This is no longer where I force onto you my ideology. Please go here for that.
Danke, dudes, dudettes, the in between, the transcendent.
I started this little thing, what I’d rather call a ‘literary output’ than a ‘blog’, with the intention to subvert. Not that I’m some kind of activist. I’m not particularly the type to act clever, much less the type to be clever, but I do, as I suspect most writers do, see myself as both agent of and subject to change. Writing is fundamentally about change and it is fundamentally about time. There exists no story, by which I mean any kind of fiction/nonfiction/poetic narrative, in vacuum just as there exists no permanence outside of vacuum. We must accept the subjective world as one without a permanent mode of stasis. Nature favors chaos over equilibrium. Artists, including writers, undo knots in the tangled thread of truth just as they create new ones. ‘Reality’, a paradoxical word that questions itself (Should we consider the prospect of ‘reality’ real or surreal?), is enhanced by its infinitely supplemental and differential structure. Its truths have no center. Arbitrariness rules and subjectivity follows. What comes out of all this postmodern theorizing is an abstract form of art aiming to surprise. In this way, “subversive” and “art” work well together.
If we agree that postmodernism died on 9/11, what follows? We live an age described in variables, weave through arbitrary generations of unknowns (X, Y, Z) trying to define our existence as a coordinate in time and space. We contradict the idea that such a permanent point may not exist. Two towers collapsing, driving a casualty counter up in ‘real time’, convinced us of this, drove the final nail into the postmodern coffin. Surprise is no longer subversion, but terrorism; subversion comes only as a brand of deceit. We have come to favor seriousness and sincerity. We have become earnest. It is an Age of Irony, then, which we construct (just ask a hipster), and under this circumstance my original purpose with this literary output turns silly at best and offensive at worst. I don’t actually believe in purpose in any case, so screw it.
But my friend Molly is clever in a way that I am not. We were both wanting to do something with our mutual interest—at-times-obsession—with literature and art that validated our vocational, academic, and personal dedication to the notion that whatever ‘truth’ is can be at least approximated in the arts. I came up with one of my typically catastrophic, over-enthusiastic ambitions and suggested the start of a creative collective. Molly provided an innocuously subversive title and, with it, a philosophy. We are really earnest.
Phases, or, to Faze
There is something about water.
Five-hundred-and-one billion, twenty-seven million, six thousand and thirty-four years into the past, voluminous white wisps of evaporated liquid from the oceans are blown eastward by a westerly wind. As the wind blows, filaments, hirsute tendrils of micro-condensed droplets of water toss and convulse in fractal chaos, cast in interlocking vortices. The cotton candy machine, archetypal piece in any regional funfair, had been blown up to enormous proportions, had been yielding its pithy product in a rogue-like manner from above, not really caring about ethical consequences or petty things like human concerns for the weather, small-talk material for small-town folk with a distrust in elevators, things of that sort—or of any other sort—for its chrome and brushed steel exteriors—and its wiry, intestinal, cupric interiors—possessed neither a central processing unit nor any emotion that could possibly precipitate from the activity of existential questioning. Cirrus fibratus & uncinus, cirrostratus fibratus, cirroculumus floccus stencil perfect white brushstrokes against a sky powder-blue at the horizon, ultramarine at zenith, true blue in a gradient between. But nobody really knows or sees any of this, as nobody really cares to look up. All those years in the past, I mean, we approach this planet from the darkest depths of the cosmic void, from near-absolute darkness. Imagine thusly: close eyes, place hands over eyelids, imagine the blackest of blacks, now blacker. And not quite there, but beyond. That black. That black begotten by taking the negative of a photograph of a nuclear blast. The blue, then, from the outside, is an ocean.
Lost somewhere in a mass of land is a white spot. Approaching this white spot at thirty miles per second, the cloud cover breaks. The white spot is etched all over by contradictory labyrinths of penciled lines, a borough sketched here, a ward there, and the cyclic, pulsating movement of a city well oiled bursting everywhere. Approaching at hypersonic speeds, any sounds of the descent are left behind, not heard until a rude stop five feet and three inches from the plane on which the white spot and its innumerable intricacies of black lines exist on a three-dimensional Euclidean subspace of higher-dimensional realities. And so the spot reveals its identity as not a spot, but a span. At five feet and three inches from its blinding, white surface the view shifts to the face of a singular inhabitant of the metropolis, standing at a crossroad of the financial district. All is black and white in the truest sense—not grayscale.
