The things I do for you

So last week I had to do a reading at Barnes & Noble. Or I mean, a “reading,” since this crazy mackerel book of mine is all pictures and captions and there isn’t exactly a yarn you can spin. I considered doing a slide show or having a special big book made so I could pretend I was some kind of deranged Montessori teacher. But it soon became painfully clear that I just didn’t have time to put together anything elaborate like that, because I’m in the middle of packing, and lately my apartment looks like Aunt Sylvie’s place from the book Housekeeping. So I decided instead that I’d prepare and bring one of the 1974 recipes, and I know, that sounds elaborate, too, but I decided to make the EASY one, the Slender Quencher. Specifically, the “Skinny Devil,” the clear brown beverage garnished with celery and abject sadness.

So I went to the supermarket and found beef boullion cubes and celery and even a fancy glass that looked exactly like the one on the recipe card. But I couldn’t find sherry extract. Do they even make sherry extract anymore? I went with rum extract instead. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to subsitute one kind of fake hootch for another, as I’m told they all smell a little like diluted Night Train. About an hour or so before I had to head to B&N, I found my Slender Quencher card and got started. It was going to be simple: dissolve two cubes boullion in some boiling water; add extract; chill; add celery. I’d bring a container of it to the reading, pour it in the fancy glass, and present it avec céleri to the audience. I mean, it wouldn’t be gross. The Slender Quencher, after all, is the most innocuous of all the recipe cards. Who could be afraid of a little beef water?

I dissolved the boullion. I added the extract. But when it came to the “chill” part, I worried I wouldn’t have enough time to let it cool before the reading. Plus, it looked like it needed more water. Why not add ice? So I added ice.

Okay, I didn’t think about what is actually in those bouillion cubes. I mean, obviously, it’s powdered beef, right. But I didn’t follow that line of thinking long enough to consider what is actually in beef. Oh, God. I don’t know if things would’ve been different had I let the stuff chill slowly. All I know is that when I poured in the ice, there was suddenly something new in the broth. And it formed a waxy yellow layer so that the whole concoction looked like a gel candle, except not even as classy.

Slowly it dawned on me that the Slender Quencher was full of BEEF FAT, which floated around in horrifying little loogies. I held up the container in disbelief. Really, you’d only have to install a 20-watt bulb underneath the whole thing to make the most fucked up lava lamp ever. I shook the container, and then the waxy bits whirled about in tiny flakes like a snow globe, like a snow globe souvenir from the fatty winter wonderland inside us all. Oh, no. People, it’s not just a cute name: the “Skinny Devil” is a verifiably evil drink; it’s some kind of ritual Satanic fat-letting in beverage form. Far from being the harmless cold weak soup we’d imagined it to be, the common brown Slender Quencher turns out to be one of the most shit-awful gruesome recipes in the whole collection.

I didn’t think I could bring a plastic pitcher full of full-fat Slender Quencher to show to an audience at Barnes & Noble. No, it was too disgusting. So I strained the stuff. I poured it through a mesh strainer and a coffee filter to get out as much of the yellow crud as possible. By this time the ice had melted, and you could even call the stuff “chilled.” I scraped out the ring of fat that had collected around the sides of the container (yes: a ring of fat; I wish I was kidding) and poured the Skim Quencher back in. Then Chris and I drove to the bookstore, where I proudly brought out the damn stuff, poured it into the fancy glass, and YES I DRANK SOME OF IT. FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT.

It’s boozy-scented beef water. How do you think it tastes?

Manor a mano!

In a few weeks Chris and I are moving to Ravenswood Manor. Not Ravenswood Manor, the haunted Mansion at Paris Disneyland, as awesome as that would be. (Though it’s odd that it’s not occupied by French ghosts. Because wouldn’t you pay to be haunted by Serge Gainsbourg? I know I would.) No: the Ravenswood Manor we’re moving to is the exceedingly cute Chicago neighborhood a little west of where I live now. It’s a magical land with ground-level CTA tracks, rivers, and governors running through it, and if you don’t know where the hell you’re going when you drive around there, you will be caught in a dizzying mobius strip of bungalows and lilac bushes. And then eventually one of the streets will spit you out in Albany Park, where you never have to worry about finding someplace to buy an international phone card. We can’t wait.

