AGENDALESS DAY OFF #1
So you wanna know what’s weird? I’m in the exact same situation that I was when last I blogged here. On the bed with my wife watching “House” in the background. I still have not warmed to “House”, but gee whiz, he doesn’t make it easy! Talk about a hard guy to get close to! I’m beginning to think he doesn’t even WANT friends! What kind of a person is THAT?
One aspect of my situation that is different this time around is today I took a day off for virtually no reason, and here is what I apparently think vacation is, judging by today’s actions: washing incredibly filthy dishes, shredding old correspondence while watching the first fifteen minutes of “What About Bob?”, donating bottles and cans to whatever charity Hannaford gives the proceeds to (I really don’t care so long as it’s not the “Break Jeremy Stover’s Wii With A Hammer In Front Of His Face Before Killing Him Fund”; I mean Christ, might as well take the $3.75 myself as give it to those animals, am I right?), buying ingredients for a beef stew with an apple cider-based broth, chopping onions and celery and browning beef and onions, putting those things into a crock pot and slow cooking them for several hours, spying on my downstairs neighbors taking their groceries into the house, making up a game on iTunes where I try to narrow my favorite songs down to 100 for a desert island playlist that represents the only 100 songs I will be able to listen to for eternity (I did this for a really long time, and it was fun!), writing a jaunty/upsetting song called “What I’ve Got In My Hand”, repeatedly forgetting how song goes, purchasing and eating Vienna sausages (for some reason I was really excited to do this today, what can that mean?) (we used to call Vienna sausages “dog dicks” and “puppy peckers” back in middle school, god we were funny), buying new toilet bowl cleaner and squirting it half-assedly at the toilet, opting for fresh rosemary over the dried spice rack variety, watching a really stressful old Popeye cartoon where his rowdy nephews are constantly putting him in grave if theoretically comic danger, dumping the clean clothes from one laundry basket into another then taking the now-empty laundry basket into the bathroom and putting the dirty clothes on the floor of the bathroom closet into it, squirting shower cleaner half-assedly at the shower after reluctantly coming to the conclusion that it’s weird to ineffectually clean the toilet and not also ineffectually clean the shower, wavering all throughout the day as to whether I should watch the first “Nightmare on Elm Street” or not, weeding mugs we no longer like or use out of our collection, buying a box of 40 garbage bags after figuring it out in my head that it’s a better deal than always getting the box of 10 or however many I usually get (I know it’s not 40, that’s for sure), putting on my cheeseburger pajama pants because “I’m on vacation!” but hastily putting normal cargo shorts on once I see the oil guy pull into the driveway just in case he has to come talk to me about something even though there’s no reason in the world he would ever need to do that, going to Movie Gallery and looking in vain for the new Star Wars Force Unleashed or whatever it’s called for Wii and almost settling for the new Mario baseball game but in the end not getting anything because I have a feeling the Mario baseball game isn’t all that much more fun than the Wii Sports version, and finally typing the dumb things I did into this white rectangle. We’re still waiting for my weird beef stew to cook. We usually cook Crock Pot stuff on high heat for a shorter period of time due to us not being patient, but supposedly slow-cooking things makes them taste better, and I figured I had the time so I might as well try it.
I like cooking but it’s not like I understand it or anything. I like the buying ingredients part, because when you’re actually cooking a recipe you usually have to buy a lot of weird little things, like cumin and vegetables, and thus it’s usually necessary for me to get a cart. For most Hannaford trips, I’m just getting a couple things to eat for the night, so all I need is a shopping basket, all I nee-eee-eed is yoooooou, all I need is a shopping basket…man, Mike and the Mechanics wrote some beautiful songs. That one about how you should talk to your dad cause he’s gonna die pretty soon? So sad. It’s too late when we die, whoa, when we die, to admit we don’t see eye to eye. Neh neh-neh neh neeeeeh, neeeeh neh neeeeeh. Anyway, I hate shopping with a basket. I tend to buy a lot of things in cans, and that’s heavy for my arms. Much better, I feel, to get a cart, but a cart is only good for solo shopping. Two people dealing with a cart (particularly two people in any sort of a relationship) is just asking for problems, am I right, ladies and gentlemen? Someone’s gonna wanna ride on the back of the cart like it’s a scooter, and someone’s gonna get their heel and Achilles tendon pinched when whoever’s running the cart isn’t paying attention, and someone’s gonna make a lot more impulse purchases simply because the cart can hold so many more things than their arms can, and all that can come of the situation is discord and hardship.