Stickfigure outline of a man stands six-feet tall with a revolver in his mouth. Nobody bothers to look up because stickfigure outline of a man has a revolver in his mouth, a revolver whose barrel he caresses with his one-dimensional tongue, revolver loaded with bullets of zero dimensionality. A bloom of carmine and sangria rose petals blasts forth from stickfigure outline of a man’s head in a sudden spray suspended with deafening silence. And there time stands still.
The water in the central pool of a YMCA is glaucous blue, a quality attributable to the faded tiles laid down sometime in the mid-‘80s. The water in all pools in that same YMCA is infused with the acridity of chlorination, which makes the swimmer’s and the diver’s eyes brilliantly red after three or five plunges. The swimmer, at least, is sensible enough to wear goggles, goggles which never work unless significant pressure is applied to the ocular cavity, which gives her the sense that her eyeballs will be somehow either pushed into her brain, snowman-like, or, conversely, that, when she attempts to remove the goggles, that the sudden induction of a vacuum will suck them—the eyeballs—right out, perhaps comically plopping down into the water with a plink and a plunk, or something like that, in between. The diver simply knows enough not to keep on diving. He sits on a vinyl Adirondack-like chair, sketching with 4B weight graphite and a single, well-sharpened carmine colored pencil.
The swimmer raises her head from directly under the surface of the water and pulls her hair back tightly, and for a moment it appears as if she’s wearing a glistening sealskin cap. She overcomes the dread that always precedes the removal of her goggles over a bombastic internal monologue dealing with the consequences of potentially becoming blind. This thought process takes thirteen seconds of her life, and the stress induced by it chips away an extra two or three minutes from her overall life expectancy. If the average human female in this idealized world is expected to live to her early eighties, and assuming the swimmer to be either twenty-two or twenty-three, how many such internal monologues could she still ponder while having time yet to cook dinner when she returns home at 7:45 every evening from her job at the largest publishing house in the nation, taking into consideration the possibility that most vegan dinner preparations take about half an hour?—Enough. She removes her goggles and the vacuum yields with a depressing sigh. It is the sound of opening hermetically sealed jars of hearts of palm or kalamata olives, which she will hear again in preparing a salad after she returns home later that day. She steps out of the pool, walks up to the diver, and says, “Whatcha up to? Drawing.” “Yup,” the diver says, and the swimmer takes the vinyl Adirondack-like chair next to him. The diver, too, is young. He is also either twenty-two or twenty-three, and he occasionally draws existential comics when he is bored, or when his eyes sting from the chlorine. He, too, has a position as an intern in the largest publishing house in the nation. Aside from this, neither the swimmer nor the diver are related in any way, aside, that is, from their mutual agreement to be fuckbuddies until the end of the program, or until the end of this short story—whichever comes later.
The sketch the diver had been working on featured the exciting span of a pristine sheet of A4, all-purpose paper. There is no particular reason for why he decided to use A4, and it does not make much sense to me—as A4 is a gross, awkward shape—but such was the situation. In the center of this sheet of paper, the diver had some minutes prior begun outlining a flat, topographical map of an evidently bustling metropolis. At the center of this sketch was a crossing point between the main avenues of the city, and at the center of this crossroad was a stickfigure outline of a man holding a revolver in his own mouth. The swimmer asked, “What’s up with that?” and the diver answered, “Iunno,” or something of the sort, and took his single colored pencil and pressed a spray of red messes and tangles into the central portion of the A4 paper, directly adjacent to the stickfigure outline of a man’s head and directly opposite, directionally, from the gun’s barrel, which itself was concealed in its phallic, metallic blackness somewhere deep in the figure’s throat.
