Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hypothermia For History

One of the main reasons I live in La Quinta is that I really don't like to be cold. My sense has always been that it's easier to cool down than it is to warm up, which is why I don't really mind when it's 120 here in the dead of August, because my house is kept at a cool 72 degrees, I'm not outside cutting crops, and my cars all have really good air conditioning. That's not to say it doesn't cool down here in the desert -- for about 31days (called December) the evening tends to dip into the low 40s and 30s -- but the idea of negative degrees is just, well, fucked up. The fact is, prior to last January, I'd never been in negative temperatures, but then I went to Bennington for ten days and learned that -17 is, in fact, quite cold. Fortunately it was only -17 one day last year, whereas this year it was in negative degrees in Bennington almost every day we were there.

Which is to say, it was absurdly fucking cold. The upside was that while it was absurdly fucking cold, it wasn't as if I was spending much time outside. While at Bennington, my outside time was spent thusly:

1. Walking to class.

2. Walking to meals.

3. Walking to alcohol.

So, essentially, about fifteen minutes a shot. I thought therefore that I would be prepared to spend 12 hours outside with temps hovering around 10 degrees in order to watch Barack Obama inaugurated into office last week. And, as it happens, I wasn't prepared. I froze my nuts off. Literally. I no longer have nuts. I look like a Ken doll. I am officially a Smoothie. That being said, it was absolutely worth it.

Wendy and I drove to DC from Vermont with our friends Rider and Alex and stayed with our friend Todd in his very cool loft in Adams Morgan. On Monday night we were supposed to go to the MoveOn party, but while waiting outside to get in, Wendy had the following conversation with me:

Wendy: I'm fucking freezing. It will be two hours before we get into this party.

Me: Yeah, but Moby and De La Soul are playing.

Wendy: Do you like Moby and De La Soul?

Me: Well, you know, I don't dislike them.

Wendy: It's fucking freezing. We're waiting outside surrounded by fucking morons [We were surrounded by fucking morons, it's true. There was a group of people behind us talking about their office politics as if it were equal to the Who Shot JR? episode of Dallas]. For what?

Me: You know. Music. Drinking. It'll be fun.

Wendy: We can have music and alcohol anywhere. I'm freezing.

Me: It's all about the hope, Wendy.

Wendy: I'm freezing.

Me: It's all going to be better when Obama is in office.




Me: So we should wait a little longer. See if the line moves. For Obama.

Wendy: You're an idiot and I'm getting a cab.  

So, we ended up going back to Adams Morgan while Rider and Alex partied the night away with Moby and De La Soul. We woke up on inauguration day at 6am andObama12 began walking towards the mall 30 minutes later. 18th street was filled with people walking towards the inauguration so the four of us essentially followed the crowd, winding through the streets surrounding the mall as the sun rose. The closer we got to the mall, the more vendors there were selling trinkets and clothes and hand warmers (which we should have purchased ahead of time) and just about anything you can imagine baring Obama's face, including fragrances. It was a little bit like a combination of Coachella, Burning Man, Lollapalooza and a protest march, except that no one was protesting anything. The vibe was incredibly positive, which was good since we kept getting rerouted down different streets. There were thousands and thousands of people on the street as we crossed into the mall just behind the monument. There were already a good million people in front of the monument up in front of the capitol and we decided to try to get somewhere in the middle between the monument and the capitol. As we walked, there was plenty of people running up and hugging each other, everyone slapped hands with the numerous military personnel and police (which was uniformly one of the coolest things I've ever seen) and spontaneous cheers kept erupting. There was a group of people from Atlanta wearing red hats who kept hugging everyone.

We ended up positioning ourselves right in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History; or, well, just across from it as we stood on the mall. At first, we sat on the dirt because between the four of us no one was smart enough to think about bringing a blanket to sit on. We eventually bought three 26 dollar blankets from the Smithsonian schwag tent which, at first, we sat on but then, as it got progressively more fucking freezing, we wrapped around ourselves.

We spent the next several hours on the mall watching highlights from the previous day's concerts, talking to people, standing in line for food, investigating the port-a-potty situation (bleak) and shivering.

Obama20 By the time the festivities began, I felt a little bit like a prisoner of war. I was there. I wasn't leaving. I knew I had a purpose, but fuck if I just didn't want to die. It was that cold. I couldn't feel my feet. I couldn't feel my nose. My ears felt like blocks of wood. I'd forgotten my scarf, so I was wearing Wendy's pink scarf, so, in addition to being cold, I felt like a looked slightly unfashionable as well. But then the sun came out and everything warmed up. To, like, 22 degrees, which comparatively felt like 90. A couple interesting things:

1. There was an intense amount of booing for Bush. The day before, we'd seen a huge blow up effigy of Bush on Dupont Circle andwatched while people threw shoes at it, so this was no surprise. But Cheney in a wheelchair was. He looked like a Bond-villain. It was truly frightening. People cheered that.

