to do with the break in Conor Oberst's voice when he sings, "I would probably be hap-py." Still, the line "I'm glad I didn't die before I met you" just kills me.

4. Billy Bragg, "Tank Park Salute." I actually went through a list of Billy's songs to find one that still makes me sad. Now that I'm no longer a naive English major, lines like "The chain that fell off my bike last night is now wrapped 'round my heart" (from "The Only One") have started to bug me. So I'm going with Billy's tribute to his late dad. Yeah, that works.

5. The Beatles, "For No One."
Best breakup song ever. That French horn solo gets me every time.

OK, what are yours? Kudos to the first person who gets me to sniffle.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Five-Item Manifesto

OK, it's my turn to litter the internets with random musings. So why a Li'l Blog of Lists, you ask? (Yeah, I heard you.) As I plan to do with all my posts, I'll list the top 5 reasons:

1. Long paragraphs scare me.

2. I don't have any kids so a momblog is out of the question.

3. It worked OK for Letterman.

4. Let's face it, lists are quick and I am lazy.

You know what? Four items are good for this intro. Let's get started.