Hot dog! Hot damn! Summer is almost over, and I’ve been trying to make the most of it. Last weekend we went out to a drive-in theatre out in the boonies to see Superbad, partake of freaky dancing concession stand food, and take unauthorized photos. Did you know that you can’t take pictures at a drive-in, even when it is fabulously vintage and filled with all kinds of baffling retro curiosities? I guess the no-camera rule is to prevent people from recording bootleg video to sell to Armenia or wherever, but jeez, what a shame. Nobody busted on me back when I was taking (very bad) pictures of the screen during the free Tuesday night movie in Grant Park a few weeks ago, but I suppose there isn’t much of a demand for Douglas Sirk melodramas on the pirate DVD market, is there? Oh, and I also realized during our time at the drive-in that I do not know how to fully turn off the headlights on my car. Karen Black (my Subaru Forester) has “daytime running lights” that automatically click on when the car is in gear, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to disable them. This means I’ll never be able use my car to conduct nighttime espionage operations, and it also means that everyone who was watching The Bourne Ultimatum at the drive-in last weekend totally hates me for leaving halfway through. Er, sorry about that. But really, that movie was just a tad too intricate to watch through a windshield. I require broad comedy and garish camp classics for all my outdoor cinema needs, please!

We fared okay during the big storms on Thursday night. We were pretty lucky in that we didn’t lose power and we managed to avoid getting fried by lightning or flattened by falling trees. It was a hell of a night to do a reading, though. I slogged my way home from work through broken traffic lights, and then Chris drove me to the coffeehouse, which involved driving around downed branches and changing course several times in order to avoid those extra-fun flooded viaducts along Ravenswood Avenue. (I don’t know if they got as bad as this, but we weren’t going to take our chances.) My reading was decidedly enhanced by the chainsaw noise from outside as workers tried to dismantle a downed tree across the street.

It was a strange night. I’d heard some neighborhoods were hit pretty hard, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I found out that my friend Jenni Prokopy and her husband lost their home on Thursday when the roof of their building was torn off. I met Jenni about a decade ago at some networking event thingy that was pretty awful except for the fact that I got to smoke cigarettes with her, and I subscribed to her zine, and then years and years later we found ourselves at the same party. She’s done some great things with Chronic Babe, a site worth supporting even in non-disaster times, and any help or good energy you can send her way right now will be appreciated.

Now for more coffee. And really, if anyone knows how to shut the lights off in a damn Forester, let me know. I mean, it’s not that important, but what if I want to go on stakeout? Or what if I’m in a teen movie and need to commit elaborate late-night car-related pranks or other shenanigans? It sure would come in handy.

F is for Funny and Fixx

Hey, there’s this thing tonight:


(If you don’t know where the Hideout is and you can’t read the tiny print, it’s at 1354 W. Wabansia. And if you take a taxi and the cabbie is wondering whether you really want to go down that crappy back-alley-looking street, you do. Trust me.)

And if you miss me tonight, you can catch me again this Thursday night at The Fixx, at 3053 N. Sheffield. Double booked, baby!

If you come to either event you will get to see my new head. For months my friend Richard had been telling me to make an appointment at his salon to get something done about my color, and for months I kept putting it off, because my natural hair was a perfectly agreeable shade of All-Bran, and why mess with that? But finally last week I put my head in his hands and he gave me hair the color of deep sultry mystery, and also a new cut, and also special new crime-fighting powers.

The only problem was that I couldn’t wash my hair for nearly two days, which meant that my head was even dirtier than it had been the other weekend, back when I camped out in the middle of Michigan Duney Nowhere, because there I could at least jump in the lake and/or drink my unclean feelings away. It goes without saying I did both of plenty. It helped that both nights we were there the sky was clear and ridiculously full of stars and there were gorgeous meteor showers to keep me from dwelling on the showers I wasn’t having. But my unwashed days are over for now, which I guess is helpful to know if you’re coming to see me tonight or Thursday. Smell ya later, folks!