A drop of water rolls from the diver’s wet hair and falls onto the red scratches, spreading the color outward in a thin smear. It was a watercolor pencil. An older woman with blonde hair, sporting a one-piece swimsuit and a belly, claps her feet onto the wet gutter under the diving platforms. The lifeguard’s whistle breaks cleanly through the air. And here the diver finishes his sketch and the swimmer succumbs to sleep by the pool.
The click of an unlocking door is an extremely satisfying sound, unless the unlocking is being performed by a third party one does not desire penetrating the barrier set up by said locked door. An older woman with blonde hair returns home from spending the day at a YMCA swimming and diving and unlocks the door to her suite. The Royal Caribbean duffel bag she carries contains two items: a one-piece rayon/lycra hybrid swimsuit and an unopened ‘maple sugar’ granola bar. The first thing the older woman with blonde hair does when she enters her house is place her right foot on the floor of the atrium. Maybe the thirteenth or fifteenth thing she does after that is push the door shut with her left hand, or gaze at the bag of recently-purchased denim still peeking from the shadows of the coat closet, a closet that contains one coat.
The woman remembers in a non-sequitur kind of way that she quite loathes the scent of recently-purchased denim, and that the only reason she had yet to ‘break in’ her new jacket and (purposely-, factory-)faded jeans was the indigo scent the pieces emanated. Her friend Odette had once mentioned that the best means by which one could remove this undesirable, noxious nuisance from new clothing is to wash the criminally blue garments in a solution of coconut bar-soap. Taking heed of this indispensable advice, the somewhat blonde older woman had years before purchased, or amassed, hoarded, a supply of coconut bar-soaps. She still keeps them in the laundry closet.
She walks toward the laundry closet and retrieves two bricks of coconut soap. She walks into the kitchen and places a large stewpot filled halfway with water on the largest, frontmost heating element of the electric stove, which she sets to ‘9,’ whatever that means in this context. The woman drops the two bricks of soap into the water and starts stirring, until the water boils and the soap melts into an onomatopoeically gloppy mix of sodium laureth sulfate and essential coconut oils. If her glass eye had fallen into the mixture then, it would most definitely have made a sound like plop, or something closer to it than plink or plunk, for instance.
Anyway, the scalding syrup is ready. The older woman with relatively blonde hair raises the pot from its two side handles, raises it higher, and wobbles. She is shifting and shuffling her feet from the kitchen to the laundry, where her hopes lay in dumping the mix into an already-filled washing machine. Deux ex machina-esque, she slips on a plastic clasp on the shoulder-strap of the Royal Caribbean duffel bag and falls back, dumping the superheated coconuty icing onto her face and neck. The way the steam rises from the moisture still cooking out from the suspension of detergents and stabilizers, fragrances and essences, the way it whisks up with the heated air currents crawling out and freeing themselves from the viscous goo, hovering slightly above the old woman’s melting face, the way it cycles back into the endless span of the universe silently, deadly, reminds us that there is, indeed, something about water.
If I haven’t posted recently (and I haven’t, it’s true), it is because I’ve been extremely busy with fun timez. Here’s a (Denny’s-sized) sampler. Enjoi.
“The rice—it’s glue. And kale, kale doesn’t go with salmon. What the hell were you thinking? And the salmon is frozen and the potatoes, the knife cuts are, like, ridiculously uneven. Look at this. It’s like a damn apple. Crunchy. Potatoes aren’t supposed to be ‘crunchy.’ And the rice—it’s like glue. Who’d ever think to make kale go with salmon? It’s fucken salmon, and it’s frozen. Was. Frozen salmon. Please learn how to cook properly, and then try just that—this same… dish little bit harder, with a little bit more effort next time, ok?” His smile wasn’t much more than the sketch of a well-sharpened pencil. “It doesn’t take that much thought.” She wasn’t looking up from her plate, which was landscaped like a zen garden of swirled overcooked greens and the occasional lost rice in a fury of tuberous architectural features. “Frozen salmon,” he said, loudly enough, “Frozen.”
