Tuna Tar-Tart

I suck at everything. Probably more than you do. I enjoy experimenting with cheese and playing with glue sticks. You might know me from that other joint, LiveJournal.

May 242020
 

It’s weird not being able to do anything this Memorial Day (well, safely, anyway – I’ve seen all the gross viral videos of RULL ‘MURIKUNS celebrating their RIGHT TO MASS CONVENE WITHOUT MASKS AND ANY REGARD TO SOCIAL DISTANCING – yeah, your God will keep you safe. Good luck with that). But you know, that’s why I write about literally everything my family does, so that I can fondly revisit things like, oh I dunno, past Memorial Days and laugh at our lameness and remind myself that we can still make a memory tomorrow, just safely away from people and probably indoors lol. Henry is currently in the kitchen trying to recreate some of the Kelly Family cookout dessert / side dish staples for us to pig out on tomorrow.

And who knows, maybe next year, we’ll be able to do something dumb again like the time we dragged Janna with us to a petting zoo and then ate at a trucker restaurant.

But for now, we will continue to be safe without being whiny entitled assholes!

PLEASE ENJOY THE MEMORY!

****

Let’s Go to the Petting Zoo: Memorial Day 2015

After the dinky Memorial Day parade last Monday, Janna came over and we all took a joyful trip out to Living Treasures in Donegal. Janna strode through my front door with the remnants of her lunch, which included A DRINK.

“WHAT’S IN THAT?” I demanded to know.

“Iced tea,” she answered in that indignant tone she’s been getting with me all of a sudden.

“WELL, YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT IN MY CAR,” I said calmly, I have no idea what would give you any idea that I screamed it.

So then a few minutes later, we were all ready to go after Henry yelled at us repeatedly because that’s all he does these days is yell yell yell. As I was putting on my seat   belt, I noticed that Janna was in the backseat with that damn drink!!

THAT BITCH!

“JANNA WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT DRINK!?” I asked without the slightest hint of hysterics.

“It’s nearly empty!” she whined, and then she SHOOK IT and droplet of ICED TEA EJACULATED ONTO THE BACKS OF MY CAR SEATS!

And here we all thought CHOOCH would be the first to spill!

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We brought Spoon with us for #spoonselfies. Henry was #thrilled. My #LenoChin is out in full force. #hashtag

So, Living Treasures is better than a petting farm but not as great as a zoo. And it always seems like a WOW SO GREAT idea to go until I remember how far of a drive it is (like 90 minutes or something equally as absurd which is basically anything more than 20 minutes). They have goats and sheep and ducks but also VARIOUS MONKEYS and LIONS and OTHER THINGS. Other things like BEARS! So it’s pretty cool, but I always get so sad seeing those guys behind glass.

I’m one of those bleeding heart PETA motherfuckers.

We had some “just pay half” coupon that was good for four people so Janna was our charity case for the day. I wanted to make her pay us back, but Henry was like, “Erin.”

Once Janna passed the Robitussin pat-down, we were allowed to enter the zoo-thing.

Henry bought Chooch a big bag of feed, and 99% of it wound up on the ground each time he would attempt to feed a thing. Their snouts would get within three feet and Chooch would scream, drop the feed, and pull away his hand. Henry was like YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!

But I kind of had to get behind Chooch on this one because I am TERRIFIED of feeding animals at petting zoos ever since that time a camel deep-throated my hand back in 2007.

YOU DON’T FOOL ME.

There’s a reason Chooch has been calling camels “cannibals” since he was a baby, you guys. That’s not just a cute mispronunciation!

Here’s Chooch, still in a good mood.

Here’s Chooch approximately 5 minutes later, decidedly NOT in a good mood anymore. That kid switches as fast as I do and it’s kind of remarkable. (Or annoying. That too.)

Chooch and Janna had an argument about the peacock and now I can’t remember what it was but HE SURE TOLD HER. He gets so sassy when he’s overheated and tired.

OK I just asked Chooch, whose memory is much more plump and nubile than mine, and he said it was because we were petting a kangaroo, and he commented that it was so soft. Then Janna petted it and said it was soft, so Chooch flipped out and yelled, “I KNOW, JANNA. I ALREADY SAID THAT.” So then Janna cried, “I was just AGREEING with you, CHOOCH!” We are like a traveling troupe of hostile situations.

I have no idea where he gets this.

(The peacock keeps coming to mind because I think <em>I </em>had an argument with Chooch over the peacock. We all had our turn with Chooch’s temper that day.)

Another one of these little fuckers bit my side while I was taking this picture.

OMG IT’S DOGE! MOMMY TAKE MY PICTURE WITH DOGE! WHAT DOES DOGE EAT?!

Babies.

There was a white buffalo there and as we all started to walk away after the requisite 19 seconds of visually admiring the [insert living treasure], I noticed that Henry was hanging back.

“Wow, Henry is really into the buffalo,” I thought to myself. Then I noticed that he was TAKING A PICTURE OF IT and seriously, how often does Henry care enough about turning a moment into a keepsake? Like, rarely ever. But then I put two and two together because I’m great at basic mathematics and I realized that it was a Ted Nugent reference and he was posting it on Instagram for Alyson because she loves to pump him for info regarding The One Time he went to see Ted Nugent in THE NINTEEN EIGHTIES and allegedly knocked over some broad in a wheelchair like a hungry llama bum-rushing the Living Treasures zookeeper.

The only way to exit Living Treasures is through the gift shop. Well played&lt; LivTreas. Janna had to go to the bathroom of course and asked us where it was so I pointed at some random, clearly off-limits staircase and she was like, “OK thanks” and started to walk up them but then Chooch and I started laughing so she figured out that it was A TRAP. Then Henry played the Nice Guy card and showed her where the bathroom really was while Chooch threw a myriad of fits because we wouldn’t buy him all the stupid educational shit that he wanted. God! Go learn with your own money!

I think the girls behind the counter thought we were shoplifting because the three of us just kind of roamed around aimlessly while waiting for Janna and I don’t know how to “look casual.” I always accidentally look like I’m suffering through meth ticks, and I repetitively pull my phone out of my purse and then put it back, pull it out, put it back, TRY TO LOOK CASUAL, whistle, ACCIDENTAL EYE CONTACT WITH CASHIER, kick imaginary rocks, FURTIVE GLANCES ALL OVER THE FUCKING PLACE. I’m a shop owner’s nightmare.

“LET’S WAIT FOR HER OUTSIDE,” I thought I said in a normal voice but it sounded like it came out of a tin can, so who knows.

Much sad. Very pout.

Finally, Janna emerged from the gift shop, freshly ‘Tussed and carrying a cold bottle of water. Chooch flipped out because why was she able to buy water but we wouldn’t buy him water? IT’S  BECAUSE WE ARE TRYING TO KILL HIM SLOWLY! Henry calmly explained that it was because we were going to stop and get lunch and then as we walked across the parking lot, Chooch very seriously asked if we were almost home.

BOY, YOU DRUNK BOY. YOU DRUNK. BOY.

DRUNK.

 

Luckily for Chooch, we only drove a few miles down the road before stopping at Tall Cedars which I knew immediately was The One. I know it’s kind of out-of-character, since I was born choking on a silver spoon, but I love me some trashy roadside food-slingers. And this was just that. Bar on one side, “dining room” on the other, parking lot full of pick-up trucks.

“I am going to eat the FUCK out of a grilled cheese,” I said, fists pumped.

No one got the daily special (I know you’re shocked that I didn’t eat that shit up) but I couldn’t wait to ask about the deserts! Surprisingly, “potato/potatoes” is spelled correctly.

 

Chooch was still in a sour mood when we got there, especially because he wanted to sit by me but Henry and Janna were like, “Ew we don’t want to sit together” so Henry made Chooch move and he was like WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME BE MY OWN PERSON.

Yeah Henry. Stop making it all about you!

Oh my god, it took our food so long to get there and I think it’s because HENRY stopped our waitress as she was running herself ragged to and fro the kitchen so that he could add on an order of wings, and I’m not lying when I say that it really changed the tone. She went from calling us all hon and basically doting on us to thinking we were entitle CITY FOLK so thanks a lot Henry. Acting like he deserves wings because it’s Memorial Day or something.

Chooch’s Holy Burger.

Actually not pouting, just making faces.

Chooch’s hair was all greasy from the profuse sweating he had been doing all day, so it was super pliable. Every time he would rub his hands through it (which he does often since he is so stressed), he came out the other end looking like a different 1980s New Wave singer every time. It was fantastically entertaining. And we needed all the entertaining we could get since it was taking SO LONG for our basic grilled cheese and burgers to be served.

Janna was fighting with her roommate and that seemed to cheer up Chooch because he loves conflict.

And then I got blueberry pie, Janna got lemon meringue (because that’s what Chooch told her to get), and Chooch got red velvet cake. Henry got NOTHING because he had already treated himself for the month with his AUXILIARY WING ORDER. Hope it was worth it, Memorial Day Hank.

Then it was time to pay and Henry told Janna to just give him $4 for her part of the check, which he was going to use for the tip, but then she only gave him THREE DOLLARS because the ‘Tussin is rotting her brain, you guys.

On the way home, we drove past this junk yard which I remembered from the very first time Henry and I went to Living Treasures in 2004 (a/k/a That Time I Made People Match Up Poop With The Animal It Came From* on LiveJournal) and he voluntarily told me that he has a fear of FALLING FROM THE SKY ON TO METAL.

I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT, EVER. Now he barely ever offers up self-fact nuggets and I can’t imagine why.

Somewhere along the way, the cherry cider episode happened, too.

And that was our Memorial Day. It was OK. Better than being at work, I guess.

*(I was even more obnoxious back then, if you can believe it. The winner of that contest (my pal Kevin!) got a t-shirt with my face on it, you guys. I’m an asshole.)

May 232020
 

Henry and I have a pandemic tradition where we go for walks in cemeteries every weekend while listening to an audio book together, which I am sure I already mentioned but everything just melts together lately like a clock in a Dali painting so who can be sure what I divulge anymore.

Last weekend, we went to this one cemetery in Greenfield called Calvary Cemetery, which I hadn’t been to since Chooch was a baby, like a fresh-ass BABY baby, and I just remember pushing him in his stroller and he was screaming his face off and I was probably wading through post-partum depression waters, if we’re being frank here, and I was like OMG SHUT UP I HATE YOU UGHHHHH and then never went back to that cemetery. I told Henry this cute little anecdote last weekend and he just stared at me. But look at our well-adjusted 14-year-old! I did ok! We moved past it!

Prior to that, there was this other time we went there, pre-Chooch. I vaguely remember it being winter because I tried to sled down a hill without a sled, and I was totally manic but not in the fun way, and then we came home and I tried to create a recipe by swirling peanut butter into scrambled eggs, and I think I got sick so maybe that’s why I never went back to that cemetery in all of these years? Bad associations?

Well, this time it was so lovely (and I honestly recognized NO PARTS of it) that we went both Saturday and Sunday! Usually we go to different ones but I was like, “Nah dude, let’s go back to the same one.” Maybe it was because I was really vibing with the book we were listening to (Love From A to Z), but wow, I was in a great mood on both days, the weather was beautiful, there were other people around but not enough to be alarmed, and it was just a really peaceful place.

I’m so excited that Henry has been so agreeable about listening to audio books together. I let him check out my Libby shelf during the week so he can choose one to start for the upcoming weekend, and it’s pretty adorable. He didn’t pick “Love From A to Z” though – I did because it was about to expire and this definitely isn’t something he would have chosen because it’s YA romance but also fairly heavy-hitting with Islamophobic themes.