But a lone shopper on a distinctly unbusy Monday morning should absolutely get a cart. I bought more vegetables today than I have ever bought in my life collectively. I even inspected the potatoes. Potatoes are gross! I had no idea if the potatoes I picked were any good. I started out really trying to get good ones, but after awhile I was just throwing whatever into the bag. I felt wonderful about my decision to purchase fresh rosemary and bay leaves, although the rosemary smelled and felt like I was putting pine needles into my beef stew. The beef stew is gonna be weird. In a couple minutes I have to engage the final stage of the beef stew preparation and do the following: mix 2 tablespoons of flour with some water and then pour that compound onto the stew and cook it on high for 15 minutes. I’m not sure what that will do to the stew. I am unskilled in even very basic food math. I’m sure most people over 30 have a very good idea of how this flour/water will affect the stew, but for all I know the crock pot is going to float right out the window and begin shooting laser beams at the good citizens of Old Town. So needless to say I’m a bit on edge right now.
Dammit. It’s time. Be right back.
SEVERAL MINUTES LATER
All right, I did that thing with the flour. Two tablespoons is not a lot of flour or water, so I don’t know what good that flour and water think they’re gonna do for this massive amount of beef stew. It look like I put two tablespoons of absolutely nothing into the stew, but I’m slightly concerned that after typing all this nonsense, I’m gonna go back out into the kitchen and they’ll be this brown, doughy version of Audrey II coiling out of our crock pot. That would be scary. And also disappointing, because I’m hungry for beef stew. I’ve been smelling this stuff all day.
It’s weird that the recipe called for so much apple cider. I felt both strange and excited pouring the cider into the crock pot. Cider doesn’t go in stew! What the heck did I think I was DOING? Some things that the recipe wanted me to do I declined, like involving rutabagas. I don’t know what a rutabaga is, although it’s a funny word and I like saying and thinking about it. I was fully prepared to steel myself for the task of sidling up to a surly teenage Hannaford employee and muttering “Pardon me, where are you folks hidin’ the rutabagas, heh heh?”, but then later on down in the instructions I noted the advisement that “if you don’t care for rutabaga, replace it with turnip”. Through context, it would seem that people who don’t like rutabaga tend to like turnip. I myself hate turnip like it made fun of my mom, so by that logic I’m led to think that I’d probably like, and even perhaps love, rutabaga. That being said, I’m just flat out not encouraged by the fact that turnip had to come up in the recipe at all, for any reason, so in the end I decided to forget I even heard of rutabagas. It was too much of a hassle and too much of a risk.
I worked around it by substituting more potatoes. I went with red potatoes, because I really like them. I found out today that red potatoes aren’t very large, and are usually kind of shitty-looking. The recipe called for celery, which I only kind of like raw and have no opinion about when cooked, so I decided to include them since I was already straying from the original recipe enough as it was. One thing I forgot to get that we usually put in beef stews is corn, and I’m kind of upset with myself for neglecting to get any. There was a big onion also that I had to deal with. Cutting onions really does make you cry! It’s not just a dumb gag on old sitcoms. My eyes were gushing with briny, electrifying tears. I had to walk away every so often, chopping five or six times then turning away, a couple times having to run into the bathroom to dab at my poor eyes, which felt like they were filled with mustard and pickle juice.
I had to brown the beef and onions, which made a lot of smoke and didn’t help my eyes out much. Then I had to peel and chop the potatoes, which was a complete pain in the ass and I can see why Beetle Bailey always complains when called upon to do it by that awful Sarge. I had purchased a cheap knife at Hannaford since our knives nine times out of ten are less sharp than the substance they are being called upon to pierce. It felt dumb buying a knife at Hannaford, but I have to say it performed like a champion. It chopped everything up well. Chopping the celery was actually fun, but I ate a stray piece after dumping the rest in the stew and it tasted like soil, and I did actually wash it before chopping it so I don’t know what it’s deal is. Anyway, we’re gonna eat this stew pretty soon and the energy in the room is high.
On an unrelated note, we purchased many DVDs from our friends Trina and Paul the other day. They have a lot of movies that they don’t watch anymore, so they asked if we wanted to buy any. We weren’t expecting that we would have very similar tastes, but I ended up seeing tons of stuff that I wanted. We walked away with the following.