So here are two orders of business for you local folks: First, if anyone is looking for a great place in Lincoln Square (SUNNY 1 BR: STEPS TO PRK, EL, JEWEL, ETC. HEAT INCL; H/W FL, LNDRY; COURTYD BLDG), let me know.  Second, we’d love to hear moving company recommendations. We’ve looked online a little bit and have heard/read a whole range of things about That Company With the Green Trucks and we’re wondering about some of the other local professional movers. And the “get all your friends together and pay them with beer” option probably won’t work, because the amount of beer that would make the effort worthwhile is exactly the same amount of beer that makes boxes of expensive stuff extra slippery.

And if you haven’t noticed the sidebar lately, I have readings coming up soon.  Oh, and go read my friend Jami’s story over at Nerve, and then pre-order her book. It’s only Tuesday, you know; you might need a good dirty story to get you through the week.

Mayflies when you're having fun

Tomorrow night I’m going to be giving a talk for Chicago Women in Publishing, who helped me get my first job in Chicago a really long time ago. (They’d held one of their networking parties and instead of networking like a proper person, I accosted some lady in the elevator, which sort of horrifies me now, but it’s all good, you know?) So you should come. Also, Chicago Women in Publishing is not exclusively for women or publishing, though, obviously, it helps to be in a similar neighborhood, so to speak. Like you have to at least be wordy and in touch with your feminine side. Oh no, I’m making this sound very emo, which is not what I meant to do at all.

I have many more things to report, such as my trip to New York, which included an all-too-brief meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Comics Curmudgeon; my impending (short-distance) move; my ongoing obsession with VC Andrews (I just finished re-reading Petals on the Wind, people), and whatever else I can think up sometime when I have more than twenty minutes to update this site. I’m sorry I’ve been spending the past month being all PLEASE STAND BY, like a stupid test pattern.

If you’re still waiting for a book or another prize from the Make the Mackerel extravaganza, I haven’t forgotten you, and I’ll get them out by or before next week.

And thank you all for your impassioned commentary on gauchos. Against the advice of about 99% of you, I bought a pair of skirty black knit Loco Pantalones, which I plan to wear shamelessly.

Finally I’m going to be missing the America’s Next Top Model finale in order to give this talk tomorrow, and since I’ll be watching it on TiVo Thursday night, I’m going to impose a silly little ANTM media blackout for Thursday, during which time I will NOT read any reader comments in case somebody says, “Oh, I’m so glad ________* won!” and gives it away.

*That said, I think it’s gonna be Joanie. Don’t you? Though we love Danielle too and have this fantasy that she’s going to show up at judging speaking like Dame Judi Dench AND THEN THEY’LL HAVE TO GIVE IT TO HER.

My life in pictures

Whenever I don’t have time to post more than a lame-ass entry (like, well, now, when I have to leave for the airport in twenty minutes) there’s always Flickr, which has pictures up from recent Big Deal Things In My Life such as The Walk and The Book Party. (And there’s going to be another party, and if you’re in NYC, email me, because I think you can still RSVP.)

And you (well, the New York area you) really need to come see Jami Attenberg read tonight at the New York Public Library. And you (the Chicago area you) need to see her read on June 22nd at the Hideout. And then buy her book. (All of you everywhere.)

Now I have to run, but in the meantime, maybe you all can debate the gaucho. Offensive or not? Those skirty knit ones are sort of cute, but at what point do they get horrifying? And is it the same point at which they become knickers? I mean, are gauchos a gateway garment to something worse? Discuss!

Edited to add: Ahhh! Look at this!  And this! Cinnamon rules!!!!

What hath I wrought?

So I have this book coming out today, which is bad enough. But have you seen the Flickr photo pool? No, really: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS SHIT? Someone made the Green Bean and Mushroom Salad. There are two Molded Asparagus Salads. There are one two three four renditions of the Crown Roast of Frankfurter. There are Fish Balls and Slender Quenchers and Jellied Tomato Refreshers and OH MY GOD THE CHICKEN HAS A TIARA. And someone made the Mackerel Pudding and tried it and everything.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.