Anyway, the majority of this book takes place in Doha so then we started watching Doha travel videos and OMG when will we ever be able to travel again. Sorry, sometimes I just have to get my meaningless complaints out of my system and let my perspective regenerate.

I had to pause the audio book numerous times while we were casually strolling around the cemetery because I was getting so angry about the way the Muslim character was treated and I kept screaming at Henry, “DOESN’T THIS PISS YOU OFF??” and he just mumbled something that sounded curiously like, “I’m a white privileged male.”

Honestly though, I have really been looking forward to these weekends because they are the only times I get out of the house (aside from casual walks around the neighborhood during the week) and it’s fun pretending like Henry and I are in a book club together even though he doesn’t usually bring much to the table opinion-wise…

Chooch won’t come with us because he doesn’t want to listen to books with his lame parents, fair enough lol.

This was a good book, you guys. I thought it was going to be a fluffy YA romance but nope, there’s substance here! I’ll include it in the next bunch of books I review for Asian Readathon, don’t you worry!

I don’t think anything else ground-breaking happened last weekend, except that I remembered the name of this one Japanese horror movie that Henry and I watched back in…2005?? And for years, the only thing I could remember was that there was something with a cello player and also there was a scene where a little girl was forced to watch her parents have sex and I thought it was from a locked closet, so I googled, “asian horror cello parents make girl watch them have sex” or something and I found it! It was called Strange Circus which you would think would ring a bell in my brain but it doesn’t, and also, the girl was forced to watch the parents from inside a cello case, so there’s the cello connection! I’m so happy I finally remembered!

But also I’m very sad because I know for sure that we rented this back then from Incredibly Strange Video still existed and Henry and I used to walk there because it was like 10 minutes away and we were bros with the owner who would automatically recommend new horror he obtained to us and that is how I watched some of the best foreign horror and bizarre student horror films in the early 2000s and sure everything is at our fingertips now thanks to the internet and hundreds of streaming services, but nothing can beat that feeling of walking into a small independent video store and bullshitting with the long-haired man behind the counter, renting shit that sometimes didn’t even have a cover.

Goddammit, I miss that. :(

 

May 222020
 

This week’s list is here for you with no intro because who cares.

  1. Another quarantine work week in the books.

This week was fine but hectic. I had so many check-in calls this week (yesterday especially) that Chooch was like, “Honestly, how are you supposed to do your actual work?” and I was like, “One day when you’re the big boss of some nerdy tech company, remember that and be good to your minions.” I don’t know why I dislike these calls so much, I guess because I feel pressure to act like I’m all fine and dandy and not bursting out into tears over a commercial that I remembered from 1999. You know how it is. However, yesterday in my video call, I discovered that I could use my own pictures as backgrounds so I got to talk to one of my groups from Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul. That was fun. But then my cat Drew was like, “NOW THEY CANNOT SEE ME SKULKING AROUND IN THE BACKGROUND” so I went back to my typical background of “Cluttered House in Brookline.”

(Meanwhile, Chooch was just on a call with one of his classes and he goes, “I already know all of this. I’m leaving.” AND HE LEFT THE CALL! JUST LIKE THAT! He didn’t even say bye! Motion to be more like Chooch? Aye!)

We had one department-wide call as well and the director ended the call with something like, “I miss you guys and hope to see you again” which made me burst into tears. I mean, I don’t mind working from home, don’t get me wrong, and I for sure don’t miss the trolley, but I do miss things about the office, like saying hi to some people and rolling my eyes at others  (don’t worry, it’s to their faces, so it’s not a secret). I miss my jack o’ lantern of weird snacks. I miss Sue bringing in Fig Bars and personally delivering a blueberry one to me because she knows they’re my favorites. I miss all the cute stuff on my desk (OMG did I turn off my marquee?!!? Oh well, batteries are dead if not lol).  I miss my lunch break walks even though today it’s raining and kind of warm which means the stench of piss would be in full effect downtown. I miss walking over to my old side of the floor to tell Glenn and Todd dumb stories about my neighborhood (it’s not the same when I have to email them!).

2. Produce Attack

Ever since the whole situation with Slut Life started and Henry gave HNC my phone number so that we could corroborate the facts on how Slut Life almost ran me over,  I will get occasional texts from him, always neighborhood-related. Lately, they have been things like, “I have some baked goods from La Gourmandine, do you want them?” and like, yes, yes, I do. But since I said yes once, it opened the floodgates to a whole new game of grocery sharing. The next day, he texted: “I have some extra romaine lettuce and celery – do you want it?” and no, I don’t, because I hate celery and romaine lettuce is my least favorite salad leaf, but I didn’t have the heart to say no, so he brought it over and did a socially-distanced hand-off with Henry on the porch (wow, that sounds erotic yet sad).

But then he called me earlier this week and I missed the call so he left a voicemail that said to call him, which is the worst kind of voicemail ever because OMG did he find my blog?? So I called him back and he explained that pre-corona, he used to volunteer with the food bank and got to know some lady there, and now she was across the street in the church parking lot, handing out extra food to anyone who needed it and I didn’t want to say no, so I just thanked him and said I would try to make it over there, but hello, I was working. So I didn’t drop everything and run over there, you can understand, especially when we have food and I didn’t want to, you know, take food away from people who might really need it. So I didn’t go out there, but then Chooch, who was in the front yard making a sculpture out of nature for his sculpture class, came in and said, “Chris wants you to call him.” THE FUCK. So I called him and he was like, “Yeah if you’re going to go over there to get food, you better do it now because she’s getting ready to leave” and I was like, “Oh that’s OK, I’ll catch her another time, I’m good for now” so then he texted me a bit later and said that he got too much stuff for her and would I like some apples and two peppers and potatoes?

UGH.

Henry thinks this is wonderfully hilarious and that I deserve it after all the years I’ve hassled him with the fake HNC bromance.

So he brought he produce over and then an hour later said, “Hey I got this blueberry crumble cake but only wanted a pc*, do you guys want the rest?” and then sent me a picture of it.

AND THUMBPRINT COOKIES!

AND THEN SOME TYPE OF BUNS WITH PEPPER IN IT!

I mean, I do appreciate the baked goods, though. It’s the neighborly contact that I’m not down with. I hate when people call me! It makes me feel very attacked.

3. A TAEMIN MUKBANG*!

In case you don’t know, I have a fetish where I love to watch G-Dragon and Taemin eat. I will for real sit on my couch and watch video after video on YouTube of eating compilations. Drinking, too! The other day, Taemin gifted his fans with a video of him eating at a restaurant and it made me squeal like a little fucking middle school bitch, you guys. Ugh, his joy of eating is so contagious – how can you not sit here and smile like a lunatic while watching him shovel it in?! (Meanwhile, Henry can eat the smallest, softest morsel of food in my presence and I will shriek, “OMG YOU ARE SO LOUD! UGH, YOUR MOUTH-SOUNDS ARE DISGUSTING!! DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!!?”)

***In Korea, there is this phenomenon where people will post videos/livestreams of themselves eating tremendous amounts of food, usually with the microphone clipped to their collar so you can really hear the chewing. It’s call “mukbang” which literally means “eat room.” Some of these people make millions of dollars off it! My favorite mukbang channel is this small girl who just absolutely binges, it’s amazing.

I hate this picture so much.

4. BANANA SHIRT!

I bought this banana shirt. Some of the bananas have boobs. I’ll probably still wear this to work though, if we ever get to go back.

5. Row that fucking boat out of my head

For the past week, I have QUITE INEXPLICABLY had “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” stuck in my head. Sometimes I will let the “hallelujah” part slip out of my mouth and it’s very concerning.

The first time I heard this song was when we had to sing it in kindergarten. For a really long time, I thought the song was about my classmate Mike S.,  because he was the only Michael I knew at the time so clearly he was the only Michael in the whole world and for fuck’s sake, row that damn boat so we can stop singing this song, Mike!

My mind’s jukebox also has “It’s a Small World” and “Gloria” by Laura Branigan queued up to play at a moment’s notice, so be jealous you’re not in my head, guys.

****

Well, that’s all I feel like writing about on the spot. I’ll sign off now with a rare of my cats in the same spot:

 

 

May 202020
 

Remember a few years ago when I suddenly discovered that I loved plants and then before you knew it, my house was full of them and they all had names like Bambi Sickafoose, Suzy Banyon (props to you if you know where that reference) and Ted NUDEgent and my favorite past time was going to Goodwill in search of mugs and things that could be turned into plant vessels? And then we got Drew and Penelope and one by one all of my plants ended up on the floor, in a heap of dirt and ceramic shards? And then eventually I just gave up and stopped buying plants?

Well, I decided that I needed to obsess over something during Pandemic Times, aside from books and Korea and exercise, so I’m back in the plant game, I guess. Henry bought me some at Lowe’s over the weekend and then I sat on the porch steps, dictating to him which pots to plant each baby in.

Henry’s grandkids who live next door, Calvin and Lily, were standing at their window while this was going on so I had fun showing them each plant as it was potted, and they oohed and aaahed and then told me to show their cat, Ham, too, who looked way less enthused than they did.

Social distancing sucks, but at least we can talk to them through the window I guess? So they don’t forget us?

I don’t think I will name these ones because I get too sad when they die. I do still have some that survived my first plant-pregnancy (??) from 2015, if you can believe that, like the aforementioned Ted NUDEgent, a jade plant that actually grew so much that I had to split him up into three pots, that growing bastard.

Oh shit, if you click on that link up there, the cactus in the picture under Ted NUDEgent is also still alive! He lives in Chooch’s room, and he has split into four thingies and kind of is slumped over but I don’t want to touch him so I don’t know how to fix him??


I always have to have something to obsess over. I have a very obsessive personality. I AM OBSESSION.

I love these ones so much!! I have one that Henry and Chooch got me for Mother’s Day a few years ago that is still alive. SEE NEXT PICTURE.

These guys (Lithops) are so interesting because they look like they’re about to die but really they’re just splitting apart for a new growth to come out, so fucking sick. They’re pretty low maintenance too.

Hanging plants never do well for me but we’re giving it a go again because I like having hanging plants in my room, I promise to try hard to keep it alive.

Here you can see the OG Ted NUDEgent, second on the left, and his two…ribs (?) over on the right. Also, that first one is something called a goldfish plant which I have had for several years and I thought it was dying for a while but then all of a sudden (KAPCHUGGI) it was like, “SIKE, MOTHERFUCKER” and then changed colors. So that was cool. I got it from some cute nursery that had a wild selection of something called fairy plants and for a split second I was like, “Hey let’s go to—-oh, never mind” because I’m sure it’s not open and even if it is, I’m still not up to going to into stores and things of that nature because I really don’t have a pressing need to. Henry is the sole shopper in our household during quarantine, even though our area has been downgraded to level “yellow.” I will just continue to stay put until further notice.

(Even though Target has been calling my name for months. I miss you, baby. We’ll see each other again, eventually.)

Anyway, I used to be really into photographing my plants so maybe I will start doing that again too, because HOBBIES.

Editor’s Note: As I was getting ready to publish this, I was scrolling through the categories because I could have sworn I had one for “plants” but surprisingly I don’t. Although I just found out that I have one for POLENTA?! Literally at one time in my life, I assumed that I was going to write about polenta enough to actually need to make a category for it. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, PAST ERIN. 

Anyway, I have a “plant” category now. Phew. Now all of my plant posts can live together harmoniously.

