Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Little Black Dress That Could

So, I've decided that once a month, I'm going to do a book review!

What? People get paid to do this. I'm doing it for free. Be grateful. God.

Seriously though, lately I've been reading some pretty awesome books, and since I'm reading, I figure, I might as well suggest some books if I find them worth suggesting.

The first novel I'm going to review is Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is Rhoda Janzen's first novel. But fear not - the woman totally comes to bat facing the right direction. In fact, she has experience; she's a Poet Laureate (this means that if her poetry was a car, it would be a Lexus) and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California. So, as you might expect, it could help to keep a dictionary handy. I learned words that didn't even show up on the 'top 500 GRE vocabulary words study guide'.

I'd be really, really scared if Rhoda took to working for the GRE. Seriously.

But, her saving grace (besides spacing these words out so as not to make you feel incredibly stupid, as you are apt to do when reading the work of a Ph.D. - and take that little bit of advice to heart, from me to you, as a person who's studying underneath 3 or 4 of them on a weekly basis) is that she is absolutely hilarious. She's got gall, you guys. And any writer who's willing to make fun of themselves, and actually be good at it, is worth checking out.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is a fictional memoir piece - in the same style as Elizabeth Gilbert and David Sedaris - about how Rhoda falls apart and heads back to her Mennonite home after her husband Nick leaves her for a man he met on (Oops, right?) The quirkiness of Rhoda's crazy family stands out in stark contrast to her liberalized educational life as a college professor, with the help of Rhoda's well crafted writing. She pulls out several of the unorthodox stops to really keep you interested, and she's just insightful enough to make you smile a little bit at the end of each chapter. You won't want to put the book down. And when you do, your mom will pick it up while she's visiting, read the back, and say, "this sounds funny - I want to read it when you're done."

And then you'll have to say, "Sure mom," but hide the novel because, even though Rhoda is anything but homophobic, her husband still leaves her for a man on There's just no getting around that:
One day Nick came home with a pair of Yohji Yamamoto gloves that had cost $385. This was in 1996, mind you. Granted, these gloves were wondrously conceived: over an interior pebbled leather glove, a leather mitt unzipped and folded back into a gauntlet of sorts. It was just the kind of witty sartorial gesture that a dandified socialite might affect, very Oscar Wilde, if Oscar Wilde would have ditched the lily and firmed up the tummy and got full-sleeve tatts designed by the famed Los Angeles artist Bob Roberts. Nick wasn't a dandified socialite, though. He was a grad student. We were supposed to be living on the ten bucks an hour I was making as a receptionist at the law firm.

The man clearly sucks cooooooo...pper piping. *ahem*. Which he does. Metaphorically.

But my absolute favorite sentence from the novel is this: At twenty all I wanted to do was read philosophy, feminism, and fashion. Oh, didn't we all, Rhoda? Didn't we all?

That is why this novel is forthwith gaining the rating, "totally awesome." She's smart, she's classy, and she's not afraid to turn her mother down when she tells her that her very Mennonite first cousin is on the market after she gets divorced.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Confessions of a Third Wheel

This is my friend Clint.

Once, in one of our many playfights, I replied with the classic nerdy throwback, "well...YOUR MOM!", and without missing a beat, his retort was: My mom died. Thanks. And I thought he was serious. I believed him. I apologized and everything.

I went on thinking that his mom had passed for over two years.

So, that's right Clint; revenge is a dish best served in displaying your incredibly tight tights all over the internetz. Work it, baby, work it!

Last night, he drove over two hours to come and see me, and hang out with a potential love interest. It was a really nice night; we went to dinner downtown, and then - I'm still not quite sure how this happened - ended up dancing at a lesbian bar. And then he and his newly budding boyfriend spent the rest of the night on my couch talking about Marvel comic books and the premise behind Wonder Woman's character. "You can't watch Wonder Woman cartoons in the context of her being just another superhero - you have to think of her as a liberated woman in skimpy outfits with a boyfriend whose biggest virtue is that he doesn't want to get into her wonder panties." And on and on they went, two geeks in pre-Let's-Make-Out matrimonial bliss.

It was cuter than two puppies learning how to wag their tails at full speed.

And, it was a really nice thing to watch, as I sat in an armchair across from them, researching and grading papers at four in the morning. We always have this self-absorbed complaint floating around in the US that we're always the bridesmaids and never the bride (ignoring the fact that the bridesmaids outnumber the bride like three to one, and that if they worked together, they could take that marrying heifer out before anyone, anywhere could even eek out a single mazel tov!), but think about it. We all know people in relationships, and how many of them tend to last? Cooing couples are everywhere, and yet virtually non-existent in this regard. Why complain about how their couple-ness is not your couple-ness? Why not enjoy the few brief moments of amor as they flash before your eyes as well as theirs? Is this not an amazing treat in and of itself?