“Harry and the Hendersons”! And it’s a Special Edition! Sadly no commentary from Harry, or even one from John Lithgow, but there’s some sure-to-be-enlightening deleted scenes, a “newswrap featurette” (whatever the hell that means), and lots of making-of stuff. It’s been a real long time since I’ve watched this, so I’m preparing for it to suck like a swirling vortex of terrible. Truthfully, I don’t ever remembering exactly loving the film, but we had it on tape so I certainly watched it more than once. All I remembering is Harry inadvertently destroying furniture and John Lithgow freaking out a lot about it. As I recall, that’s pretty much what the film is about. And you know what, that’s fine. I mean, look at this plot: “Bigfoot comes to John Lithgow’s house and keeps breaking all his stuff. John Lithgow angrily demands that he stop, to no avail.” I don’t know about you, but that’s a plot I can get excited about. R.I.P. Kevin Peter Hall. I’m pretty sure I liked every movie he was ever in, not to mention “Misfits of Science”.
Paul, holding up the case which prominently features Harry: “Hey look, it’s Trina’s mother!”
A Nightmare on Elm Street: I really love this movie. It’s the crappiest scariest thing ever. Depending on my state of mind, this movie is either ridiculous or terrifying to me, and usually a little bit of both. For one thing Freddy, while still a sucker for a lame pun, isn’t so much of a gory jokester. He’s just crazy, and wants to slice you up with his awesome fingerknives. His voice isn’t as over-the-top, either, and therefore more frightening. I also love the bad effects, like the gross claymation phone-tongue, and the comforting presences of Johns Saxon and Depp. Any film that was brought up in covert, feverish discussion on the playgrounds of my youth is generally something I’m going to want to own. And that would be why I also bought:
Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2: I don’t even know if I’ve seen the 2nd one yet, so it was fun to find a DVD containing both for the price of one. I remember almost nothing about the first one, and I have a hard time piecing together which of the sequels I’ve seen. I seem to recall the third one being pretty funny, and “Jason Goes to Hell” being terrible. Oh right, I saw “Jason Goes to Manhattan” as well, which should have been awesome and was instead execrable. I think it would be fun to watch this DVD and try to get scared by it, as I would certainly have been had I been allowed to watch it at the age of 8 like the majority of my friends instead of at the age of 26 which is when I finally took the plunge and rented it. There are no special features to be had.
Dawn of the Dead: The old one. Not the kind of thing you just pop in and watch while you’re folding clothes, but I felt the need to have it in my possession once again, as the $1.00 SLP-speed VHS I got at Marden’s briskly bit the big one. They’ve put out about 312 different versions of this movie, but this is the Anchor Bay version, and I’m usually pretty happy with their treatments (one of these days I’d like to get “The Boys Next Door” and “The Pit” from them). This DVD has a commentary from Romero and Savini, both of whom are geniuses so I would imagine that to be at least reasonably compelling. Also spots for both TV and radio. For some reason I’m scared to listen to the radio spots. I bet they’re way scarier than the movie itself. This cut is 127 minutes, and I’m thinking that’s significantly longer than my VHS copy was. One of my favorite professors in college, the late Welch Everman, loved this movie, and I fondly remember having more than one conversation about the pleasures this film has to offer. He was a good guy, and for his sake I hope there’s cigarettes and professional wrestling in Heaven or wherever it is they stuck him.
I liked the remake well enough, especially as horror remakes go, but Romero’s zombies are the scariest to me. Wouldn’t mind having the original “Night of the Living Dead” on DVD either, and I’m pretty sure you can buy that one at Big Al’s for a buck, and enjoy free coffee and a selection from the free gift bar besides.
The Shining – I owned this very DVD before, then sold it during a desperate patch, but now by God I have it back, in one of those stark white Kubrick Collection editions. Again, not one for casual viewing, but there are moments in the film that get me closer to real fear than few films before or since. And have you ever seen the original trailer?
The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen – Man, I really stepped up my horror collection thanks to Trina and Paul. This one still scares me, too, more than “The Shining” even. I’ll probably never watch it.
Miss Congeniality: Deluxe Edition – As you might imagine, this one really stands out in the pile. Annie’s a big fan of this movie, and fondly remembers being the only one in the theater when she went to see it, thus enabling her to laugh heartily at everything that took place. I myself can’t vouch for it, but my wife hasn’t steered me wrong yet. “Dutch” ruled!