****

Bonus plant reading:

Plantsapalooza

May 192020
 

On Sunday, I decided to finally pay attention to the Hipstamatic notifications I get and decided to go on a photo walk around Brookline in order to collect stamps for my stupid Hipstamatic “passport” thingie because it was a nice day, I needed steps, there was nothing else to do. I dragged Chooch out of the house with me.

“What are you doing?” he asked me in that grating teenage tone that I FUCKING HATE SO MUCH, I am trying to just be happy that he still talks to me at least but MOTHER OF GOD he gets under my skin sometimes. After I explained my mission to him, he shrugged and said, “I guess I’ll do it too then” and downloaded Hipstamatic so then what I had intended to be a nice, leisurely walk turned into COMPETITION TIME.

The two of us just can’t do anything together without someone needing to win. It’s annoying, since I can’t lose. 

Anyway, here are some photos from around town. Yes, we wore masks. 

Someone’s yard. 

Another someone’s yard. 

Chooch’s name, memorialized in a dirty sidewalk. He’s still so smug about this. 

Someone was hit by a car here. For a long time, there was a (full) bottle of chocolate milk sitting there with all the stuffed animals. 

The windows of Jo’s Salon still has Easter stuff in it. It’s been closed since mid-March when everything went on lockdown, but I guess they still decorated for Easter. How nice of them. 

Chooch got this shot first and then accused me of trying to be like him after I took one too. UGH. 

Every time I walk past this diner, their handwritten signs make me die a little inside. I want to make better ones for them in the worst way. (I love making signs. When I worked at the shitty meat place for 4 years, making signs for the display cases was the only thing I truly enjoyed doing. I mean, it was hard to find enjoyable things amidst all of the sexual harassment, racism, misogyny, and psychological warfare that was served up there all day, just like this diner’s breakfast.)

…waiting for it.

I’m still not sure what this place is but it’s much better than that horrid BABE CAVE glamour shots place that used to be there. 

Ah, the good ol’ Boulevard. I’ll be happy when things go back to normal (if they do?) and we can walk to Scoops for ice cream, which I will never take for granted again, like how Blake and Haley invited us to go with them on this one nice day in early March, before everything shut down, and I said NO because I was trying to watch what I was eating that weekend and figured I could “just go another time.” 

LE SIGH. 

I dunno, it seemed cool at the time and Chooch took a picture of the house next to it which was nicer but god forbid I should copy him again. 

I still haven’t watched this show. Should I? Will it upset me? Because I can’t watch animal stuff. 

This part of the boulevard sucks because every other storefront is vacant. But there is some sandwich shop that is supposedly going to open at some point, I hope they still do. I always peek in the window when I walk by and it looks cute. I hope they have grilled cheese. 

REFLECTIONS. 

It’s the Brookline Monument “Cannon,” you guys. 

I always liked this church door. 

This is on the window of some newish “club”/Mexican restaurant that opened last year but I noticed that there isn’t a NO KNIVES sign which I guess is how a stabbing was able to happen there a few months ago. (I don’t think anyone died.)

I had to take a picture of this because it’s on the window of one of the trashiest bars in the area and I guess I just figured if any anti-maskers wanted someplace welcoming and mask-free to loaf, it would be here. But wow, I was wrong! 

(This is also the place were the infamous “photo incident” happened with Christina and me, which I still love to talk about except that everyone says, “Yeah, you told me that one before” so maybe I should tell Henry’s grandkids, or create a new imaginary friend.)

You can see my vintage Cure t-shirt in the reflection!

This place has been here forever, and probably those same bottles too. 

This is a block away from my house and the guy who lives here IS SO SWEET AND GRANDFATHERLY and has what I think is a Polish accent and one time he asked for Chooch’s and my opinion when he was installing spotlights outside of his house. I like it when people ask me for my expert advice. It makes me feel like…a real life person. 

And this concludes: Photo Walk with Erin and Chooch. God only knows what other treasures I’ll pull out of my sleeves for you this week. Wow. 

May 182020
 

I feel like I take way more pictures of Drew than Penelope but that’s honestly just because Drew is more in-your-face than Penelope, who spends most of the day sleeping in her hidden nooks and secret hides-holes. But I guess because it’s warming up, she’s been out and about more and I have been trying to take as many snaps as possible so it doesn’t seem like I’M PLAYING CAT-FAVORITES.

So here is a mini-photo album of Penelope, little baby Peeeeeeeen-lop, over the past few days.

Sitting pretty!

Chooch is so fake-mean to her (he’s always like “Drew is the best” and makes vomit sounds when he sees Penelope and he calls her a rat but that’s really just to deflect the fact that he knows she’s prettier than his beloved Drew–we have weird competitions in this house) but she is always like LETS CUDDLE ANYWAY and spends a lot of time in his room watching him play Fortnite with his dumb friends.

Thinking about which plant she’s going to Hulk-smash first.

And here she is getting book recommendations from one of my favorite Booktubers, BooksandLala.

Ok, Penelope says thanks for looking! Now it’s time to pester Henry for dinner!

May 162020
 

We’re two weeks into #asianreadathon and I have read some really solid books! Instead of waiting until the end, I’m breaking this up into several posts because I have already read like 14 books and, well, you can only imagine what my end tally will be. So here are the books I injected into my brain through my eyeballs (and in some cases, ears) for the first half of the readathon!

  1. Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

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If you like courtroom thrillers, this one is for you. Out of all the books on this list so far, this is the one that fits into the category of a book I’d be most likely to pick up, regardless of a reading prompt. It’s a multi-POV look into a tragic accident that occurred at a hyperbaric chamber facility run by a Korean family in Virginia. The book goes back and forth between the present-day trial and the weeks/days leading up to the accident. It’s emotionally gripping and the whole time I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out WHO and WHY.

Each character is equally compelling, so I didn’t have that, “Ugh another chapter about THIS guy” feeling that I get sometimes with multiple-POV books. But I definitely had my favorites and there were times when I was stressed out because it was starting to look like maybe my favorites were to blame and I found myself shouting NO NO NO more than once.

I highly recommend this. It’s a winner.

2. Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa

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The faces I pulled while reading this must have been so ugly. I never read Fifty Shades, but I saw some reviews drawing that comparison so…yay. I didn’t LOVE this book, but I didn’t HATE it, and I think I want to read more from this author…just to see.

This is really short, I think it was less than 200 pages, but it really TAKES YOU THERE.

So far, all of the translated Japanese novels I have read in my life have had that same cold feeling to them. A quiet slow-burn. It’s all mundane then suddenly VERY DISGUSTING AND DEPRAVED.

And then the ending is like, what. And then you just kind of sit there silently, digesting, letting the words you read sink into your brain, heating your skin like the sweaty, filthy touch of an uncle.

Also, it made me think about how amazing it is that I never accidentally found myself stuck in some old man’s sex dungeon when I was a teenager.

3. The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali

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Before the library closed, I kept seeing this book being pimped out on the best sellers table in the front. I was drawn to the cover, of course, because would you just look at how beautiful it is?! But when I skimmed the synopsis, it just didn’t seem like something I’d be into. First of all, it’s historical fiction which I had myself convinced I didn’t like. It’s partially set in 1953 Tehran, during the Iranian Coup, which I knew nothing about, but when I was getting my TBR in order for the Asian readathon, I decided to take a chance on this because I wanted my selections to be as diverse as possible, and having Iranian representation on the list was definitely something I wanted.

Still, I expected it to be dry, too political, etc. But good lord, this book is, if I had to put it in abstract terms, like a fucking kaleidoscope of colors. The setting, the characters, the dialogue, the descriptions of the food – it was all so brilliant and sparkling and suddenly I was sending Henry links to recipes for Persian jeweled rice.

I UGLY-CRIED AT THE END OF THIS. I’m a sucker for a good love story I guess.

My Goodreads review was literally just “#brokenheartemoji” lol. I told you I’m basically a book-reviewing genius.

4. I Believe In a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

A book about a Korean American girl who uses K-Drama tropes to help her land a boyfriend? Yes, please.

This book actually started off differently than I expected – our main character actually doesn’t like K-dramas, but her dad does and is always telling her to move her big head out of the way while she’s doing homework and he’s trying to watch them. She makes the mistake of calling them his “soap operas” which makes him get all defensive about how they’re NOT soap operas and I felt myself getting physically defensive on his behalf because LITERALLY a week prior to reading this, I was on a call at work and some of my co-workers were talking about the shows they’re currently bingeing and one of my work friends said, “Erin wanted me to watch some soap opera last year but it was in a foreign language so I never did….sorry Erin” and I was like, “IT WAS NOT A SOAP OPERA IT WAS A K-DRAMA” and I remember EXACTLY which one it was: Are You Human Too?

So, her loss for not watching it because it is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen and I still think about it a lot.

However, this book is probably definitely not something I will ever think about again. It just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and yes I realize that this is YA and they’re in high school but I have 100% related to other YA books before, if the writing is good. And not that the writing was BAD, but it just kind of fell flat, for me at least. I did get excited when specific K-Dramas were referenced but there was one part in particular, when our lead chooses the boy over something else, that didn’t sit well with me.

Verdict? Skip this book and watch a K-Drama instead. If you want a good high school drama, I recommend The Heirs.

5. Skim – Mariko Tamaki

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I wanted to include a graphic novel on the list, and my favorite Booktuber, Kat from Paper Back Dreams, recently read Skim and gave it a great review. So I snagged it from Libby and finished it in one sitting before one of my late shifts. I’m not an avid graphic novel/manga reader so I don’t have much to compare this to, but I thought the illustrations were stunning and it was just a solid coming-of-age story. Would recommend.

6. This Time Will Be Different – Misa Siguira

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I liked this book way more than I anticipated. It seemed like it was going to be just another “unlucky in love” YA book but this tackled hypocrisy and racial themes stemming from the Japanese American internment during WWII and how grossly forgiving American history can be.

What I really loved was that this book was centrally-focused on the high school girl trying to win the guy, but actually fighting for something that matters. But yeah, there’s definitely romance in this book, lol. I liked this one better than I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which I hadn’t anticipated, but there you have it!

Also, that cover is gorge.

7. The Book of M – Peng Shepherd

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Ahhh! Henry and I “buddy-read” this together and by “buddy-read” I mean that it took us an entire week to listen to the audiobook which was v. frustrating since I’m on a schedule here. I mean, this book was over 500 pages long and it was kind of heavy, so I guess that should have been expected. It’s a dystopian thriller, about a pandemic-like phenomenon where people are mysteriously losing their shadows, and with their shadows go their memories, though not all at once.

It follows a variety of characters, and has a very strong The Walking Dead feel, in that a bunch of different groups are trying to get to the same place, and having to overcome obstacles (most being other Shadowed people who have taken to a “kill or be killed” survival tactic). It was slow-moving at first and I considered DNF’ing it after our first round of listening, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because some of the characters really grew on me and it was fascinating to watch this new world unfold as the shadowless began “re-remembering” things in different ways, creating odd new species of animals and flying death kites.

If this hasn’t already been picked up for a movie or TV series, I’d be shocked. Because this is such a winner and would translate SO WELL on screen, I think. Especially the battle scenes – I can never picture those in my head and would like to see how the author intended it to play out visually.

Several days later, Henry was reading someone’s synopsis of this book online and was so angry. He kept pointing at inaccuracies and yelling, “DID THEY EVEN READ IT?!” Henry really liked this book, clearly.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes The Walking Dead (Carrie, if you’re reading, this is the book I texted you about!), books about pandemics, and anything with dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscapes.

8. My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki 

My Year of Meats

Out of all the books I’ve read so far in May, this is my absolute favorite. I am obsessed with it. I added it on a whim, can’t remember where I saw it recommended, but I am so glad I added it to the list. From nearly the very beginning, I had a feeling that it was going to end up being a 5-star read and I was right.

