(I thought it should be kept in preserves. Kept preserved. Preserved in jelly. An aspect of jelly. Aspic.)
Honk if you love Jesus…Jesus Henderson, we mean! Our Employee of the Month offers salvation to your car’s transmission. You can find him underneath various hoods on weekdays…and underneath various barstools some evenings.
My rideshare dropped me off in the city centre of Braunschweig, West Germany. It was 1987.
Eva said this driver’s exchange service was the cheapest way to get to see Andrea, our mutual friend, though it was a good chance that the driver would not speak English. I was ok with this, though it seemed weird that strangers would offer to drive strangers in their car.
A few days earlier, I had met up with Eva from the train from Amsterdam, gotten lost despite her pitch-perfect instructions, but yet still ended up meeting her in Frankfurt. She was waiting at the station, cigarette in mouth, hands on hips. She had lost weight since I last saw her, but then again so had I.
We had a beer at the bar in the station, me forty minutes in Germany, and I pounded the bar like the guy next to me had done and I also ordered, “Ein alt, bitte.” I imitated the way he did it, using the only talent I had, mimicry, for good. Continue reading “Buying Bread in Braunschweig”
They say walk a mile on top of your father’s clown shoes, so you can avoid the tears of a clown, when there’s no one around.
The place was Shakey’s Pizza in Westmont, on or near Ogden Avenue, I think. The time, thirty-two years ago. When Joe was the size of a toenail. When he was still biting strangers on the ankle. We, kids and Dad, went out for pizza while Mom stayed behind to be bask in the silencio. Amy ‘claims’ she did not come on this trip.
Just minutes before leaving for Shakey’s, I was watching a television show that involved two bad comedians: one guy who told jokes while wearing a bag on his head, and one guy who stuck nickels up his nose. Because I liked the way that sounded, the 2 n’s, nickels and nose, I made sure to remember it so that I could use it at a moment’s notice around other like-minded individuals.
We walk through the door and into the smell of dough. When you first enter, you can’t miss the plastic partition that separates the pizza makers and ovens from the population at large. I blink with disappointment at the two guys snapping towels at each other, not living up to their entertainment potential. Their entertainment mandate. Only once did I ever see a guy throw a pizza up in the air and spin it with his hands, thus forever ruining me in the disappointment that Continue reading “Enter: My Father’s Clown Shoes”
Hey Americans – you’re traveling – Montreal beckons. What’s a gal or guy to do?
Do Americans need a passport to get into Canada?
Answer: Despite all the name calling and joking around, Canada’s a separate country from the US and as such requires official documentation. A passport, if you will.
What if I live in Vermont? Canada is only a couple miles from my house.
Answer: And Zion, Illinois is only minutes away from Racine Wisconsin. You might not need a passport to travel from the Land of Lincoln to get admitted into the Eat Cheese or Die state, but it does not mean you won’t get called a FIB or a fish tab.
Can I find pot in Montreal or should I just bring my own?
Answer: If you have to ask it means you don’t know about the tam-tams on Sunday afternoons. And if you ask me again about this while riding in my car? I will set off the passenger side airbags on you.
Where’s a good place to eat?
Answer: I hear that the Paris McDonald’s serves a mean Royale with cheese.
Do they really speak French everywhere in Montreal or is it just for show?
Answer: Amazingly most Montrealers speak French amongst themselves and, bonus, also to strangers.
Will I get attitude around anyone who’s a french snob?
Answer: Most often no, but maybe! But the good thing in all of this is, not knowing any French prevents you from feeling shame since you can’t understand any dressing down you might experience. The only thing you have to watch out for? Other Americans in the city who insist on using American dollars to buy stuff. Then not only will there be a lot of attitude floating around, you’ll also be able to understand it.
What if I don’t follow hockey?
Answer: As long as you stay away from buying your turkey sandwiches at Slovenia’s on Blvd St-Laurent, you should be good to go.
No, I mean, what else is there to do if I don’t want to follow hockey?
Answer: Montreal has a population of a million or so people in it who are kissing strangers and stealing change off of your table in celebration of the summer. There’s the festival of fireworks every July. Countries bring their A games to the city to compete, twice a week for the entire month. I hear there’s also a bunch of other festivals too.
Montreal is the home of the Cirque du Soleil. I hate clowns. Will I be bumping into a lot of clowns on the street?
Answer: just hockey fans.
Is it true you drove expensive paintings from Canada to the US and only declared them to be from a friend for your birthday? And that you presented a fake birthday card signed by the famous artist who said, ‘Maybe some day I hope my paintings will get good enough to sell’?
You were so ugly when we first met. Your nose all pushed in; your dirty dishwater blonde hair tufted out like a duck. Bisquit was convinced I was wrong and that you’d turn out beautiful. “Look at those eyes,” she said, meaning your eyes. I could not deny this. You reminded me of a beloved grandmother. Your eyes and her eyes were the same. Well, your one blue eye was the same as her two blue eyes. Your other eye, half blue, half brown was way too David Bowie, even the docile David Bowie singing Little Drummer Boy with what’s his name.
Bisquit called you away from your demanding sister at that first meeting. All of the others were saying in their own ways, “Pick me”. Loud ways, ways involving lots of movement. You were the only one standing there, solitary even while surrounded by those who could not remain still. You trained those eyes on us, following us as we passed you to check out your other sister, the white one, who was already so pretty, but so distrustful that she had to be kept apart from everyone else.
You are attending to your wrist right now, which has grown a small inflated innertube on it.
“He doesn’t speak much English. Do you speak French?”
“I can follow along somewhat. I know how to talk food. But no,” I wrote back.
