Karaoke: Like Life, But Better

In about an hour I am going to dust off my favorite cowboy boots and sweater vest for an evening of Fleetwood Mac at Danny's (my fashion sense is a little more Buckingham than Nicks). I have been experiencing a renaissance of Fleetwood Mac lately. This culminated with the discovery that I love to sing their songs at karaoke. 

I'm headed into my third year of frequenting a magical little place I like to call VFW Post 7975 for karaoke and other attractions. This post is not about the Post, mostly because I'm saving it for a short story collection, but more about the few lessons I have learned from karaoke, which like life you have to accept your shortcomings and embrace your strengths. For example, most people love Bruce Springsteen (this is an assumption based on good faith in humankind) but most people can't sing "Born to Run." Yes, it is a great goddamn song, one of the best, but attempting and failing to sing it well will not make your new friends. (Side note: If you do sing it well we should be friends, or better friends. If you sing "Streets of Fire" well we should get matching tattoos). I love Aretha Franklin but I have learned to leave "Do Right Woman" well enough alone. I can sing Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and most of Patsy Cline's hits. Granted, first ladies of country is not my first choice, but I can pull them off and have found satisfaction in doing so. You can imagine my delight in discovering with a friend that we can sing the hell out of "The Chain" and haven't failed with any song off of Rumours to date. These are our first choices and we can kill it on the mic when she sings the Lindsey Buckingham parts and I sing the Stevie Nicks parts (I can't have Buckinham fashions and vocals, that would be too much). 

We started with "The Chain" and again while I have to reiterate that we are really good at all of them, I think that is our finest work.  You have to know some heartbreak, some loss, some disillusionment to get that song right and it's a real cruncher that we can both belt it out so well. But maybe that's exactly the way to the other side of tough times, through a song, with good friends, and lots of whiskey. Increasingly I think my sentiment is bending toward old cowboy wisdom and I am more than fine with that. 


The Lady Gets What the Lady Wants

Let the record show that I am a bit of a night owl. Lately, I need less sleep then I ever have before. I seem to be fine going out almost every night, sleeping for five or six hours, and then working my normalish office job. Sure there are hiccups along the way such as actively trying to nap on the toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom at work, but sometimes you just encounter a gnarly Wednesday. 

The other night I wrote something on Facebook around three or four AM about eating bread nachos (these differ greatly from the cracker nachos I often eat at work which I also recommend). When I talked to my oldest sister she wondered what the fuck was going wrong in my life that I am eating bread nachos. That is a very valid question and my  response was, "Well I'm trying to eliminate my four AM feeding."

I am the type of gal that needs three, good-sized meals per day. Now that I am staying up later I have started to learn what Taco Bell fans seem to have known for years, a fourth meal is very necessary. In the early spring I developed a terrible habit of eating nachos (an homage to the aforementioned T. Bell pioneers) after coming home and before going to bed. Most of the time this takes place between 3:00-6:00AM. Let me note that 98% of the time this is not due to drunkenness, it's a majority grossness. I realized that this habit could become a real problem for health and not wanting to become obese reasons. So, the logical choice was to switch to quesadillas. It took several more months to come to the same epiphany. Most recently I've decided I need to stop buying vehicles for hot sauce and cheese, the two things I will never stop buying, and thus you have the challah nacho because apparently there is nothing I will not turn into a nacho...nothing. Feel free to use this recipe the next time you are invited to a very fancy dinner party and in charge of bringing the hor d'oeuvres. Minds will be blown. 

Bread Nachos
Challah bread, thinly sliced
Melt one slice of Havarti cheese on top of challah
Add sliced avocado sprinkled with sea salt
Drizzle generously with Sriracha
Weep and enjoy


Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

A few weeks ago my wallet was stolen. I was out to dinner with a friend and my bag was on the stool next to me at the bar. I saw a man standing behind the stool, I reached over and touched my bag, wondered if I should move it, and then thought "Don't assume everyone is out to get you. He is clearly just making time with a lady at the bar." But the thing is, my first instinct was right. He reached into my bag and while I was still finishing my burger he was using my credit card to buy $900 worth of Jesus knows what at a CVS (most my recent theory is costly prosthetic limbs). I keep bumping into this problem, as do many of my friends, the difficulty of trusting yourself. You think someone is stealing your wallet? They probably are. You think you should cross the street to avoid a dude while your alone? You absolutely should. You know  you shouldn't continue a dicey interaction with someone? You will feel better if you didn't 
There is an existential phenomenon that seems to occur in ones mid to late 20s and lasts until probably the early 30s, also known as the return of Saturn. Everyone goes a little bonkers. Everything you hold dear is thrown into to question and life probably becomes one big, chaotic, shit show. The best advice that anyone can ever hear is that the the only thing in your way is yourself. I like to think of it as a Chinese finger trap, the more you resist, the more you think it is the things around you, the more panicked and trapped you feel. When you finally calm down you realize that it was you creating the trap entire time and it will seem so obvious. 
My hope for all of us is that we can listen to ourselves but also know when we should get out of our own goddamn way. 