This was published in 1998 I think and set in the early 90s. The premise is that there is a reality show being filmed in the US for the Japanese market about American wives and the meat-centric meals they cook for their families, so right away you’re like, “Erin, why did you like this book, you’re a vegetarian?” This book brilliantly weaves the SHITTY AND SHADY hand-holding between the US meat industry and pharmaceutical companies into an engaging narrative of a Japanese American woman, Jane, who aspires to be a legit documentarian while directing a reality show she feels morally conflicted about. It bounces back and forth between Jane and the wife of the Japanese man in charge of the show, who is dutifully cooking these American meals for him in spite of being constantly subjected to his abuse.

There are so many poignant stories being explored here and I fell in love with every single character (except for the abusive husband, he sucks obviously) and this was one the only books I’ve read ALL YEAR that I felt fully immersed in. And while I already knew a lot of the things explored here about the sickening US meat industry, it served as a great reminder that my last 24 meatless years have not been in vain.  I don’t think I will be able to stop thinking about it for a long time. It was funny, heart-warming, heart-BREAKING, and still relevant even in 2020. Please read this. It’s fantastic (and whoever the narrator of the audiobook was, she sounded like Jane Lynch and I was so into it).

[SIDE NOTE: Whoa, hold up. I Googled the narrator of the audiobook (Kate Fleming) and she apparently died in 2006 when a flashflood trapped her in her basement studio, and according to her Wiki page, at the hospital, her wife of 9 years—Charlene Strong—“was denied access to see Fleming until permission was granted by an out-of-state relative. The experience led Strong to advocate for legislation that was eventually passed as Washington’s Domestic Partnership Law.”]

9. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag

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Please read this. It’s just a little, unassuming novella, but SO GOOD and poignant, giving a quick insight at how money and class change the dynamics within a family in Bangalore. Henry and I buddy-read this together in one day and the ending made us look at each other like, “OMG what.”

As someone who grew up with everything and then suddenly became an adult with nothing, I’m always interested in reading about the trials and tribs of other families with $$$ drama. It’s amazing how much money (or lack of) can change people, especially family.

10. Braised Pork – An Yu

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I still don’t know how I feel about this book and feel like it deserves a re-read at some point. It’s very quiet, mysterious. Kind of a thriller? Sort of a mystery? There’s a bit of fabulism? A woman finds her husband dead in the bathtub, leaving behind a drawing of a fish with a man’s head. She becomes obsessed with this image and embarks on a journey to find out what it all means.

All I can say is it’s weird and then it ends. Read it or don’t read it. It’s your life.

11. Tiny Pretty Things – Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

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UGH this book, I don’t know why I was expecting something better. It’s just about how mean girls are to each other (and themselves) in some ballet academy in New York, except that I didn’t care about any of them, not even the “good” girl, and it just seemed like there was no point but I guess it was well-received by those who matter because it’s becoming a Netflix series. I hope the Korean representation is good in the series, because it’s kind of “meh” in this book.

12. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo

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Oh shit son, this book is where it’s at. It follows Kim Jiyoung, from when she’s a child, to an adult, and shows all the ways she’s been discriminated against for being a woman. It’s a quick read, and the ending is WOW JUST WOW. I can see why this book was a best-seller in Korea and I am so glad it’s recently been translated to English. I feel like every man should be required to read books like this.

I didn’t know this until now, but THIS HAS BEEN MADE INTO A MOVIE and one of my favorite Korean actors, Gong Yoo, plays the husband and I am so stoked for it!!

Please read this book. It includes real facts throughout the fictional narrative, which I loved. You know I love learning as much about Korea as possible!

13. Wicked Fox – Kat Cho

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Sadly, I followed that strong Korean pick with a super weak, disappointing YA supernatural romp. I really thought I would enjoy a book about a gumiho (9-tailed fox spirit) in Seoul, but it was sooooooo dumb. The only thing I liked was the quick shout-out to BIGBANG’s TOP, and the various mentions of Korean foods which made me super hungry and miss Korea so much. But yeah, this book was not that great and I was barely able to stay focused.

14. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – multiple authors/anthology

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

To round-out my first two weeks of Asian books, I read this anthology of popular Asian folklore retellings. I started it early into the readathon, but I only read one story a night because anthologies, as I’ve discovered, aren’t really for me. This one had a lot of duds but some really solid ones too, like the Korean one – “Land of the Morning Calm” by E.C.Myers based on the Chasa Bonpuli fable –  (I swear I wasn’t being biased, I just genuinely really liked it) and the last two in the book, one of which was a Japanese retelling of the kitsune legend (“Eyes Like Candlelight” – Julie Kagawa) and another was based on the Chinese legend The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl (“The Crimson Cloak” – Cindy Pon), made me cry like a baby.

***

Anyway, this has been the last two weeks of my life. Now I’m crying because I’m thinking about that Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 movie and I just can’t handle my emotions right now. Also, I want ice cream.

May 142020
 

In the spirit of vicarious traveling during this pandemic, I am here to retell the tale about the time I strong-armed Henry into making a detour on our southern road trip in 2015. Those were the days.

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Last winter, after we decided where this summer’s vacation was going to take us—-and Henry started bleeding money from all blue-collared orifices—-I excitedly consulted Roadside America to find all the ways to drag our trek back to Pittsburgh into a poorly-written modern remake of Homer’s Odyssey, only with less blood weddings, spiritual growth, and Latin declensions.

One of the “attractions” I read about was this mysterious-sounding African village in Sheldon, SC called Kingdom of Oyotunji. I sent Henry the link and received no response. Shocker. During the beginning half of our trip, I kept bringing it up, and Henry just kept saying things like, “We’re not going that way” and “It recently burned to the ground” and “Katy Perry is performing there all week.”

But I would not be deterred.

It turns out, when we left Savannah that Friday in July, the village was on our exact route to Charlotte, NC. Henry either must have had his guard down or was just that fatigued from fielding my lofty requests all week, because he actually turned off the highway when we arrived at the Sheldon exit! I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

“Is this place is even open?” he sighed. “It better fucking be open.” But I could tell that what he really meant was, “I hope it’s not open because I don’t want to go but I am still going to be mad if it’s not open because either way this is a waste of time and I hate you.” Over the years, we have learned to communicate through a series of huffy sighs, glares, and fists slamming against steering wheels.

Actually, their website said that they were open until 7:00 (it wasn’t quite 6 yet so we had time in our favor, at least), but they recommend that you email them if you want to stop by for a tour. I mean, I did that, but we were already about 20 minutes away so we were going to stop by regardless. Also, it seemed weird to me that this mysterious US-seceded African village in the Gulleh Geeche South Carolina low-country (I got that from their website because I’m a journalist now) even has the Internet and didn’t require me to send notice via carrier pigeon.

Just kidding. I’m not that culturally ignorant. But on that note, the Oyotunji community is something that I definitely know nothing about and I was genuinely interested in learning about how they live. (And also genuinely interested in making Henry feel uncomfortable, because he HATES taking tours of places.)
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Chooch was sleeping when we made it to the entrance of the kingdom, which required us to turn off the highway and continue on down a dirt road buffeted by forest. The whole time, Henry was murmuring, “I hate you. I fucking hate you. Fuck my life” through gritted teeth, while I cracked up next to him so hard that I was wheezing.

“It’s not fucking funny!” he said. BUT IT IS, HERNY.

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At the end of the path, we could see the gate to the compound, and Henry started to rejoice because it was closed.

“Yeah but keep going, maybe there’s a doorbell,” I urged, because we had come so far!

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Most of my pictures are blurry and out of focus because I guess I was just that excited about being there.

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Henry kept trying to tell me in a dozen different ways that this joint was closed, but too bad I noticed the “Blow Your Horn” sign next to the gate before he had a chance to gouge my eyes out with his strong and masculine Service thumbs.

“Blow the horn,” I demanded.

“No, I’m not blowing the fucking horn,” Henry hissed in response.

But if you ask Henry to do something enough times while consistently raising your voice until it’s a crackling screech, he eventually gives up and does the thing! So he reluctantly pressed down on the car horn and then we waited.

“No one’s coming,” he sighed, ready to throw the car into drive.

“Just wait!” I begged, holding my gaze hard against the big red doors.

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After about 30 seconds of nail-biting suspense, a man dressed in a white robe stepped out from behind a fence along the left-hand perimeter of the property.

“Oh great, Erin. Just great,” Henry huffed, lowering the window so the man could talk to us.

“Are you guys looking to do the tour?” he asked after we exchanged proper Southern salutations. (You know. “Hello”s were said.) Leaning across Henry, I emphatically nodded my head. You bet your white-robed ass I want a tour. I want to know all about the Oyotunji tribe! I was just getting ready to barrel-roll myself out of the car when he went on to explain that unfortunately, they’ve been mourning the death of their leader, in Africa, for the last three days and had closed the community off to the public for that.

“We open back up tomorrow though, if you’ll be in the area?”

Henry nodded and said something along the lines of, “Yeah, we might be.”

“I was actually just on my way out to take a shower when I heard you beep,” the man said, explaining that he’s not usually the one who gives the tours.

He then gave us a brief run-down of the community, told us how he’s originally from Florida but had shed his American citizenship 20+ years ago in favor of living a simple life in the woods of South Carolina. They’re a community of around 40 people, self-sustained, they home school their children, and basically live a life where no one has to give a shit about the things that Americans give a shit about that don’t even matter, like Donald Trump, the idiot Superbowl, and Miley Cyrus’s pasties.

I can only imagine how better behaved their kids are than Chooch.

This whole time, I was trying to maintain strong eye contact with him while chewing on the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing outright. Look, please understand that I don’t think anything about their community is funny, and I certainly don’t find humor in the fact that they were all in mourning, but it was the situation itself: the detour into the woods of Beaufort County, Henry’s reluctance, the Jonestown Massacre vibe of it all….it was all of these things, like sitting in church during the homily and feeling that itch to laugh out loud for no good reason, that had me writhing in giddy discomfort.

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Some other tourist-sucker pulled in behind us about 10 minutes into our on-the-fly history lesson from our new robed friend. He quickly wrapped it up and then excused himself to go talk to the other visitor.

“Are we really going to come back tomorrow?!” I screamed as we slowly drove back out to the highway.

“Wha—-? No!” he said, his big bushy brows all furrowed.

“But when that guy asked if we were going to be in the area—”

“Yeah well, I didn’t mean it.” And he used his End of Story tone, so I sulked for awhile.

Oyotunji, I’ll be back for you someday.

But then we pulled over at the Carolina Cider Company! We had been on a mission to procure boiled peanuts the whole time we were in the south and finally, it was our time. On our last day, no less.

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Chooch was still sleeping, how he managed to sleep through all of the Oyotunji excitement, I’ll never know. At first, Henry was like, “Just crack the window, he’ll be fine.” But then I was overcome with paranoia and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on….the overwhelming need to PARENT, maybe? Nah. I think I have it confused with the desire to not have Child Protective Services called on my ass.

What would the Oyotunji do, I thought hard to myself.  Aside from probably not giving a shit about boiled peanuts, I mean.

I went out to the car to wake up Chooch and proceeded to set off the car alarm. The proprietor of the cider establishment and the only two patrons there at that time stopped what they were doing in order to gawk at me from the open doors of the store.

“What are you doing!?” Henry yelled, marching over with the car keys to stop the alarm. SO SORRY THAT I WAS TRYING TO SAVE MY KID FROM ASPHYXIATION.

