Sunday, August 28, 2005

Big Fat Mormon Wedding

I flew home for two days to attend my youngest sister's wedding. As soon as I touched down in LAX, saw the swirling chaos of the airport, stood forever on the curb waiting for my ride while listening to that harsh, unending chorus of car horns, and then spent the next hour stuck in traffic, relaying hasty messages via cell phone for my mother -- I felt nothing but dread for the upcoming weekend. That Death Cab song kept flowing through my head. The one about Los Angeles:

"...I can't see why you'd want to live here."

I spent 18 years living there. Life in Utah feels so unrushed, so underwhelming in comparison. But looking at the palm trees lining the road near my house, I couldn't help but want to stay right where I was. Something about those palm trees made me want to move back home.

The wedding itself took place in a temple, as is the practice among devout Mormons. My sister went with the temple in San Diego, one of my favorites. It looks like it's cut from the horizon. The architecture has been described as "spaceship gothic." Sounds right to me.

Got sunburned afterwards as I snapped photo after photo following the sealing ceremony. We had a wedding photographer but I couldn't help myself. It was all too picturesque.

Then of course the reception, which was every bit as elaborate as for my oldest sister. This time instead of a Paris theme, it was 1940s hotel art deco. The colors: red, white, and black. The flowers: roses.

First, a thousand different poses with the wedding photographer, my mother insisting on every possible combination of relatives and friends. She was in her usual overstressed panic which I've learned to both love and hate. I couldn't help but laugh the next day when she realized that in the midst of all the posing, she had forgotten to ask for a shot with just the immediate family.

Second, standing in a line for an hour greeting well-wishers, stating and restating my obvious relationship with the bride, fixed with a perma-grin and an epileptic hand. I did not recognize my old piano teacher and she did not recognize me. One of us had lost 100 pounds, the other had put on a couple feet.

Third, the food, the stuff I'd been staring at all during the wedding-line torture hour. But I only had time for a few bites before I felt compelled to pick up my camera again.

Fourth, the entertainment, the best part. My father has conditioned us all to love "old-timey" music. He is a pianist and 20s, 30s, and 40s are his specialty. This music has always been a big part of my family life. I can't listen to "I Don't Know Why" without pangs of sadness, picturing my great-grandmother singing the words at her 100th birthday party, the year before she passed away. This time my sister sang it, as a tribute to my grandparents, walking over to them with the microphone. It was touching. She sang several songs while my father played and her new husband accompanied with his guitar. I was shocked at how good she sounded. I know she can sing well, but sometimes I forget how suited her voice is to the genre. She was vibrant, energetic, glowing. When she sang "Cheek to Cheek" I felt my eyes grow moist. I felt like one of those blubbery fat ladies you see sobbing in the pews in movie weddings, mascara dripping from their eyes. When it's your little sister, you're allowed.

The rest of the night was all cake, bouquet tossing, and dancing -- the usual wedding business. We all watched the bride and groom drive away when it was over, toilet paper fluttering behind their car, cousins blowing bubbles, and my mother and aunt screaming, "Bye bye fatheads!" at the top of their lungs (as is tradition in my family.) We were red-faced and laughing by the time the car was out of sight. That's a good way to end a wedding, I'm thinking.

For the second night in a row I stayed up in the early hours of the morning, this time helping with the clean-up and then eating cold wedding food as we discussed how the evening had went down. Now it was more than palm trees that was making me feel homesick. There are so many times in my life here in Utah when I wish I could just gather around a dining room table late at night, eat cold food, and talk with my family.

Sorry Death Cab, I know exactly why I want to live there.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Blog Cabin

Turns out Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator and assassinatee, had a blog. You can read it here. The posts are in reverse chronological order, so if you want get the full civil war experience, start from the bottom and scroll up. Do enjoy.

"The Blog Cabin" was actually written by Eric Snider, a humor columnist and movie critic. Check out his website and/or blog. I'm a fan.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Not Just Talking Soup

I did it. I threw away the ham.

I had stopped picking at the leftover half not long after the party, when I couldn’t stand the thought of one more honey-baked slice. Still, the ham remained in the fridge. It was all about guilt, about not wasting. The Indians would use all parts of the buffalo, you see, and although this was more out of necessity and not so much about maintaining some abstract equilibrium with nature, still, I couldn’t bring myself to toss the pig.