Little under twenty-one years prior, she should have known that, when on the night of the day after her marriage her new husband took it upon himself to display his claim for connubial territorial domination by farting under the—very dense, so incredibly, tragically, suffocatingly dense—400-thread count, one-hundred-percent Egyptian cotton sheets of their honeymoon bed of the Taiwan Hotel’s most spacious fifth-floor suite, that there was something wrong. Surely they loved each other very much: She peed as he brushed his teeth in the morning; he’d agonize over constipation without closing the door to the half-bath next to the kitchen after breakfast. Life was harmonious and comfortably inelegant, just as she had dreamed it would be when she found the ‘right guy,’ whatever she meant with those terms. So when it was decided that they would get married in June of 1989, nobody was surprised. There was the detail of the pregnancy, but that had been done away with silently—nobody would know, and the procedure was quick and painless. Uterus squeaky clean, marriage could proceed without much guilt.
And the situation did seem perfect before that night-of-the-day-after at the Taiwan. She’d been horizontal from merely hours after the limo dropped them off and, well, until the methane got to her, and it had been pleasant, as always, and sometimes violent, as she did like it to be violent sometimes, and at other times solemn and ceremonial, which neither enjoyed much, but which seemed necessary to keep things interesting. But sometimes she also wondered about the unthinkable—how it all would have, could have progressed if she had had the child, which she knew would be a boy, who she had strong suspicions would come out of the closet shortly after his sixteenth birthday, who would be found being screwed by the neighbor’s step-son by the cleaning lady, who’d utter a “Dios mio,” or something like that, and who would have shut the door and never mentioned the scenario forever after, but who would still be occasionally plagued by very vivid scenes in her dreams, products of a sexually-repressed Catholic upbringing in Argentina. The joys of parenting would have fixed these problems. They would have made the disappointment more tolerable, and the flatulence less scientifically unfamiliar, more relatable and ‘homier.’ Because then, at least, she’d have a link to him—her husband—a carnal link to serve as a convincing argument for why it was that they had to be together, for why their union just simply made sense.
But, as it happened, the reek was scientific and coolly detached from her perceptions of her husband, who’d at all times until then seemed like such a lovable, huggable, and intimate synthetic person, if a bit robotic and mentally cybernetic. He’d now presented himself as flawed and human, and, above all, as organic, which she never expected. Back then, that was the only sign she received of what was to come. She should have recognized it as a problem, but she chose not to, instead deciding to err on the side of accidental embarrassment, which he’d surely avoided by completely ignoring the situation. Surely.
“Spaghetti is supposed to be al dente. And this tomato sauce is so watery. See how it pools here at the bottom?” he’d say, raising a matted mess of starchy tangles over the edge of his plate (part of a Martha Stewart collection). Indeed, there would be a splash of aqueous, diluted sauce pathetically billowing and circulating along the perimeter of the dish. “Should have let it simmer a bit longer.” She liked the taste of the fresh tomato to be distinctly prevalent in her sauce. “If you simmer—that is, if you don’t boil the hell out of the sauce—then you can thicken it while still keeping that raw taste you like so much. Try a bit harder next time.” Such was the scenario every day since the night-of-the-day-after at the Taiwan, and she’d learned to accept it as simply a fact of married life—that little bouts of criticism and discomfort were healthy, and that complaint could be directed for constructive bonding. It was a convincing lie.
Both nearing their fifties and childless, the marriage would have progressed from periods of novel excitement (~12, 13 hours, max), supreme disappointment and/or regret (~20 years, maybe a couple of months more or less), a sense of futility (another ~20 years or so), and, finally, a certain harmony and mutual understanding brought forth by a collective aging. Love ceased to play a part in their relationship many years ago, and the dependency that had once been defined by their mutual ability to remain together despite the growing consistency with which they fought about trivial matters (“You put the limes in the vegetable drawer???” / “SINGLE PLY?” / “The ‘volume’ line needs to be under the ‘V,’ not the ‘O’…”) had now given way to a singularity defined by solitude, and by their companionship in spiraling slowly toward an inevitable death.