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So then I was able to save Chooch and he groggily followed me into the store while I excitedly told him about what he had missed, but I don’t think he believed me.

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Henry bought us stuff and boiled peanuts are weird as fuck, yet I couldn’t stop eating them.

Eventually, we made it to a shady Red Roof Inn, I mean shadier than the typical Red Roof Inn, in Charlotte. We had to pass Carowinds on the way, with its coasters all sexy and lit up against the night sky. I begged Henry to take us there but he was like, “IT’S NEARLY 10’O CLOCK AT NIGHT!” God, he always has an excuse.

Luckily, the Red Roof was only shady on the outside (i.e. the parking lot and the entire right section of the motel where I’m pretty sure people were living and since it was a Friday night, shit was popping off) and the inside was clean and recently remodeled. I realized that HENRY hadn’t fed us dinner, so he went to a vending machine and came back with snacks and a Snickers. THANKS, PA.

We live large on vacation.

***

Anyway, aside from some additional pictures from our travel day back to Pittsburgh, that pretty  much wraps up our whirlwind Southern road trip, which took me an entire month to recap. But holy shit, we did so much! I love these trips so much, and I know that they don’t really seem like “vacations” because we’re so go-go-go, but I couldn’t imagine sitting in one place for 7 days and “relaxing.” I honestly don’t know how to relax. I look forward to these trips so much because we get to see cool things, meet really awesome people, and make some pretty hilarious memories.

We hadn’t even crossed the Pennsylvania state line yet and I was already asking Henry where we’re going to go next. He just glared at me.

May 132020
 

In the 80s and 90s, my grandma went through a heavy QVC-phase where she would buy all of the shit, willy-nilly. Thighmasters, fancy pots, blenders, watches. She bought a lot of this shit IN HER SLEEP, my Pappap was convinced. She would sleepwalk, click on the TV, and get triggered by the BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE manic cat-calls while everyone else was sleeping. And then the packages would start trickling in and she’d be all did I do that?

We found so many boxes of cookbooks and other infomercial castoffs in the garage when we were cleaning out my Pappap’s house a few years ago.

She also had a penchant for buying those creepy porcelain collector dolls that were always advertised on those cardstock inserts in the middle of TV Guide and what was that elder health ‘zine called? Prevention? They were supposedly bought with the intention of me “inheriting” they but I was 100% not interested in some fragile Little Bo Peep living in my bedroom, thanks grandma, please keep her at your house and I’ll visit her. Maybe.

One of the things bipolar people are known to partake in during manic episodes is reckless spending. Somehow, I have managed to fight that “symptom” of my “condition” all these years. I’ll say to Henry, “Hey, at least I haven’t bankrupted us, right?” as I’m sitting in the middle of broken glass and debris after my latest episode, and he’s just like, “YEAH, AT LEAST.” But APPARENTLY it’s a pandemic that will sucker punch my willpower and have me reaching me for my (virtual) wallet because I have suddenly started to buy all of the things I see on Instagram, whether it’s an ad specially targeted to lure in suckers like me, or it’s brands/companies that I already follow.

Instagram is my fucking QVC, you guys.

I’ve bought coffee samples, fancy nut butter samples, “healthy” veggie bar samples, cute shirts from indie designers with snacks and cartoon bananas for when I ever return to work (then they arrived and I noticed the bananas have boobs lol), Korean masks for pandemic safety, all of the enamel pins, cheap rings from China (because I clearly didn’t learn my lesson with the dragon coat), ETC ETC ETC.

Usually, I’m kind of a tight wad and I will stop myself at the last minute before completing a transaction, but here I am, bored AF with nothing else going on except for waiting for the mail every day. All bets are off during quarantine! Now in between reading books and exercising, I’m opening the front door every 20 minutes to see if any packages have been delivered, but it’s usually just stupid shit that Henry orders from Amazon.

Sigh.

To my credit though, I do send a lot of the ads to Henry first, and then he will say either, “do what you want” or “DO THE CATS REALLY NEED A $200 FOOD DISH,” plus he can smell a scam a mile away. Probably because he actually reads the reviews. I don’t have time for that!!

Anyway, here are some things I have bought over the last few weeks, thanks to Instagram.

Not only is Sugar Spell Scoops the BEST ice cream shop in Pittsburgh (and it’s vegan!), but they also have the BEST MERCH! How amazing is this shirt? Come as you are, or come wearing the coolest ice cream shop t-shirt ever created.

I got a new iPhone in March, so I had to get new phone cases. I love that milk tea one because if you press on it, the boba floats!

Chooch is just as bad as me and sends Henry and me ads he sees on Instagram for vegan goods, like these pork rinds WHICH ARE FUCKING DELICIOUS. I think they’re made by the same guy who created the Impossible Burger? Or maybe it’s the Beyond Burger? I can’t remember now. But whoever made these, you did a good job.

I’m also on a bunting/garland kick so if you ever see any cool ones that scream “OH HONESTLY ERIN” please let me know. I actually bought a Robert Smith-head one (from Etsy though not Instagram) so look forward to seeing photos of that sometime soon when I move my Robert Smith self portrait to its new spot in the house in order to make room for the Seoul subway wall-hanging which might be finished sometime in 2021. Also – neon. Looking for some good Korean neon signs. I wanted to have one custom-made but that set Henry off. I guess he really does have some type of set threshold when it comes to my interior design whims.

Sorry if this is incoherent but I’m somehow half asleep yet also wired on coffee, and I really have no idea what “normal” and “functioning” feel like anymore. Do I want to go to bed or run some laps? WHO CAN TELL.

 

May 112020
 

Here I am with an obligatory Mother’s Day recap. It was an OK day! Henry and Chooch got me a beautiful life-size cut-out of Taemin, which arrived several days earlier and you would think that would have been enough for me but I’m just never satisfied (WHEN DOVES CRY, ETC ETC) and I always get a little (lol) dramatic on this day, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday but that’s fine. I fled to the cemetery where I spent some quiet time in the sunshine and even read a book (“Braised Pork” by An Yu) while sitting on the wall of a mausoleum like a true goth from the 90s.

It’s a struggle.

While I was there, these doofs sent me this picture:

…and then I was like, “OK FINE I WON’T RUN AWAY TO KOREA…THIS TIME.” But I’m not lying, it was all I could think about while I walked aimless laps around good ol’ Uniondale Cemetery which never has any living people in it until there is a pandemic and now I’m never alone there anymore which is wildly annoying.

We ordered vegan foodstuffs from Mandy’s Pizza later that day and we all ate in blissful harmony. You can’t even tell it’s vegan!

Then I learned about the existence of Alison Roman thanks to Twitter and I wish I could go back to the days when I didn’t know who she is because, yuck.

Sorry, I just can’t get enough of this pretty boy. However, he’s scared us multiple times since joining our household. I keep catching him in my periphery while I’m working and he gives me a little start every time!

Chooch drew this on the back of the card he made me, lol. But now I’m sad because I promise you, if things had played out differently, my ass would have for sure have been stuffed into multiple rollercoaster seats over the weekend.

I mean, at the very least, we probably would have walked to Scoops for an ice cream cone.

Maybe someday.

In other mom news, MY mom dyed her hair pastel blue which is pretty bad-ass.

OK, back to watching videos of some guy walking through various Seoul subway stations. I have very specific YouTube-viewing habits.

May 092020
 

Oh boy, it’s part three of my April book round-up, on May 9th!

16. The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window

Um. This book wasn’t that great but soooo many people are so stoked for it, and now there’s going to be a movie, and I’m sorry but IT IS SO CLICHE AND DONE-TO-DEATH. The twist was 100% not shocking to me at all, I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the climax was just dumb. I gave it a three though because the writing itself wasn’t too shitty but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. Maybe like, a teenager who is just getting into adult thrillers.

17. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

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Nothing to do with the book itself, but I had no idea that Celeste Ng is from Pittsburgh, so that made me feel extra-connected to this book even though it was set in Ohio. It mostly takes place in the 1970s—and that’s tied with the 80s as my favorite era for novels—with some throwbacks to the 50s and 60s.

This is about a family really going through it after one of the three kids disappears and turns up dead. Both parents and remaining two siblings process their grief in very different ways, while trying to understand what happened to the daughter. Was she murdered? Did she kill herself? Was it an accident?

I was really attached to this family and I cried lots. I’m probably the only person left who hasn’t read Celeste Ng’s latest book, Little Fires Everywhere, but I promise that will happen soon. THIS is a book I would recommend.

18. Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson 

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Another Pittsburgh connection! The main character of this book is from Pittsburgh and I think this is the book where there is a reference to one of the characters pounding on the 57 on a bottle of Heinz ketchup (if it wasn’t this book, then it was Daisy Jones and The Six, because there are characters from that book that are from Pittsburgh too!) and I literally laughed out loud because that’s such a “how you know you’re from Pittsburgh” thing.

I remember when I worked at that shitty meat place, my boss came back from a cruise and the story he was most excited to tell all of us was how he taught a bunch of people that ketchup technique at dinner one time.

Anyway, this book! It’s a YA mystery about a girl who gets accepted into this eccentric art school where a kidnapping and murder happened in the 30s. The girl is super into crime and mysteries which is the main reason why she wanted to go to this school, and while she’s there, ANOTHER MURDER HAPPENS, DUN DUN DUNNNN.

Look, I loved the atmosphere of this book and the characters. It was a page-turner for me and of course it ended on cliffhanger because it’s part of a trilogy so now I have to wait for Asian Read-a-thon to end so I can grab the second book.

19. City of Ghosts – Victoria Schwab

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I, um, started reading this accidentally because I confused Victoria Schwab with her alias VE Schwab, and apparently Victoria is the name she uses to write her middle grade books. So yeah I read a middle grade book about a girl who died for a second but was brought back to life by a ghost so now she can enter a veil to the OTHER SIDE and the dead boy that saved her is like her sidekick that only she can see and it has such an adorable Casper feel to it, but I just can’t justify reading the rest of the series because I might like young shit but this was just too young. I think I would have LOVED it when I was in 5th grade though!

20. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

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The only reason I picked this up was because I saw that Lin Manuel Miranda narrates the audiobook and wow, I’m really glad that I did. Set in the late 80s, it’s about two Mexican American high school boys who form an unlikely friendship. I was just bracing myself through the entire thing, waiting for the other shoe to fall, like surely there is going to be some devastating episode, and of course there was but no dogs died or anything at least.

My only issue with it was that it’s a coming of age/coming out novel set in 1988 and there is no mention of AIDs. Like, none.

21. Six Stories – Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories (Six Stories, #1)

I came so close to DNFing this because the writing is pretty rough, but I am so glad I kept going. It’s about a teenage boy who was murdered during a camping trip with friends in the late 90s and now, present day, there is a podcast that is dissecting the cold case, interviewing the friends, parents, suspects. Because each “episode” features a different person of interest, it can get quite repetitive but I still found it compelling and couldn’t wait to finish it.

I ended up really enjoying it, and I will admit that there were numerous times when I had actual chills while reading it.

22. Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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This book is soooo over-hyped, I’m sorry. I gave it 3 stars for the story, but the audio book bumps it up to a 4 because it’s a full cast with Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, and Judy Greer (the character she voiced was my favorite) and it really made it feel like I was watching VH1 Behind the Music. It’s written interview-style, present-day, with the members of the band and people in their orbit talking about the rise and fall of Daisy Jones and the Six, so you get to see various situations from multiple perspectives which made me laugh several times because they don’t know what the others have already said so there’d be things like:

Pete: I remember I was wearing this orange suit. I looked so good.