So, yes, Clint. To answer your question - since you asked - I did feel like a third wheel last night. But, I felt like an awesome third wheel. The kind of third wheel who doesn't question happiness when he sees it. The kind of third wheel who appreciates the highs of young love.

The kind of third wheel with neon glow in the dark beads in its spokes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kiss Me, I'm Turning Irish

Ok, so last weekend. For the first time ever, I tried Guinness.

Well, maybe I should backtrack.

I'm on a half-a**ed quest to find out find out which drink works best for me. When I turned 21, no one laid a buffet of Mai Tais and Margaritas out in front of me and said "you're not moving from that spot till you puke or pass out." I was pretty much on my own.

And in a year's time, I've tried the occasional drink here or there. Specifically:

Sex on the Beach - kind of tastes like a jollyrancher....only, with alcohol.

Screwdriver - I thought this was one of the most basic drinks out there, but every other time I've ordered it, someone says "ooo, what's that?" It's vodka and orange juice, comrades. It's a nice basic drink to start with, and you can feel classy ordering it by name, knowing that the bartender will know how to make it.

Fuzzy Navel - This was my number one mixed drink choice for a long time, even though I've only ever made my own. It's simply peach schnapps and orange juice. Citrus is great with alcohol because it masks the bitterness, but this here is a nice fruit combination that really slides down easily. Thankfully schnapps is not as high in alcohol content as some of these other drinks, or else you'll be wondering what happened to your underwear way before someone suggests a game of naked tag out in the backyard.

Rum and Coke - Carbonation helps make you feel drunker, faster. So, if that's your goal, this is your drink. But, if you ask me, the coke usually doesn't mask the rum enough for it to be an enjoyable drink.

Pina Colada - This is a must try, if only so you have the excuse of singing "if you like pina coladas~" later on in the night. The drink, however, is far sweeter than the song. (Really? You catch your spouse cheating on you and you're just like 'ooh hoo, well, isn't this funny? I was trying to cheat on YOU! Ha, how adorable. What a coinkidink. Let's go home...' How bloody unlikely. This too will hit you, later on in the night)

Margarita - I finally got around to trying tequila. And you know what? It's dangerous; don't do it. Unless of course you're watching Desperate Housewives. Then, it's mandatory. And you may not stop giggling.

Long Island Iced Tea - Same deal as a Margarita, only while watching the Real Housewives of (closest) City/County.

And finally, my all time absolute favorite mixed drink, is sake with orange juice. Sake is incredibly smooth, so, when mixed with just about anything, it's difficult to detect. So naturally, mixed with orange juice, it's practically an alcoholic date rape drink (as a general rule, if you go to someone's house at 10 o'clock at night, and they offer you orange juice, decline. Decline, decline, access: denied. Because, it could totally be a sake orange juice. But, if you're amongst friends, give this drink a try, especially if you're not a fan of the burning sensation of booze, or you just want to try something different. It goes down that easy.) As a matter of fact, it seems, sake is rarely stocked in bars, and after some searching, I haven't found an official name for this drink. Someone called it a Sake Screwdriver, but, I don't think that does this drink justice. It should have it's own, super cool name, like Far East Sun, or Asian Navel.

Because, as teenagers not allowed to drink the US, my friends and I would go to TGIF and pour over their drink menus, reading out the awesome sounding names and wishing that 'Sprite' and 'Pepsi' had a much cooler names, like 'Buttery Nipple' or 'Kamikaze'. It's all in the name, guys.

But anyway, I digress. Back to Guinness.

Beer has been something of an obstacle for me, cause it typically tastes like crap. It's bitter, abrupt, and overall best left to cowboys and frat guys who have to purchase alcohol in large commodities. But Guinness? Wow. It's incredibly smooth...almost chocolatey smooth. And creamy. I'm a sucker for anything creamy, and I make killer milkshakes to prove it. (Not to brag, but it does bring boys to the yard. And damn right - it's better than yours.) Guinness is a definite two thumbs up, but my beer list is pretty small. So far, it's been victoria bitter, budlight, yuengling, stella artois, and guinness, in order both of my trying it, and in taste. So, I'm assuming that I'm finally developing the taste buds to distinguish between certain beers, and not just finding them all to be abrasive.

But...if there are any recommendations out there, as to which ones to try next, I'm certainly willing to give it a try.