2. When Obama was speaking, it was stone silent on the mall. 2 million people and no one was speaking.

3. An impromptu "Na-Na-Na-Hey-Hey-Hey-Goodbye" chant to Bush turned into a chant of "Obama!"

4. Best meal I've ever had in my entire life was the hot dog and hot cocoa we ate around 11am.

5. Everyone was being incredibly patient.

I'd like to say that I didn't get teary eyed and remained a stoic man of letters, but, well, I cried like a baby during the speech. Everyone was crying. Old women. Young men. Black. White. Asian. It didn't matter. I'm not even sure what I was crying about, but sure enough there were tears.

After the inauguration, we tried to make our way back across Pennsylvania and towards home, but it was truly a clusterfuck trying to get out of the mall. We roamed about Day of the Dead style for hours along with about a million other people, before we finally realized we could go up to the capitol and sit right under the inauguration platform, which we did for quite a while. Then we realized we were right at the start of the parade route, so we headed down to the corner and waited for the President. About 20 minutes later, he came rolling down the street in his pimped out limo replete with scary looking secret service types. Wendy swears Obama waved right at her, whereas I'm pretty sure Michelle made eyes at me. For sure Joe Biden's hot ass wife looked my way.

After the parade went past us, we snuck across the street and made our way towards Chinatown for dinner. It was 6pm by the time we finally sat down to eat. We were exhausted, cold, excited and couldn't stop talking. We finally made it back to Adams Morgan around 8. I fell asleep on the floor. Rider fell asleep on the couch. Alex fell asleep on the air bed. Wendy fell asleep in the shower.

It was, of course, a remarkable experience. I'd give you all of the emotional details, but suffice it to say that we went to DC because we wanted to see Obama inaugurated and because we wanted to be a part of history, but in the end it was more about being there together with our friends and with each other for that one frozen moment when we realized we were part of something much larger than ourselves; a feeling that does not happen very often. It was wonderful, it was dreadful, it was a day I hope I'll remember forever.

take a look at this from top to bottom

A friend pointed this site out to me the other day, with the comment that I "shoulda done this." I get respectable number of emails every day hyping and promoting some band or another. Some are slick PR pieces, complete with attached digital presskits, whipped up by professional promoters. Others are sent directly from the bands themselves. Even though most of the material really isn't to my tastes or not easily contextualized as an annotation to an old Captain Marvel story, it's flattering to be noticed...though given recent events, maybe willful obscurity is a wiser course of action.

In any case, I've never been able to bring myself to publicly pillory any of these desperate contenders for my listening attention, no matter how lousy the music or how overblown the hype. (Well, except for that one time where I redacted the names of the parties involved.) As I said then, and many times before, I am not an arbiter of public taste. Do you really need me to tell you that jam bands are antithesis of all that is good and decent?

This is all ground I've covered before, except for one enigma which I finally believe I have resolved. An astonishing number of the acts represented in the promotional emails hew very close to the AOR template established by the Dave Matthews Band/Maroon 5/circa 1996 Goo Goo Dolls. I find that style of music to be aggressively bland and unlistenable in the extreme, but that's beside the point. What baffled me was that someone would be actively and unironically pimping the spiritual heirs of Phil Collins and Michael McDonald to the hipster-heavy music blogging scene. Or that anyone would earnestly hitch their wagons to that particular tired genre star in the year 2008 in the first place.

It eventually dawned on me that what I was seeing were working bands, ambitious lads and lasses with residencies at the local college bar or crab shack, seeking to crack into the big time. It's an understandable dream, but while their inoffensive sound might go well with a plate of softshells, a bottle of microbrew, and some inane conversation, it doesn't carry well to the world outside the realm of soft rock radio.

It's like choosing practical over theoretical study -- the former will likely net you steady work, but the latter offers the better chance of making a massive breakthough and universal acclaim. There is no shame in choosing either path, but transitioning between the two can be difficult. Easier, I think, to just accept the situation and carve a profitable niche in Mix 98.5's AOR ghetto*. Today's hipster darlings are tomorrow's forgotten heroes, but Michael Bolton's stream of royalties is eternal.

If folks do intend to keep sending me info about new artists, however, here's a prime example of what I am interested in listening to...