Karen: Pete was wearing this ugly orange outfit. He looked hideous.

But honestly this could have been any band in the 70s. Drugs, drama, egos, secret band affairs. There was an unexpected “twist” thrown in there which I didn’t see coming and I thought it was well-done. But Daisy Jones and the other main character were so unlikeable and I was certainly not rooting for either of them.

The whole thing had big Fleetwood Mac vibes. If you’re into fictional band stuff, you would probably like this but I would only recommend reading it in tandem with the audio book! The audio book is PHENOMENAL.

23. Slay – Brittney Morris 

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I don’t know what made me request this on Libby, some Booktuber’s recommendation, I guess. It really isn’t relevant to my interests at all because the plot centers around a game created by a high school senior but she goes through painstaking strides to keep her identity as the creator secret. As one of only three black students at her high school, she created this game as a safe haven for other black people, for a place where they can go and comfortably play without worrying about racism or discrimination. The game is really cool because it involves these battle cards, each of which are specific to black culture, history, sports, music, etc; for example, the Jordan card makes you outjump your opponent. One of the cards was about FUFU which is how this happened!

Meanwhile at school, our protagonist frequently finds herself in the middle of the race debates and it’s exhausting and she has to try and explain to her white friends that she is not the voice of all black people, so asking her, “Will it be offensive if I get dreadlocks?” really puts her in a tight spot.

I think the message conveyed in this book IS SO IMPORTANT and all white teens should be required to read it, honestly. I was very invested.

24. Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson

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I started reading this on a whim after watching a video spotlighting the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. I didn’t know anything about it to be honest, sometimes I just compulsively add books to my “want to read” on Goodreads, all willy-nilly, and every so often, I find a diamond in the rought. This was one of those diamonds.

It starts out with a girl’s 16th birthday, and from there, the book is told in vignettes, from the POV of various family members of the 16-year-old, exploring race, class, sex, teenage pregnancy, death. There’s a lot of power packed into this small novel, and I cried heavily. I can’t even really summarize it here without starting to get all choked up again.

If you’re looking for beautiful literary fiction, this is it. I’m obsessed.

25. Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel 

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Oh shit, this cult-like family thriller is just flat out nasty. I could feel my visage setting in “stank-face” mode numerous times as I made my way through this one, and all of the characters are just straight-up despicable, but hoo-boy I couldn’t put it down. I recommend if you love digging through dirty laundry.

26. Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake

This is one of the last actual library books I had left on my TBR shelf wheelchair. (Now I only have one left, but I keep putting it off because it will be last actual book to hold in my hands until the library reopens!!) I left this one for next-to-last because I wasn’t in the mood to cry and I knew going in that this would definitely trigger the tear ducts because I have seen it recommended in so many of my favorite Booktubers’ videos. It’s about these high school twins and the moral conflict that the sister twin goes through when her brother is accused of raping his girlfriend, who is also one of her best friends.

DANG. This book took me on an emotional ride, and it was not of the peaceful Sunday drive variety, either. Definitely a heavy-hitting YA that made me think of all kinds of uncomfortable hypotheticals.

I felt like it was almost perfect but there was something about the main character that made her unlikeable to me. Like, all of this shitty RAPE stuff was happening and she somehow kept making it about herself and I wanted to slap her.

***

OK, let’s bury the April books now. 26 was an insane amount of books to read and I promise once lockdown is lifted, I’ll probably be back to 10-books per month. I mean, as of this writing, I’ve read 77 books this year. 7-fucking-7. That’s ridiculous. Now I gotta get back to my #Asianreadathon, which is going swimmingly! One week in and I’ve already read one book that was so good, I had already known in my heart that I was going to give it 5 stars after the first 50 pages. May is going to be a good book month!

May 082020
 

Here are some things (FIVE to be exact) that I will be talking (TYPING) about today. Put your reading glasses on. (Speaking of, I need those now I think.) But first, random picture of Drew and a dead plant in a pumpkin planter.

  1. Geromino Jeff

The other night, I was laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, when OUT OF THE BLUE (or, in Korean, kapchuggi) I had this vivid flashback to the time my ex-boyfriend Jeff  told me this story about how when he was super little, maybe like 4 or something, he was in the backseat of his mom’s car, and somehow, as she was driving down the road, he managed TO FALL OUT OF THE CAR?! This was clearly the 80s when kids graduated from car seats at age 1 probably, so I’m sure he was just popping a squat in the back without the confines of a Graco straight jacket holding him inside a cushioned bucket, so I guess back then something like this happening was more plausible. If I remember the story correctly, his mom didn’t notice right away so he was just like, chilling on the side of the road, I guess. I think he said it wasn’t a major highway, and he didn’t get hurt, so I imagine it must have been a small, back road in their hometown (he grew up in a hick-ish town about an hour outside of Pittsburgh where you could essentially fall out of your mom’s backseat and not see another car pass you for quite some time while you’re crouching in a field of cattails next to a rotting possum carcass.

Now, me being me, I latched on to this story HARD and made him tell it to me over and over like it was my favorite page in the Fucking Bedtime Stories for Young Adults Who Should Still Probably Be Living with Their Parents book. That’s my sociopathic personality—Ruby—winning out against the other more reasonable, empathetic ones.

Sometime after this, Jeff and I went out to dinner with his mom and stepdad, and my dad. I was 19 years old and had much less of a filter than I do now, so without even thinking about it, I blurted out that Jeff had told me the story of how he barrel-rolled out of a moving car except that I start cracking up so bad that I could barely finish saying it and I was also crying & choking because my giddiness comes at me HARD. In my dumb head, I assumed that Jeff’s mom would join me in laughing at this hilarious memory, but she was HORRIFIED and said, “That was one of the worst moments of my entire life” and then the tone grew super somber except that I still wanted to continue laughing so now I was in physical pain trying to use all of my power and brain-drawer of sad memories to stifle it.

Later on, Jeff’s stepdad asked me how the job search was going which was great because I told Jeff earlier in the day to make sure no one said anything about that because I didn’t want my dad to know I quit my job because then he would figure out that my mom was paying my bills, so it was a great dinner.

Anyway, the whole point of this was that when I remembered it the other night, I started involuntarily cackling, like side-splittingly, to the point where Henry woke up and mumbled, “What” with a sludge of reservation in his tone because my laughter scares him lots. So I told him the story and he slurred, “Yeah, you told me that before” and fell back asleep WITHOUT EVEN A TINY CHUCKLE. Wow, Team Jeff’s Mom, I guess.

2. Zoinks

Wednesday night, Chooch and I went on a stealthy nighttime stroll around the neighborhood. There are less people out at night now which makes social distancing easier but it’s also sketchy because, you know, Brookline. So we stick to the sidewalk on the main road to be safe DON’T WORRY! On our way back, we were in the middle of a conversation (thankful I have a teenager who still talks to me but also sometimes he talks too much; I’m never satisfied) when a car full of young people drove by and screamed something in jibberish at us from their open windows. Look, I’m a highly sensitive person, so not only did I scream, nay—shriek, but my feet fucking left the ground. Like the force of my startled yelp boosted me into the air long enough for my fucking feet to pedal the air.

“Did you just actually SCREAM? Oh my god, you’re so embarrassing,” Chooch muttered.

“Why, did you know them!?” I cried, hand still clutching my pearls.

“No! But now what if you inspired them to turn around and do it again? Oh my god, I hate you. You’re like Shaggy from Scooby Doo!” and then he kept yelling ZOINKS at me and I was like STFU.

It was scary, OK?!

Not as embarrassing as the time Henry and I were walking and some kid yelled out of a moving car (without falling out of it, a la Jeff), “Your shoe’s untied!” and I was like, “OMG thank you so much!” and bent down to tie my shoe which was not in fact untied because it didn’t even have laces.

“You’re an idiot,” Henry muttered and left me there to figure it out on my own.

3. Fufu for MeMe

A few weeks ago, I read this book called Slay and in this book, there was the briefest mention of a Ghanaian comfort food called FUFU, which is a soft bread-like foodstuffs made from plantains and cassava, which is then used as a serving device for soups or stews, such as PEANUT STEW. I of course latched on to this, the greater message of the book flitting out of my brain like a spurned butterfly of social consciousness. I started sending Henry recipes for it, which then turned into him watching one YouTube video after another of Ghanaian women churning out fufu on their stovetops, until he was finally ready to commit to the cause.

And this is how, Sunday evening, our house was ALIVE with appetizing African aromas. Henry was unhappy with the consistency of his final fufu, but it tasted AMAZING. You just plop a fistful of it in a bowl and pour whatever soup or stew your heart desires (I mean, you have to make it first, don’t just expect your heart to conjure it up, unless you’ve got that kind of magic, and if that’s the case, do you need a roommate?) around the fufu hill. To be most traditional about it, you should pull pieces of fufu from the mound and press them down into tiny bowls in which to scoop up the soup.

The fufu was a fucking delight, but the stew was the real winner here. It was filled with sweet potatoes, tomatoes, some other things probably, with fresh peanut butter used in the stew-y part, and garnished with peanuts.

I mean, it doesn’t make for the most attractive meal, but WE EAT WITH OUR MOUTHS, NOT OUR EYES.

In one of the books I read earlier in the week, they had Persian jeweled rice so now I’m hounding him for that and he’s all, “ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER? I NEED ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER FOR THIS?” Lol. No one ever said being with me is easy.

4. Subway Update

Henry is slowly but surely making progress on my massive Seoul subway wall art. I think he now he has all the lights in place, but they haveto be adjusted so that they match the colors of the lines they’re representing, and he still needs to get a sheet of plexiglass to attach the actual subway map to, then he has to build a frame for it, and finally attach the sound box thingie that will enable it to play the actual subway jingles at a press of a button.

Pray for him.

    5. Nightmare Nun

Wednesday night, I had this awful dream where I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8, and I was speed-walking along a street in my old hometown, Old Clairton Rd, with a mom who wasn’t actually my IRL mom, and a man who was a plain-clothed priest. We were in a hurry yet trying to remain inconspicuous, because presumably someone was after us/me. I kept hearing this low, demonic grumbling all around me, coming from the trees and empty houses. We were headed toward my old middle school and then turned down a road that I used to drive on all of the time when I still lived out that way yet I can’t remember the name of it. There were people standing outside of their houses on this street and they were yelling things at us, but the priest kept shielding me from them and was shouting, “DON’T LISTEN TO THEM” over and over and this when I realized that something was wrong with me, and I was crying but they kept dragging me along with them, down this residential street which was never scary to me at all in real life because it’s like the quintessential suburban utopia, houses with actual flower boxes hanging outside of their windows and shutters painted thoughtfully to match the aesthetics of the rest of the house – you know these houses. WHERE FAMILIES ACTUALLY SIT DOWN AND EAT DINNER TOGETHER, probably. But whatever.

In real life, when you get to the bottom of this street, there’s an intersection with other residential streets, and then they all spill out onto one main road that take you past the police station. But in my dream, there was an empty parking lot at the end of the road, one that hadn’t been used in some time, so there were cracks in the pavement with weeds growing through them. I know this because I was walking with my eyes down. We all stopped here in this parking lot and I turned around to say something to my mom, but before I could finish, she started to scream and as she screamed her mouth grew wider and wider until the red-tinged silhouette of a nun came out of her mouth and FLEW INTO ME WHILE YELLING A BUNCH OF SCARY JIBBERISH and in real life, I woke up SCREAMING THE JIBBERISH THAT THE NUN WAS SAYING and my cat Drew woke up on my chest and looked at me over her shoulder like, “THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU” and as I waited for my heart rate to go down, I realized that the jibberish the nun was saying was the SAME JIBBERISH THOSE KIDS SCREAMED AT ME EARLIER THAT NIGHT FROM THEIR CAR.