Downtown Ribeirão Preto changed little since the end of the 19th Century. Still, when taking strolls from alleys to alleyways between Paraguayan electronics boutiques stocked with equipment of questionable legitimacy and Bottega Veneta or BCBGMaxAzria outlets, we tread the same parallelepiped granite rock laid as pavement by Japanese immigrants in late 1909. The Southeast of Brazil is extremely Brazilian: hot ember, and wealthy in a stealthy sense. Roads are old and uneven, the evening sky a Brilliant Blue FCF, but only when not sinister and obscure under cloud cover of seasonal thunderstorms. The mood: electric in the British, Victorian sense: rustic, yet bustling; never asleep, but always cautious. The soil is fertile and highly caffeinated, although in recent years it has become sugary, cloying with the sweetness of the so-called ecological business of ethanol mills. Wealthy, in a stealthy sense: light posts tarnished and park benches and statues and copper features on colonial buildings patinated. The soil is also a deep annatto red; it is blood, and it is life. When we made the move from the confines of the University of Virginia down to Ribeirão, we were spoiled by the Americanism of leaving our shoes by the front door. It did not take long for us to be disabused of the custom, a luxury of the light-, sandy-earthed peoples of the North. And please don’t mistake this for the sentimental journey of a not-quite expatriate with no place in the world, a lost wanderer in search of a home and its comforts. (I have plenty of those.) I write simply on the dilemma and histories of surfaces in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil.
It is about time that I go for something new. I am a pre-schooler, a kindergartener with strong ambitions re popularity and social excellence. All the rage in the early ‘nineties are light-up sneakers, particularly if they feature the branding of SEGA and, better yet, the specificity of Sonic the Hedgehog. No doubt Manuela, one crush, will be impressed by my display of a postmodern tendency to adapt to the evolving cultural milieux of the times, my flawless sense for LED-fashion and electromagnetic accessorizing. She’s gone for the Barbie ones, the ones molded from clear vinyl and varicolored glitter with a pinkish bias, the ones with a staccato of blinking patterns spanning front-to-back the length of ultra-durable rubberized, high-density polyethylene-skeletized soles. And I don’t blame her one bit—they’re impressive, and assertive, and cutting-edge, and, best and most sexy of all, risky: they come with a disclaimer for epileptics. I too need a pair of shoes, preferably featuring SEGA, particularly Sonic the Hedgehog, and a disclaimer for epileptics. Even Chan Marshall goes for the Chanel every once in a while. It’s a quality of people who know how to live and are not afraid of doing so, and doing so well. Forget the Spice Girls; it’s all about a balance between conformity and grit, and ruggedness.
My grandfather is the sycophantic type: married to a spoiled girl, an obsessive smoker and cat-lady, also obsessed with The Beatles (not a bad thing; they’re trendy), Monty Python, Chaplin’s Modern Times, and Marxism and day-old coffee, which we call petroleum, or crude oil, in my house, which is ironic, as far as I know. He purchases me things, my grandfather does. We go downtown every once in a while; we go shopping at the farmers’ market, where they sell artificially-colored sugarwater in LDPE vacuum-molded bottles in the shape of cartoonish mice and rabbits and bears, and where we drink sugarcane juice, freshly squeezed and contaminated by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan I know about, and which is therefore highly risky and highly desirable for the maximization of one’s social functions (cf. paragraph two, line two). We also make the point of visiting Odette, the loud woman who sells cheese, olives, and charcuterie, and who will pass away in a bit less than twenty years, maybe. My grandfather has the annoying habit of guiding me by the neck, which he clamps with his thumb and index finger of the right hand and steers with rude, discontinuous impulses—now this way, now that. If we feel particularly adventurous, we visit the main city market, which is a five-, or maybe ten-, minute drive away, where other old people sell things with a Barthesian grain: maki rolled by the skilled hands of paver families, mozzarella pulled and taffy’d by the oscillatory motions of ex-coffee harvester Italians. These places are well known, but hidden. Such is the stealth. And the parking garage, which holds Audis and Mercedeses and Citroëns without particular biases, is guarded by a rusty gate and a guaranteed overweight elderly person who reads tabloids and listens to AM radio simultaneously. Transactions are made with cash, solely, and there is no receipt. Lighting is provided by light bulbs hung exposed.