Statues - Living in Lines (from New People Make Us Nervous, 2008; also available on eMusic) - Top-notch Canadian punk/power pop pointed out to me by a reader (to which I will forever be grateful). The rest of the album is in the same fist-pumping, boot-tapping vein and fills my bitter heart with hope for the future of hooky, well-crafted power pop.

If you go the eMusic route in picking this one up, swing by and nab the Tranzmitors' eponymous 2007 album for more killer punk pop from the Great White North...or if you're low on downloads for this month, just pick up "Alma Blackwell." You won't be sorry.

*I will always remember Mix 98.5, one of the Boston market's many lite rock stations, for the TV ad they ran featuring Janine Turner a few years back. In the spot, the GOP shill-slash-actress let potential listeners know that the station playlist did not contain "lyrics that will embarrass you in front of your kids." Y'know, the same kids who are grooving to "Do Me in Da Butt," by Ephebe Jailbait. Come to think of it, the ad might have been for Magic 106, after all...

New Nonfiction - November 28

460 iris folded cards to make : the complete iris folding compendium

By: Maruscha Gaasenbeek & Tine Beauveser

Baked : new frontiers in baking

By: by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Bobbi Brown makeup manual : for everyone from beginner to pro

By: By Bobbi Brown

Decorated boxes

By: Mary Lynn Maloney

Game boys : professional videogaming's rise from the basement to the

By: Michael Kane

Hitman : forty years making music, topping charts, & winning Grammys

By: by David Foster

It Girl knits : 30 fresh styles for the young and fabulous

By: Phoenix Bess

Knits for men : 20 sweaters, vests, and accessories

By: Margaret Hubert

Panic : the story of modern financial insanity

By: [edited by] Michael Lewis

Sarah Palin : a new kind of leader

By: Joseph Hilley

The band name book

By: Noel Hudson

The numerati

By: Stephen Baker

Too fat to fish

By: by Artie Lange, with Anthony Bozza

Oh, oh, it's Magic, you know!

I bet you think I made some kind of saucy chicken and vegetable stuffy over a lovely mound of steamed white rice. Well, the sauce was from a jar. Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Curry Sauce, to be exact. Sure, I simmered in it some onions, red & yellow bell pepper, and chicken, but that's hardly a recipe to take credit for. So then what is this post all about?
Well, let's get back to that rice. Sometimes, thinks are just not what they seem, and I think this may be my first blogging optical illusion (well, except for when my brother asked if he was supposed to eat the wrapper on his cupcake truffle pop). If you really know me, you might have down a double take at the thought of me eating a big plate of rice on a weeknight! Well of course it's not rice, folks! It wouldn't be, in this newly-modified-low-carb-household (note, we still eat all our veggies and fruits!).

So I suppose some of you might be just dying to know what the heck you're looking at. If you haven't guessed by now, it's cauliflower! Yes, seriously, it is. We love the mashed cauliflower thing (which I really prefer not to call a substitute for mashed potatoes, because I really just like cauliflower for being it's lovely self). So when I came across the idea to grate and steam cauliflower, I thought it would be perfect underneath my sauce stir fry which otherwise would have gone naked. Sad. But, cauliflower to the rescue!

To prepare cauliflower as a stand-in for rice, simply wash and chop into florets, and then grate it in a food processor using the shredding attachment. Then, simply steam in the microwave in a covered, microwave-safe dish with a bit of water and salt. A head of cauliflower should take about 8 minutes on high, but check to make sure you've achieved the desired texture. At this point you can serve the cauliflower the same way you would serve steamed rice - I think it would go quite nicely under anything saucy, or any stir fry. Or, you could prepare a "fried rice"-style dish, just subbing the cauliflower where you would add the rice to the veggies and meat.
We really enjoyed this - yes, even my husband. I suppose I'm rather lucky to have a man who is open to trying new things and appreciates healthier substitutions just like I do. Honestly, the texture of this works perfectly. I'd of course be lying if I said it tasted exactly like rice - it doesn't, it tastes like cauliflower. But considering cauliflower is fairly mild, this would go with just about anything that rice would.

After I made this dish and checked out my pictures, I thought, "wow, it's almost like magic how much like rice that looks!" and then I start humming... "oh oh oh it's magic, you know..." and then I thought, "Does Elly have an Eat to the Beat coming up?" Oh, you bet she does. Perfect! So in honor of making magic in the kitchen and Magic by the band Pilot, I am submitting this creation (not quite a recipe, just an idea!) to Elly's blogging event for music-inspired food.