I emailed my mother on her cruise ship with my dilemma. How long will ham last in the fridge, I wanted to know, and how can I turn it into soup? Specifically, that sublime soup she makes every year, just after Christmas. She took time from her wilderness excursions and tango lessons to reply. Soak small white navy beans overnight, she said. Boil them in tomato juice. Then something about bay leaves, onions, cutting ham off the bone, words to that effect. I have to be honest with myself. I'm not Mr. Chef-boy America. I only cook for special occasions, and usually when a girl is involved, one that needs impressing. The rest of the time, I'm okay with an aluminum can. I'm okay with barely edible oven-ready meals. I'm at peace with my sub-par gastronomic choices.

I decided against the soup, but left the ham in the fridge, just in case I changed my mind in the middle of the night. Perhaps I would be jerked awake with an overwhelming urge to chef-it-up. I could see myself jumping out of bed, rushing down the stairs, and doing a little dive and roll towards a wooden spoon and cutting board.

This never happened. The soup, like so many of my projects, did not make it past the concept. Just like the several dozen unfinished music loops, left dormant on my computer from attempted techno mixes. Or the hundreds of self-made promises that I will pick up the violin again and not throw away 13 years of lessons. Or all the unopened tablature books lying next to my guitar. Or the half-white, half-painted canvases, still bearing faint graphite marks from old pencil sketches. Or my sparsely-weeded garden, one abandoned work glove buried deeper every day in fresh batches of green. Or the stack of short letters never mailed to friends in France or Senegal, because I keep thinking I will spell-check the French. Or all those futile attempts to pursue a meaningful romantic relationship...…

I always feel like I'm a project or two away from accomplishment. Just a few simple tasks away from feeling content. But it's never the case. I scatter out my interests in fifty directions, and in turn I'm left with little to show for my efforts. I really admire the uber-motivated folk, the kind who like to talk about how they won’t let anything stand in their way and how they follow their dreams and whatnot. Well, maybe admire is too strong a word. Let's try...loathe. Yeah, that sounds better. I loathe how I can't get anything done.

Except maybe two long blog posts about ham. I’m all over that.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Dog Heads in the Night

Went water skiing yesterday. The skiing part didn’t last long though, on account of the choppy water. So I switched to tubing, which was better suited to the conditions. Unfortunately the whole experience has left me with some kind of rigor mortis, sans the death part. Everything is sore...everything! In retrospect, I should just have let go of the tube when I was rolling around in the water, or somersaulting in the air. When your body isn’t used to holding onto things in extreme conditions, it has the tendency to make you pay for it later.

Crazier than water stunts, however, was the ride home, along a dark mountain highway. There was this horse trailer in front of me, and I’m staring at it and suddenly I see something huge. Maybe it was the fatigue or all the lake water I inhaled, but I swear I saw a gigantic dog head, peeking out from the back of the trailer. I mean, this dog’s mother must have had romantic relations with a dinosaur for it to have a head that size. The dog swayed back and forth in the trailer, its movements so natural and convincing I decided I must be losing my mind. We were driving too slow for my taste, but I couldn’t change lanes. I was transfixed. I kept staring, and the dog kept staring back at me, jiggling its head.

But when we hit a major highway, and were at last surrounded by lights, I realized I was not staring at a dog with a severe case of elephantitis, but rather the ass of a very large horse. The spots on the horse ass still formed a dog face, even with all the light around, but the illusion had shattered. Stupid horse. It was much cooler as a dog.

Capped off the night by watching the meteor shower into the wee hours of the morning. The night was clear and the shooting stars left long trails across the sky. Made me think of Ray Bradbury’s short story, “The Rocket Man” --- the part where an astronaut’s son looks up at the night sky and points to a shooting star. It’s his father’s rocket, tragically breaking apart in the atmosphere. The mother smiles down at the kid, and says, “Make a wish.”

Nice man, Ray Bradbury. I met him once at a book signing. He was chewing on a hamburger, little pieces of food flying out of his mouth while he was signing my book. I was supposed to meet him a second time, years later, when my dad was doing the music for a radio show version of his book, “The October Country." But illness prevented him from showing up to the recording. Consequently, my initial impressions of him remain. Nice man, great writer...nasty, sloppy eater.

Not that water sports, phantom dog heads, or Ray Bradbury have anything to do with each other. Unless, of course, they have EVERYTHING to do with each other. Or did I just blow your mind?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

This is an automatic blog entry, set to be posted in the event of a global cosmic manifestation. If you are reading this, it means the Rapture has taken place and your friend, Jeremy, was scooped up into the sky.

It also means that, for reasons of your wickedness, you were LEFT BELOW. Do not panic. It is normal to feel Post-Rapture Anxiety (or PRA as it is most commonly known). Take a deep breath, relax, don’t think about all the nasty eternal damnation awaiting you. Take solace in the fact that lots of people will share your terrible fate. You’ll be partying it up with the likes of Courtney Love, Sean Hannity, and Haitian dictator Francois ‘Papa Doc' Duvalier, just to name a few.