Two blocks away we may go to a store where they sell kindergarten status amulets, if I fight against the claw pressing against my jugular vein and making me increasingly desperate w/r/t potential bloodflow restrictions to, and from, my brain, which I value. But I am stubborn and my grandfather has a weak mind, even in his late fifties, so I succeed. I guide the hand and the body attached to it and reach the store, where I will obtain, by monetary exchange, an epilepsy-inducing apparatus. I try several on, but immediately reject anything aside from Sonic [the Hedghehog], and eventually decide on a particular model that appeals to my senses, one which will challenge Manuela’s own UFOlogical laser show, which will potentially lure her to my lair of kindergartenous ambitions. But no, I don’t want these lacy, beige, flimsy socks the saleswoman keeps pushing on me. I said I don’t want the socks. Do I have to put on the socks? Screw it. I’ll take my cash back, thankyouverymuch.
Cupcake Wars. This post is not about Cupcake Wars, the Food Network show featuring glittery girls baking small, cup-sized cakes with an end to impress judges with imaginary credentials. This post is about Giao, and it’s about her dilemma. What my brother and I did to mend the post-Holidaze low—
1:46 AM: “I feel like something sweet.” “But, like, chewy sweet.”
1:46.5 AM: Alton brown cubes mangos.
1:47 AM: “Wanna make cookies?”
1:47.0001 AM: “Yes.”
So we set out, and by precisely 2:00 AM we had flour, molasses, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter, chocolate chips, salt, baking soda, and (forgot) before us, lined up atop the kitchen counter. Detail: the kitchen light went out. The task would have to be accomplished in the dark. Adventure. Improv. Late-night flow of creative juices.
We further baked…
We ate about three cookies total.
It is now 5:20 AM. This is what one does.
Seems like the proper act of folding, in its multiple facets, is a critical skill in need of absolute mastery for one’s success in maintaining personal welfare. Some situations/scenarios in which ‘folding’ can be important:
On the New York Times ’Dining & Wine’ section, Florence Fabricant offers periodic advice regarding the banalities of table and restaurant etiquette, but most often what would have been originally intended as genuine guidance rules for proper public presentation morph into pretentiously humorous takes on relationship counseling for new couples, therapy for young parents, and otherwise platitudinous renditions of consolation for unwarrantedly embarrassing dilemmas. A large portion of these personal concerns, usually addressed in the ‘overreactive’ fashion, can vary from petty complaints of bad ambient music (and what to do, were one to experience such a scenario) to grievances on a boyfriend’s habit of loudly licking his fingers (for which the solution is to pack moist towlettes).
What makes the Thursday feature readable and—perhaps—commendable and tolerable, considering the absolutely obnoxious and conceited tone often subsumed by contributors’s trite façades of daily life (for after all, don’t we all experience the wrongs of being assigned a Le Bernardin table neighbored by twelve loud DNC executives?), are FloFab’s habitually furtively derisive replies, hints that this woman—who one could expectedly assume an archetype of the manufactured product of the pretenses of haute cuisine—understands the culinary world as one of play, and particularly one that is more often than not taken too seriously by foodie wannabes. Some examples:
Q. My boyfriend is like a human Dumpster. Every time we go to dinner, I try to enjoy the ambience and his company, while he shovels whatever is on his plate in his mouth and finishes a full course in three minutes. I’ve told him that he eats like a puppy and needs to slow down but–short of taking his fork — nothing has worked. How, oh how, do I get the boy to savor the flavor and wait a few seconds between bites?
A. Try asking questions, or being a wittier conversationalist.
Q. My brother started dating a young lady whom he brought home to introduce to the family for the first time last Thanksgiving. In our family, the Thanksgiving meal is usually provided by the host or hostess, with extended family members contributing occasional specialties such as the pumpkin pie or a vegetable. I might also add that most members of my extended family are excellent cooks.