C is for camping and D is for dirty

Oh hurray, a new poet laureate who does not suck. Please read and dig Charles Simic. Under him, the Office of Poet Laureate will be awesome! It’ll be a room with doors that open to blank walls and dark mirrors! And there will be a blind dog and an empty coat with mice who whisper in the sleeves! Then again, can he really make things in Washington any more creepy and surreal than they already are? I kind of think not.

One Michigan camping trip down; one more to go! I don’t know if I mentioned that all our road trips this summer have also been camping trips. Back in April we impulsively bought a tent on sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods (who really needs to fix the typo in their sign, since after only ten minutes there it was abundantly clear that they’re supposed to be called Dicks, Sporting Goods, but never mind). And so for our Iowa and Wisconsin and Michigan trips we’ve loaded up the car with sleeping bags and an air mattress and set out like the Joads, except without all the abject despair and tin pans.

I know a lot of people find camping sort of horrifying, but it’s how my family did a lot of our summer vacations when I was growing up. And it was fun, though how much I truly enjoyed it depended on how old I was. From the age of five through about ten my attitude was: yay, let’s check out the rec center, maybe they have pinball and Tombstone Pizza! From eleven to sixteen it was: oh, fuck, I’m just gonna sit in the car and listen to my Walkman and constantly reapply my makeup using the rear-view mirror. Now it’s: wow, I totally have not checked my email for the past twelve hours. And part of me still can’t believe it all works, this tent thing; it’s crazy! Of course, all this time we’ve camped at places where there are showers and roads and picnic tables. THIS weekend, however, we’re going up to meet up with a big group of Chris’s friends from college and camp along the east shore of Lake Michigan. And instead of showers there will be… Lake Michigan. It’ll be some dirty, dirty camping, to be sure. I will be brave! And probably a little drunk, too.

Thursday night

There’s no air conditioner here in the guest room/office, so tonight I’ve been just spraying myself with fancy water from one of these little Evian Brumisateur cans. I love these damn things: half the label is in French; the English part says that this product is particularly recommended “for infants and for babies.” Sometimes I put my Evian Brumisateur in the fridge to make it extra awesome. It is hot as all get-out but now I am well misted, like a fern. Or a lettuce.

And, speaking of produce, maybe you have been wondering how the farm share thing is going. For awhile we’d been just cruising along and we’d found a way to fix whatever turnip or mystery green the hippies tossed our way, and all of it—even the tetragonia, which sounds like some dipshit kingdom in a Star Wars prequel—turned out pretty well. Then recently we got a head of radicchio, a big purple fist lurking in the corner of our box, so I spent a day looking up recipes to see how I could use it.

Okay, apparently you can grill radicchio, but that seemed like a lot of trouble, so I picked a simple pasta recipe that involved sauteeing the stuff in olive oil with some garlic. While the penne boiled, I chopped up the radicchio and put it in the oil to wilt. After a couple minutes it began to look like wet leaf compost and I sadly pushed it around and around the pan hoping that it would stop looking like the stuff in rain gutters. And then I picked a shred off the spoon and tried it: it tasted like coffee grounds and desolation and like when you spray Deep Woods Off! on yourself and accidentally get some of it on your tongue. I’d heard radicchio is supposed to be “bitter” but it was beyond bitter; I swear it tasted like it could key my car. I read that the red parts of the leaves aren’t as bitter as the white parts, so I tried the red parts. The red parts were only slightly less spiteful. I finally called in Chris to try it. I watched his face as he took a bite. I couldn’t read his expression.

“Wow,” he said. “Can we please not eat this?”

“Oh my God, thank you,” I said. We scraped it into the trash and I made a primavera sauce instead. Maybe there was just something wrong with the recipe, something that put the “dick” in “radicchio,” but next time one of those things turns up in our box, I’m trading it for something else. But that’s really been the only snag so far.

Tomorrow morning Chris and I are headed up to Michigan for the weekend. After all this working and BlogHerniating, it’ll be good to get away.