In the meantime, rest assured that Jeremy is in a much better place, eating delicious nachos and chillin’ in the clouds with his homeys. Perhaps you should think about sending him a check in the mail. Maybe he’ll put in a good word for you.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ham and Murder

I've been holding onto a gift certificate for a honey-baked ham since Christmas, waiting for a good opportunity to use it. The company I work for seems to tailor their gifts to the needs of families and not to single people. Or at least not single people of the non-obese or gluttonous variety. Really, it's hard to finish off a gigantic ham by oneself. Yes it can be done, but it's hard.

I've been waiting for occasions all year to use the ham, but when opportunities had arisen, the certificate was nowhere to be found. (Well, it was SOMEWHERE to be found, but if it wants to hide under piles of junk in a kitchen drawer, it should first state its intentions). Every once in a while it would turn up again, but by then I had neither the time nor the willpower to plan an elaborate party. I actually almost brought it with me last week when I was invited to a Seder dinner. Thankfully I realized the fullness of my stupidity before I could embarrass myself. That would have been good. I can see it now:

"Hi everyone, sorry I'm late, I had to stop by and pick up this big juicy hunk of dead pig. I know it violates your religion and everything, but it's honey glazed. HONEY GLAZED!"

No, that would not have gone over well. Still, I kept waiting for a special occasion. So when I stumbled across this "How to Host a Murder" game, I thought: perfect. Cheesy costumed role-play and delicious pork. A winning combination. And so I planned it, invited 7 friends, and collected my ham.

One has to accept a certain degree of comfortable geekiness with these things. It all comes together like a high school drama improv game. You're assigned a character, you dress up, you attempt an accent, you fail miserably. The game was set in a 1920s Chicago speakeasy and in the beginning we were moderately successfully with the correct accents, but in the end we ran the gamut of bad impersonations, from British whore to New York urchin, until we inexplicably all settled into Southern accents of privilege. WTF?

The point is, we ate the ham and it was fantastic. And the game was a blast, turns out. I wouldn't at all be opposed to doing something like it again. Maybe next year, next ham.

P.S. I was a golfer -- puffy pants, cap, and argyle socks.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Five Reasons to Buy a Baby Cow

1. Calves are cute, miniature versions of real cows.

Kind of like fun-size snack bars, or Tom Cruise.

2. Calves have large, freaky eyes.

If I ever wanted to make an artsy concept film, all I would have to do is zoom in on an eyeball as it looks around for about 5 minutes, splice in some Philip Glass and BOOM. Film festival gold.

3. Calves can eat the weeds in my garden.

Because having to weed a garden is a horrible, horrible thing. I don’t see how anyone could possibly enjoy it. But I can tell you one thing: if I ever find such a person, I will take them aside and I will murder them.

4. Calves are large enough to feel like a real pet, but small enough to be tucked away, out of sight.

I can keep mine locked up in the pantry until I require its presence. Then, as soon as the novelty of owning a calf wears off again, back into the dark closet it goes. Maybe I could even vacu-pac it into a dresser drawer, next to my socks; save even more space.

5. When you’re bored with your calf, you can eat it.

The world would be a better place if this applied to all relationships. Bossy relative, annoying neighbor, obnoxious spouse? Cannibalize, cannibalize, cannibalize.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


My parents are on a cruise in Alaska, my sister is traveling in Russia, my brother is preaching in Mexico, my other siblings are enjoying the California sun. What am I doing here, tied down, in the often-dreary confines of northern Utah?

I have the travel bug, the itch. I want to get in my car and drive, all night and all day, sleep at rest stops, make small talk with small-town gas station workers. I want to abadon my car in a parking lot, find an airport, get on a plane, fly. I want to catch the bus from the airport to some distant stop, get off, walk unknown neighborhoods. I want to find a run-down motel, book a room for a week, and flirt every day with the Hispanic maid. She can be pretty or plain, I won't be picky. I want to get out of this house.

Maybe it's just me feeling sick. When you stay home all day, without any particular purpose other than to be sick, the walls can get to you. It's not that I stayed in bed the whole time. I worked on invitations for a dinner party, re-strung my guitar, watched Battlestar Galactica reruns, shopped online for sheet music, ate cold pizza, threw-up, and read myself unconcious. But it was too much time indoors, alone in this house.

I'm going to work tomorrow. I plan on feeling up to it. Then I'm going to seriously look into taking a trip. A long trip. Somewhere with pygmies or Eskimos or gigantic insects. I'm not picky. Just far away, out of this state, out of this house.

Monday, August 01, 2005