Turn It Out

Even since his collaboration with Heath Ceramics, I have been infatuated with the wood work of Alma Allen. In college my minor was in the ceramics department where I spent the first year figuring out clay and the last three working with porcelain. During my time working on the wheel I talked with my dad about how it compared to wood turnings,which he had been creating for years, for the first time ever we could talk tools together. When I came across the Heath-Allen collaboration I realized that I would love to be able to create new work that combines thrown clay and wood turnings. 
This morning I spent time with my dad in his workshop for my first woodturning lesson. He taught me the difference between a scraper (smooths the wood) and a gouge (for deeper cuts and design). If you think these using a scraper and a gouge sounds dangerous, try using them on a piece of maple that is spinning at 1,200 rpm. Also, when your teacher says, "Don't do that because then shit could really go wrong" and you remember that he is missing fingers (not from woodworking FYI) you fully realize that shit going wrong really means business. After a few hours I was able to turn three shapeless logs into smooth, tapered spindles. My next lesson is next month and will work up to turning from a faceplate to make my first bowl. I hope everyone likes lumpy wooden bowls because that is what you are all getting for Hanukkah. 


Homesteaders Club

My family loves a good board game. A typical good time at my parents' house includes hours of cooking, eating, many bottles of wine, a veritable sit-in around the dining room table to see who can tell the funniest story, and the conclusion is a rousing game (accompanied by beer and salami). My nephews, August and Isaac, are getting to the age where they want in on the action so we have introduced the all-ages game starting today. 
We played a game called "Camp," it was terrible so don't buy it. I will not go into detail about how poorly conceived it was but I will say that it involved nature trivia questions. I am continually impressed with the fact that my parents seem to know nearly everything about the natural world. This might seem like a gross exaggeration but it actually isn't. When we are outside together they can name what seems like every tree, plant, bird, mushroom, and can go into detail about their particular function in the ecosystem. It kills me. They also have this amazing skill set: knitting, stained glass, baking, wood working, blacksmithing, knife making, building, gardening, the list goes on and on and becomes even more frontiersy. I am 28-years-old and I still feel like I have only learned 2% of what they have to teach me. 
I would like to increase that percentage starting this weekend. I've decided that tomorrow will be my first wood turning lesson. Here's hoping I return to Chicago intact. 


How You Know You're From Good People

Today when I came home for Thanksgiving I was greeted by my mother wearing a very bright tie-dyed shirt that I owned in 8th grade, let me note a very brief phase of mine. There was something about my 62-year-old mother wearing this that set up an evening of "anything goes." Somehow I ended up confessing over salami how I recently got very stoned and decided I shouldn't smoke weed anymore. They agreed I should probably give up the ghost on that one. Then we talked about how much we all love Bruce Springsteen, and how "Born to Run" is probably all of our favorite song. Then I told them my idea for a Jewish comic book hero called The Midnight Mohel. They agreed that it would be a runaway success and offered some additional storyline ideas. I suggested that it seemed like we had all just smoked weed, they agreed again. 
My favorite exchange took place over burgers, beer, and Saints vs Cowboys with one of my sisters and her girlfriend. 
Mom: I started to like Joe Montana because he has such a cool name. 
Me: Yeah but only the last name, I mean you put any name in front of Montana and it's going to be awesome...except Hannah.
Then we all laughed, maybe with excessive loudness, and at that moment I thought, "I'm really glad these people are my family because I recognize how hilarious they are and am thankful that they seem to think I am equally as funny."
Happy Thanksgiving, stoners.


That Keeps Me Searching

Eight years ago today I started my first weblog,Cowpokes and Pearly ButtonsI was a twenty-year-old writing student living in Logan Square having moved to Chicago five months earlier. I stopped posting to Cowpokes in 2006 while I was living in Valenciennes, France. When I lived in Pittsburgh I started Good Eaters with my friend and neighbor to chronicle our cooking and eating adventures. 
It's been two years since my last to any blog. It's a strange creature, the blog, it's part diary, part storytelling, a time capsule when you re-read your past self years later, and I think it's this last quality that is so appealing to me. The weblog becomes a forum for all the little things you wouldn't write in your journal, the weird observations you wouldn't think to tell your sister or friend, the  ideas for cover band names (Lesbian Rumours- Fleetwood Mac cover band). But these are all the little bits that make up a certain time and place in your life and the idea that just one other person might check in to read a post makes you pay attention to it all. 
My life has changed in unexpected ways since I was last blogging and I intentionally let my writing become very quiet over the last two years. Lately though, I try to think of something funny, strange, or lovely that happened at the end of each day and I have been coming up with some gems. I am going to predict that most posts will be funny (hopefully) so maybe it's strange to start off on a serious note. But you don't write anything for two years, it probably warrants a re-cap. 

I've been to Hollywood,
I've been to Redwood,
I crossed the ocean
for a heart of gold.
I've been in my mind,
it's such a fine line
that keeps me searching
for a heart of gold,
and I'm getting old.

-Neil Young "Heart of Gold"