He replied, “He’s the same way with English. It’ll be fine.”
The other perfect stranger I was to drive was a soon-to-be medical student at McGill but, meanwhile, during summertime, would be coming with me to Boston to learn genetics while working for free at some professor’s lab.
People Ask Me “What’s different for you between Canada and the US? What are American / Canadian cultural differences?”
This conversation happened every week, when I drove strangers (soon to be friends) in my car between Boston and Montreal.
IN the late ’90s, when I was in grad school in Vermont I was friends with a few Montrealers. They were francophones; their work was not about differance. But there were a couple of other Canadians at the school, native English speakers, who made it clear that they were Americans, too, though not from the US. Some of their writing contained comparisons between the US and Canada, certain pronunciations and spellings of words, or wourds. And brands of food: for instance Oreo cookies sold in Canada are made by Mr. Christie and not Nabisco. Of inferior quality, I must note, but having the ability to kill you more slowly with the poly-sorbitant hydrogenated concentated oils from the peel of a banana rather than the requisite rim of an old tire.
I queried my pack, my Montrealers, about this and they said, “Yes, this is the difference.” Maybe something was lost in translation. It could not be so superficial. Maybe it was just the beginning of the conversation to be continued. But I dropped out shortly after for non-Canadian reasons, and so, perhaps, missed out on further discussions.
TEN YEARS LATER I began my own exploration of the differences between my giant country directly south of the quieter northern neighbor. Thus began conversations with people from everywhere, on my drives from my life in the US to my new life in Canada. For the first couple of years the drives were pretty much a darkened solo effort. It wasn’t until I looked for the hundreth time at Craigslist, making yet another electronic purchase for the magic lottery number of $20 that I finally saw the rideshare link, which thus changed my life forever. Continue reading “Arrival”
in the morning, before the grape cherry koolaid in the sky makes its appearance before it announces what the day will bring. It’s still night though officially according to a bunch of Romans or Mayans or group of people who come well before me, decided that now it is morning.
It just doesn’t look like it.
I start the kettle. I try lighting the fireplace. I let the dog out. I keep trying the fire. The matches take forever to light because they’re the cheap kind that take 11 tries and sometimes one will light up. Meanwhile they wear down the strip on the side of the box. So that I have to try and find a patch that is still good to light up a cheap matchstick. I think of the Matchstick Girl selling matches for a pense. I think of Hans Christian Andersen who kind of has the same last name as I do except for the sen part. I think of it every morning when I have to light the fire. I get the fire going eventually, some days it is much easier and faster than other days and I can never tell why, I am reminded of Laura Ingalls Wilder and heating up the house for the first of the day.
Then I think I could never live that life because of asthma and how I’d die around horses and cows. But then I think well, yes, if I had indeed lived that life I would right now be dead. Hardly anyone ever lives to be as old as someone born from 1860. I mean, before the things I love were around, or at least made available to me. Things like Holland and its freesias, Japan and its … subarus…Africa and Belgium for its truly rich milk chocolate.
Before then, back when I was on the prairie, when I was another person, a good person, I had just my family and some farm animals. And probably a better fire.
Rules of Engagement: what happens when a couple moves in together and one of them is terribly bossy
Do not put your shoes on anything other than the floor. Doing so shows a sign of pure disrespect. Plus it brings all kinds of bad luck. I don’t know what kind, just a lot of it. This means no shoes on the chairs, beds, car seats, loveseats, backs of toilets, tops of gas burning grills. Got it?
When you cut the garlic, you need to make sure that you throw out the garlic papers and inner green roots while saying, “Pour les pauvres.” Stop confusing pepper with the poor.
Pauvres is not poivres, ok? We don’t know why we say this, but an aunt told us to do this when we were children, to think of the poor when disposing of garlic remains, and she’s very good with money. We don’t want to be poor. Maybe the garlic papers sprout in the garbage and garbage is another way of, oh never mind.
Never eat pork. This is not so much Jewish as it is common sense. Pigs are, well, pigs! I would never indulge in eating such a filthy animal. Make sure when you make lentils? That you take out the ham bone half an hour before serving. For good luck. Ham is decidedly and definitely not pork. Trust me.
I was making crème brûlée and thought of you by way of the owl.
The crunch of the burnt sugar top from the last stand of the crème brûlée last night, paired with the fruity taste of my blueberry tea made me think of that Tootsie Pop commercial. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, this little kid who looks like Barney Rubble asks an owl. Then the owl eats the kid’s candy in three licks, being the asshole owl that he is.
Quit, with the proper and not phonetical spelling of her name (pronounced Kwee, as in Bisquit [Beese-kwee], which means Cookie or Cake, as in “I married Cookie Monster”, but that’s a whole other story), told me the crème brûlée we’d served her friend Cri-Cri from France was delicious. However, neither of them finished their dessert that night.
One ramekin sat deserted in the fridge for 2 more days after Cri-Cri stumbled back to Montréal.
I decided to eat this last one while watching Damages. Quit discovered that using my American Netflix account while in Canada enabled us to watch the 5th season of Damages. If one were to log in using an internet shield, say, and watch ‘from America’, one would only have Seasons 4, 3, 2, 1 to contend with.
In the aforementioned show, Glenn Close plays a lawyer who drinks a lot of Bourbon or Scotch, and when I thought about watching another episode I felt a sensation in my chest as though I too drank a lot of said beverages. The color of the alcohol in Glenn Close’s tumbler reminded me of the color of butterscotch. I kept telling myself that they couldn’t be drinking butterscotch to emulate the alcohol, that it was probably iced tea. But my pallet preferred the butterscotch path, which got me to thinking, Hm, what can help with this sensation?