Scrooged – In addition to upping my ’80s horror inventory, I also stocked up on ’80s Bill Murray comedies. You’re gonna have a tough time tracking down any critics who had anything nice to say about this mean-spirited, tossed-off Dickens spoof, but I love it to pieces, in all its messy misanthropy. If only we could still have things like Bill Murray star vehicles scripted (at least partially) by Michael O’Donoghue. I also miss that time in life when Bobcat Goldthwait was contractually obligated to appear in every comedy. Plus you have David Johansen whose mere face improves films, and Karen Allen being her usually cute scrappy self, ditto Alfre Woodard, and a host of cameos from such once-favored celebrities as Lee Majors and Mary Lou Retton. It’s really almost too entertaining if you ask me. Viewing it doesn’t seem enough. I want to eat it, or hammer it into my skull or something.
What About Bob? – I actually haven’t watched this movie since it was a new release back in the early ’90s, but I figured I might as well have it. It can’t hurt. Bill Murray invading Richard Dreyfuss’ home life, inadvertently destroying things and inciting the shrill, yapping wrath of Dreyfuss. In a way it’s not so dissimilar to “Harry and the Hendersons”. I watched a little of it today, and was happy with what I saw, but for some reason I went and found something else to do.
Groundhog Day – People who didn’t like “Groundhog Day” are not to be trusted. They’re just trying to get attention. If anyone ever tells you “I thought ‘Groundhog Day’ was stupid”, laugh at them with equal parts shock, incredulity, and derision. Then spit in their face. Granted, the film gets off to a slow start, and it feels like it’s only going to be mildly amusing at absolute best, but then it gradually becomes clear that director Harold Ramis is interesting in telling a story above all else, and the laughs are earned at a logical pace as opposed to awkwardly shoehorned into scenes that don’t necessarily require them. And at a time when it felt like Bill Murray wasn’t going to make anything worthwhile ever again, “Groundhog Day” was a great present. They’ve put out a few editions of this one, too. I don’t know what my special edition has on it because I actually don’t know where the DVD is right now. I have no idea what I did with it. Hopefully I didn’t eat it or hammer it into my skull.
Finally, I bought Eddie Murphy: Delirious. I know, I know, this is probably the most homophobic thing in the world, but it’s hard to take Murphy’s vitriol too seriously when his tight candy-colored leather S&M outfit makes it well nigh impossible not to imagine him having sex with men, perhaps with Philip Michael Thomas or Lionel Richie. Maybe even Billy Dee Williams, and don’t forget Mr. T. Maybe all of them, rutting gruntily in a hot tub full of baked beans surrounded by mango trees and and vanilla-scented votives. Anyway, yes Eddie Murphy says a lot of not nice things in “Delirious”, but he also says a lot of really funny things too. He’s like the funny kid on the school bus, that quickness and brashness and gleeful need to shock. I think this was originally on HBO, but I notice their logo does not appear anywhere on the case. They probably felt like they had to disown it. There’s an “exclusive brand new” interview with Murphy on this DVD, which I would be extremely interested to check out. On the playground, “Eddie Murphy: Delirious” was like the comedy version of “Friday the 13th”. Only the most laxly-supervised (and thus coolest) kids got to see and brag about seeing “Eddie Murphy: Delirious”. It was right up there with “Porky’s” and “Revenge of the Nerds”, two movies I also probably would have bought if they’d been among the offered selections.
Way more for me than for Annie in that pile, but I can’t see why she wouldn’t enjoy “Dawn of the Dead”. It’s not so different from, say, a romantic comedy. Why, it’s practically “Prelude to a Kiss”.
By the way, in between typing words into this thing, we’ve eaten the beef stew. It was pretty good. Not much I can say about it, really. Kinda subtle and vinegary. The potatoes were fairly tender but practically welded my gums shut with their hotness. The flour/water mixture seems to have affected the stew not at all. The premade cornbread was better than expected. I have a feeling the stew will be better once it’s spent some time in the fridge and had some chance to coagulate. At any rate, we were sated by something reasonably healthful that I created, and that’s always a good feeling, or at least that’s what trusted sources who’ve done this sort of thing more than once tell me.
Annie has to write a paper and I have to play Excitetruck so goodbye for now! Boy, that was long!