****

Welp, that’s all for me. Gotta get ready for my loathsome Friday late shift. :(

May 062020
 

I thought that I could just split my April round-up in half, but then I realized that I read, um, 26 books so we’re slicing this into thirds. I know, 26 books seems like bookhead status but FULL DISCLAIMER: a lot of these were audio books because I have quickly realized that listening to audio books while working from my home is saving my sanity. Obviously, once I return to the office, my monthly book count will go back down to sane person levels because I don’t like listening to things / wearing earpods at the office, so I’m really living it up and trying to get in as much good reads as possible while under lockdown. It’s giving me life and distracting me from all the chaos happening outside, OK? WOULD YOU RATHER I DO DRUGS?! God.

Anyway, let’s get into this second part of my book round-up. As always, I’m sucky at synopses, so click on those handy-dandy links to find out more about any book that seems interesting to you!

9. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl – Mona Awad

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I picked this up because I read Mona Awad’s “Bunny” earlier this year and loved it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this – each chapter is a different vignette from the life of this overweight girl, from the time she’s in high school, until an adult, with several chapters swapping out the POV with various men in her life. As someone who started obsessing over their weight in 5th Grade, this book slapped me hard. I can’t tell you how many times I looked up from it and yelled, “OMG RELATABLE” at Henry, who was like, “WAIT WHAT BOOK IS THAT I THOUGHT YOU WERE READING SOMETHING ELSE” and I just laughed, like, “bitch please, I been done with that one.”

At some point in the main character’s life, she manages to lose a ton of weight, and it made me take a good long look at myself because it’s like, “Oh look, you’re so skinny now but you’re no happier because now you’re terrified of food and everything is measured and you’re still self-conscious and everything feels weird on your skin and OMG UGH WHY.”

There’s a chapter from her husband’s POV and it is heartbreaking to see what it looks like from his eyes, how he’s walking on egg shells around her when it comes to food and she’s still comparing herself with women who are “skinnier” than her, and it’s just like, “OK I get it I will try harder to chill out.”

This book is definitely not for everyone but it resonated HARD with me, the writing was top notch, and also the author name-dropped the goth band London After Midnight which I hadn’t thought about for years.

I’m obsessed with Mona Awad.

10. Shadow & Bone – Leigh Bardugo

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I kept hearing so much about this Russian-flavored fantasy series on Booktube and apparently there is a TV series coming out at some point, so I bit the bullet and got the first book from Libby.

You know, it was OK. I didn’t really get a good feel for the world that Leigh Barduga is building here, and I didn’t feel very connected to the characters, but now this one expat I follow on YouTube who lives in Seoul has just gotten into this series and she loves it, so I guess I will give the second book a go? I actually had it on my Libby shelf but I returned it because my entire May TBR is dedicated to #asianreadathon, and THEN I FOUND OUT LEIGH BARDUGO WAS BORN IN ISRAEL. So it would have counted for Asian readathon. Goddammit.

11. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

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People either love Rainbow Rowell or hate her. I think this was the first I’ve ever read of her though and you know? I really liked it. It was kind of slow at first but the characters were lovable and the story was SO CUTE. It reminded me of my old office job at MSA for some reason.

This would probably a good book to read on a plane or the beach WHICH IS MOOT RIGHT NOW.

I wasn’t very gung-ho about the end, it was wrapped up way too nicely and felt pretty implausible, but it still made me cry a little (the happy kind) because I’m very unbalanced right now.

12. China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan 

China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2)

Yeah, I’m sorry, but I fucking love this series. And also, remember in my last wrap-up when I wrote about reading the first one and I said that I know this is wrong to think but I kept picturing Nick as Siwon from the legendary Kpop group Super Junior even though HE’S KOREAN AND NOT CHINESE, in this book, there is a scene where a bunch of Chinese ladies see Nick and start fawning over him because they think he looks like Kim Soo-Hyun WHO IS A KOREAN ACTOR THANK YOU VERY MUCH, KEVIN KWAN.

But yeah, if you want a fun and outrageous read, this series is it. I still have to read the third one!!

13. Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Stiefvater

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This is the third installment of the Raven Boys cycle and I fucked up big time with this one. I was able to snag the audiobook for it and it’s narrated by Will Patton whom I never had a strong opinion about before until now: FUCK YOU WILL PATTON. YOU RUINED THIS BOOK FOR ME.

OK, he didn’t fully ruin it. I still loved it because Raven Boys, but his narration was fucking awful. He did all of the voices so wrong and some of the female voices he did were so grating and obnoxious that I kept having to turn the volume way down.

Quick summary: 4 teen boys, 1 teen girl, a raven, and a bunch of middle-aged psychic ladies on a mission to find a thing.

I have one more book to read in this series and I am still very much a Gansey-stan, don’t think anything can change that for me at this point, and I would like to mention that I listened to this during a Thursday late shift and we had takeout from Mandy’s Pizza which has an entire separate vegan menu and I ordered a ham & cheese hoagie with vegan mayo and HOOOO BOY I will always associate this fantastic hoagie with this book and it feels like the warm essence of childhood in my belly.

14. After Dark – Haruki Murakami

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This is the book that inspired me to write my Denny’s Memories post a few weeks ago.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. There really isn’t any big climax or anything, it’s just a very quiet book about several people and how their stories intertwine throughout the middle of the night in Tokyo. I really enjoyed it. It’s a good ‘rainy day with a cup of tea’ book. I dunno why I said that because I rarely drink tea at home, but there you have it.

15. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid

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YES. So many big fat yeses on this one. Holy shit, I loved this so much. To the point of obsession. Henry and I listened to the audiobook together (lol, we’re That Couple). I always see this in videos for horror novel recommendations but back when I was going to the real library, none of the branches had a copy of it. But now that I’m on that online library tip, I found the ebook AND audiobook on Scribd, and since it’s pretty short, I thought it would be a good one to save for a weekend so that Henry could listen to it because our new pandemic past time is listening to audio books together while walking in a cemetery.

And even in broad daylight, almost from the very get-go with this book, listening to it while strolling through a cemetery gave me THE CHILLS. Henry was like, “No” when I asked him if he felt the same but he claims that nothing ever scares him which is a lie because one time he told me that he was scared of falling out of the sky and landing in the middle of a pile of mangled metal in a junkyard which sounds specific.

OK, quick: this book is about a couple several months into their relationship, on their way to meet his parents for the first time, and she is having this inner monologue with herself the whole way there about how she’s, you know, thinking about ending things. There is a lot of dialogue and story-telling between the couple, which really made me root for them, in some odd way. Like, I wanted her to change her mind because he seemed OK.

I’m not some big audiobook advocate (I’ve said before that I prefer to also have a print copy so I can read along), but I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THE AUDIO BOOK for this one and you will see why but I can’t say because it’s a major spoiler.

We ended up finishing this later that night, sitting in the dark on the back porch and I WAS SO SPOOKED. Even Henry was like “That was good” and that is a big review for him!

There’s supposed to be a movie coming out for this, directed by Charlie Kaufman, and Toni Collette is in it, so this better actually fucking happen because I am this book’s number one fan.

************

OK, I’m ending this portion of the April round-up on that note, because what a solid read. Actually, a lot of the April books were solid. Stay tuned for part 3!

May 052020
 

I had a mental health day scheduled for today. The place where I work encourages that we use our PTO during these homogeneous, blended-together-into-a-flavorless-smoothie days and I’m normally of the mindset that I won’t take a day off unless I have something to do, but look Linda, give me a day where I don’t have to sit at my home computer and join group calls and I will gladly take it.

Henry came home early because of house bullshit, and then we took an hour drive out to this old-ass cemetery I used to really like called Livermore, because I figured we’d be pretty safe from other humans out that way. Anytime we have ever gone there, it’s been, well, DEAD OH HO HO HO HO. Plus, there’s a nice walking trail nearby that takes you over the spot where some town was purposely flooded and now it’s called Devil’s Seat, I don’t know, I’ve only ever quickly glazed over the facts but the whole area is supposed to be haunted and I fucking swear to god that the first time Henry and I went pre-Chooch’s Earthly Arrival, something grabbed my pant leg.

JUST SAYIN’.

Anyway, enjoy some pictures. It was a dreary day (I think it’s been that way every time we’ve come here) and we almost turned around and came home halfway there because I was being bitchy and whiny. A regular day.

YEP IT’S STILL CREEPY THERE.

Choochy Loggins.

This is just how he looks at me now. 14 is so great. 13 was too.

Right before I took this, I walked over and pretty sure Henry was trying to count the rings on the tree which is such a Henry thing to do.

Some kind of gross tombstone funk. Henry probably knows what it is but I purposely didn’t ask him because he’s so annoying when he knows answers.

My mom joked, “school field trip lol?” But yeah, actually let’s go with that! There’s like history here, plus Professor Henry pointing out wildlife. I think this counts. Maybe I’ll have Chooch research the town flooding and blog about it separately.

Coincidentally, I was checking my blog stats on the way there (I like to see what’s being viewed so I know if I’m being stalked by past friends searching their name on my blog, or if Jonny Craig is in the news again because the views on my JC-centric posts will skyrocket in that case, lol) and I saw that one of my old Livermore Cemetery posts was just viewed today! WHAT DOES IT MEAN.

Chooch chucked a pine cone at me really hard and it hit the back of my thigh and I started screaming and then Henry yelled at Chooch HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I WIN.

It didn’t even hurt that bad.

America: IT IS WEIRD WHEN ASIANS WEAR MASKS.

Also America: GUYS CHECK OUT MY ETSY FOR HARRY POTTER PANDEMIC MASKS!!!!

Fuck America.

This tombstone looks like the tooth (OMG RIGHT WHEN I TYPED ‘TOOTH’ THE BOOKTUBER ON A VIDEO I HAVE ON IN THE BACKGROUND SAID ‘TOOTH’ WHAT DOES IT MEAN) of a baby giant.

We did not keep out.

LOL.

A bunch of trees were cut down from the perimeter so it doesn’t have as much of a secluded feel anymore. Which is too bad.

Ah, springtime in the haunted boneyard.

All in all, it was a fine day. Chooch found a geocache but couldn’t open it and then apparently we “left him” so he threw it back on the ground and ran and it wasn’t because he was “scared” or anything. It *almost* felt like the Old Days because we were in the car for more than an hour like we were actually going somewhere. Which is what you used to do.

Go somewhere.

*cries*

May 042020
 

 

For this week’s thrilling installment of THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE, let us ooh and ahh at this tin collectible beverage mug that I insisted Janna buy for me at the Fayette County Fair in….2013? I’ll tell you in a minute when I do an archive deep-dive in order to copy&paste that old blog post here because if there is one thing QUARANTINE has taught me, it’s to recycle/reuse/regurge those old-ass blog posts because hello lazy me. 

Anyway, I wanted to share this here today because all these years later, I still smile when I see it! I never did it use it to chug additional servings of root beer from the comfort of my own home, but I have since repurposed it into a planter. JANNA I BET YOU DIDN’T THINK I WOULD KEEP THIS – actually, you’ve known me too long and my pack-rat sentimentalism is no mystery to you.

Because county fairs are possibly another thing that’ll be missing this summer, here is that the blog post that includes not only delirious fun on rickety death trap rides, but also the origin story for THE CHUCK WAGON SODA VESSEL. 

(And I was off by two years. This happened in 2011!)