To our surprise, a few days before the big dinner the young lady called my mother, who was to be hostess that year, and insisted on cooking the turkey along with all of the fixings. Since none of us really knew this girl or her cooking skills very well–for all we knew she could have been a professional chef–and because my mother didn’t want a contentious start to the relationship, she reluctantly agreed. After further questioning it became clear that the girl had never really cooked a turkey before, or much else that she was planning to make, regardless of her belief in her capabilities.
The night of the dinner was disastrously comical, of course. Her turkey was bland and shoe-leather dry, the “gravy” was a greasy black oil slick with burnt pieces of…turkey?…floating in it, and the cranberry sauce looked like chunky red vomit with broken pieces of walnuts dotting the surface. The only thing that was remotely edible was the cornbread stuffing, which I believe came out of a box. Many people were politely picking at the offerings (but not eating much, as there was a lot left over) and my poor mother kept up the show of politeness by praising the girl’s efforts and offering everyone seconds. The girl herself sat there smiling and thinking she had done an excellent job.
Fast forward to this upcoming Thanksgiving: My brother, who apparently didn’t retain any of his family’s traditions in food appreciation or social graces, is still with this young lady, and she again wants to cook the meal. How on earth do we stop her, save our stomachs, and also let her know that it is not appropriate to keep insisting on taking over another host’s dinner?
A. Disastrously comical? Isn’t that the norm for Thanksgiving?
Perhaps the best way is to be effusively grateful but firm: “No, thank you, dear. This year it will be somebody else’s turn, because there are other people in the family who really love to participate in this dinner and it wouldn’t be fair to them.”
The host or hostess might suggest that this young lady bring one dish–perhaps the cornbread stuffing. Often with these communal participatory affairs there will be somebody who insists on bringing some dish that everybody hates: Aunt Maggie’s sweet potatoes, or Uncle John’s cardboard pie. That’s family life and you have to put up with it.
As for this young lady’s lack of self awareness about her cooking skills, there’s little that can or should be said. But perhaps your family could offer to pay for a really good dinner for the two of them. Or offer cooking classes?
In fact, it is not difficult to imagine Fabricant herself milling over such unbearable indignities of ‘daily life,’ but the ‘witty’ reader cannot bear but notice her technique in combatting supercilious play-acting with the same. No doubt FloFab is aware that her true readership lies not in the people who submit dramatic questions concerning trifling matters, but rather on the more mainstream demographic of Sandra Lee enthusiasts and Gordon Ramsay apologists—indeed precisely the so-deemed uncivilized and uncultured demographic her ‘contributors’ wage a constant war against—people who take Hell’s Kitchen unseasoned, proverbially unsalted. One comment reads, sic,
At a casual restaurant, eat the available hot food as it arrives. From watching Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen, I now understand that above a certain price point, it is entirely correct to send the entire course back and have the kitchen do the entire service together (and give the brigade kitchen brigadier something to yell about).
But certainly these people, too, miss the point. After all, what kind of person who takes cuisine seriously would even dare invoke—or rather, assume—a lesson from any celebrity chef? True ‘foodies’ are iconoclasts, celebrity praise an ultimate blasphemy against the established canon spanned by the artistes of fine cuisine, surely.
What surfaces, then, from the depths of Fabricant’s sea of target demographics, is insurmountable evidence for a lack of popular appreciation for the people behind the scene, for the executive chefs and the sous chefs and the pâtissiers and the unsung sommeliers. Abandoned is the sense of play intrinsic to any art form, literary to culinary. So what, over the long haul, attributes value and credit to Florence’s weekly Q&A is her own silent criticism of the binaries of haute cuisine, the rift cast between the elite and those who wish they were. And such is the purpose of the fabulous FloFab.
Epigrammatics of Testicular Lesion
Now, tell me, please. How does it feel?
Okay, okay. Carry on.
Yes, it does seem quite painful.
You mean you feel it in your stomach? Really?
… .! … … .! … .!
And the righ—
… … … …!!! …
You did say children were out of the question.
I see… well, fuck. Ah, right. You, um, can’t. Ha. Haa…
Well, okay, but you can’t say the picture didn’t turn out rad. I mean, just look at that face. Goddamn.