******

Spending a birthday at the county fair seems like a great idea on paper: gut-churning rides, complimentary (if not downright sleazy) carnies, fried desserts (calorie counts are nil on birthdays, everyone knows that), the cacophony of laughing children and tractor pulls (forgetting for a moment that I hate children and anything with even the slightest redneck-tilt).

Yes, a perfect day!

But then you add in Henry, whose face threatens to crack a million different ways if even the slightest hint of a smile creeps upon his lips; Blake, who is apparently an 80-year-old retiree in an 18-year-old’s body, adverse to sunlight and complaining of back pain and lethargy all day; Chooch, who is a little motherfucking birthday killer-in-training who makes the day all about HIM HIM HIM; and Janna, who won’t ride anything aside from a carousel and a 20-second-long Haunted Mansion ride that Henry’s SAT score out-scares.

Not to mention the fact that these assholes weren’t constantly fawning over me and winning me plush Family Guy characters. IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY, NEED I REMIND YOU.

Blake and his new friends, planning their upcoming move to Florida.

Awkward Standing.

At first glance, I was like, “Aw shit, this fair might be pretty good.” I mean, it was run by Powers Great American Midway, after all, and I am obsessed with them. However, it was only about half the size of the Big Butler Fair, and I’ll tell you: That fair can spoil a bitch. Power’s light blue unit brought along some choice rides. (Is it sad that I know which “unit” PGAM deployed to the Fayette County fairgrounds? Maybe I look at their website too much.) And I saw lots of familiar carny faces, one of which was Kirk’s! I didn’t talk to him, though. What’s the point when my lame non-carny boyfriend was glued to my side all day?

But the layout of the fair sucked. And it was super muddy and smelled like sewage, but that was probably because Henry kept standing so close to me. Still: 100% better than the shitty Washington County Fair. (I go to county fairs a lot. It’s kind of become A Thing.)

You know you go to a lot of fairs when you start to recognize carnies, is all I’m sayin’.

Blake: Jeepers, it’s so hot! I think I’m dying! And I left my cane at the home and missed my 3:00pm dinner! I wonder if Dad has any individually-wrapped prunes in his pocket before I pass out.

Thank God Lisa and her husband Matt met us out there a few hours after we arrived. They joined us in standing around awkwardly, which is something that people need to master before even attempting to hang out with me. (I suggest going to a crowded store and standing right in front of a doorway or at the top of an escalator for practice. Do not move when you find that you are blocking foot traffic, and ignore the scowls you inspire. Only then can we hang out.)  Lisa was in a really good mood and I like to think it’s because she knows how delicate of a situation my birthday is, like the entire premise of Speed, with less bus more birthday cake, but actually Lisa is always pretty chill and somehow wasn’t completely put off by the foul moods of my companions who need to be reminded that SOME PEOPLE AREN’T LUCKY ENOUGH TO GET TO GO TO THE FAIR.

Fuck!

Within minutes, Chooch claimed Matt and I’m sure everyone at the fair assumed they were father and son after that. I’m sorry, Matt. But Henry and I were relieved to be off the hook for awhile.

***

A week before the fair, I was on the phone with Lisa.

“I hope the fair is a good one,” she said thoughtfully.

“Um, Lisa? Of course it will be. It’s run by Powers Great American Midways,” I informed her haughtily.

“I don’t know what that means.”

THAT’S BECAUSE SOMEONE DOESN’T READ MY BLOG.

***

Lisa and Matt agreed to ride the Orbiter with me immediately after they arrived. I was SO EXCITED. Finally! I get to ride something moderately extreme! But then we got in line and I saw it said “No single riders” and those asshole words are ALWAYS BEING SNEERED AT ME at fairs because I am perpetually single in this world of grinding traps of pleasure (amusement rides, not vagina dentata).  I looked at Janna who had accompanied us to the line and she said no before I even asked her. Way to tag along on something you’re not a part of, then Janna! So I had to run over to Henry and Blake, who had combined to form a Dildo-ic Duo while Chooch rode some stupid train operated by Kirk.

I hadn’t even approached them yet and I was already absolutely wailing about how Janna ruined my life and wouldn’t ride with me and Blake, while I was still approaching them mid-run, said no. Henry, however, said: “Fine.”

“What?” I asked in surprise.

“I said fine,” he sighed.

I guess he was trying to make up for the fact that he failed epically in the birthday present department once again. (Seriously, he got me a shirt that I already have, which proves that he doesn’t look at me. Ever.) This was the SECOND ride he rode on! (We rode on the Swings when we first got there. They made him sick.)

Oh, I was so happy! And the best part was that it took so long for the ride to get loaded to capacity, that Henry and I had plenty of time to talk about Jonny Craig!

Henry bitched about the Oribiter for the rest of his time at the fair. “I have cold sweats,” he kept complaining, though I’m not sure to whom because last time I checked, his mommy didn’t come with us and she’s the only person who gives a shit about him. He didn’t ride anything else after that, though I kept trying to con him into being my partner on the Skydiver, since it’s less commitment that being my partner for life. He kept saying, “We’ll see,” which everyone knows means NO.

After Chooch and Matt, Lisa, Janna and I had our turn at sliding down the Fun Slide, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid and good goddamn is that scary. Ascending the steps alone made me clutch my heart. I felt like there was going to be a religious cult waiting at the top to push me back down the steps into God’s eternal arms. It was like walking into the hospital on D-Day and wanting to run back out the doors but having 3 nurses pull you back in because “that baby’s gotta come out one way or another, sweetheart!” Longest climb of my life.

“I’m scared,” I told the Mexican carny who smiled, probably assuming I said, “Let’s go fuck behind that lemon cart you pushed across the border.” What? The Pennsylvania border, you guys.

Lisa thought it was the funnest thing at the fair, Janna had no comment, and I was just glad I didn’t slide through piss, shit, vomit, a chewed-up wad of Skoal or semen. And by “it,” I mean the Fun Slide, not Mexican carny sex. I know you were probably confused.

Things took a turn for the worse when I decided I was ready to eat something and made everyone halt and bow to my whims. I ended up getting a small bowl of haluski, which seemed like an OK choice as far as keeping my stomach lining primed and at the ready for vigorous riding.  (And yes, finally I’m talking about sex!)  Besides, it was either that or throw away 16 years of vegetarianism for some unidentifiable meat on a stick. There was some lame square dance bullshit happening inside the 4H building, so we all sat around and pretended to care about that while I ate. (Lisa really did care, though. She likes the simpler things in life.) This was about the time Chooch turned into the biggest prick of all the fair, and Blake did nothing but antagonize him which only increased Chooch’s crowd-drawing by 500%.

I attempted to not look like I belonged to the two of them by focusing my attention on the asshole inside the 4H building who was singing the most ridiculous square dance songs for these idiotic plaid-tastic children to clomp around to. I almost wished he had CDs for sale so I could buy one and break it in front of his face. God, get fucked with your pathetic farm melodies, douchebag square dance warbler.

In the middle of the Chooch & Blake: American Assholes show, there was an older lady sitting nearby (the blond Peg Bundy in the background of the above picture) who said about Chooch, “Boy he sure is cute” but what she meant to say was, “Damn, child. Your mama needs to put you in a cage because you are acting like one hell of a mother fucker.” And then to me, she said, “We just ate some fried Oreos for dessert. Boy they sure were good!” and what she meant by that was, “Bitch, why don’t you go to the other side of the fairgrounds, far away from me, and choke your bastard child on some fried Oreos, because he is being one hell of a mother fucker.”

Chooch flipped over a chair in response while I pretended that Janna was his mom.

The square dance brigade had some young child canvassing the area with literature. He approached me with his stack of white and green papers and said, “Would you like one, they’re free?”

“I want a green one,” I said with just the right drop of bitchy entitlement. He looked slightly stunned, like no one had ever bothered to make a color request before. While he shuffled through the stack in search of a green one, I said smugly, “It’s my birthday.”

Lisa and Janna were watching this pan out. Lisa looked mildly amused and Janna looked like she was bracing herself for the ‘splaining she was going to have to do to the kid’s mom by the time I was done antagonizing him. This is just how I talk to children: in a very demeaning, ironic way. They seem to like it.

Meanwhile, the guy who was inside singing the square dance “songs” promised “this next one” would “speed up.”

“You should join our square dance group!” He sounded nervous, slightly intimidated by me. Just how I like boys to be.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, as I folded up the paper. (The age limit is 20, by the way. THAT KID RULES FOR THINKING I’M NOT OLDER THAN 20.)

“This next one” still hadn’t “sped up.”

“Dylan!” a lady called from inside the 4H house. “Come dance to this last song!” Sure, maybe there was some plaid lass inside who missed being partnered-up with Dylan, but I have suspicions that this lady just didn’t want him near me anymore.

“Yeah!” I yelled in my best “I’m riding the Wacky Worm, motherfuckers!” impression and when he looked at me all startled-like, I gave him a thumbs-up and said, “Do it! Wooo!

Lisa hadn’t heard the lady call for him in the first place, and admitted later that she thought I was just spontaneously excited, though she was confused why I was telling some young boy to “do it.”

Then I called Dylan my “new son” and Chooch got all upset. I win at parenting.

I have no recollection of Henry being anywhere near us that whole time.

Oh apparently he was off supporting his cocaine habit.

I told Dylan I was going to watch him, but that was actually the time we rose up as a group and went to the petting zoo. Fucking with children is the one true talent your God gave me.

Here is all I remember about the petting zoo: I relayed my birthday woes to a camel and then Chooch fell in a pig sty and Henry had to take him and Blake home.

Coincidentally, my night really picked up after that! Janna bought me root beer in a tin mug from an old broad who tried too hard to sway our decisions and Lisa and I rode the Gravitron with the cast of Jersey Shore. It was fabulous!

Lisa encourages me to take pictures of every little thing she does. She’s like Chooch, but grown.

The only downside to the Fair: After Hours (read: After the Douches Left) was that neither Lisa nor Matt would ride the Zipper with me. I was only able to ride it once, earlier in the day before Blake’s desire to drink a glass of Metamucil and take a nap got the best of him. We talked a little bit about music while trapped inside the Zipper’s jaws, but I could tell he wasn’t having too much fun.

Everyone is growing up but me.

Janna, Lisa and I rode this moderate thrill ride called the Tornado, which is pretty tame but Janna was still clutching her rosary and trying not to re-eat her haluski while Lisa manually spun our car around on top of giving Janna dating advice. My favorite part was when the ride ended and Lisa’s safety bar didn’t release. She pulled it toward her, hoping it would spring back, but it only made it tighter. I fetched the carny and then ran away to stand outside of the ride’s gate by Matt, who had been relegated to little more than a Purse Tree at that point.

The carny gave Lisa a hard time for awhile before manually releasing the bar for her. As she and Janna approached Matt and me, Lisa yelled, “And I love how Erin just ran away!”

Behind her, looking a gorgeous shade of gangrene from her jaunt on the Tornado, Janna irritably mumbled, “Yeah. She does that.” Possibly Janna’s way of suggesting that Lisa spends more time with me.

Janna bought* me a birthday ice cream cone from a girl who had been punched in the eye. Lisa opted for more scatastically phallic fare. Then we said goodbye to the fair and immediately upon leaving the parking lot, Janna’s GPS lured us out onto un-lit backwoods lanes and I’m not going to lie: It was scarier than riding the Zipper in a lightning storm with the cage unlatched. This was after Janna got raped by a bug.

(* This mostly happened because when Henry left the fair, so did my money.)

Happy fucking birthday to me, to me, to me.