Roz Chast (and my “Humor” file)

Roz Chast is a writer/cartoonist. I first discovered her over 20 years ago. These were the comics, “Bartlett’s Unfamiliar Quotations”, that I saw. I about lost it. Chast is a cartoonist for The New Yorker but I don’t read that publication; I think I saw these particular ones reprinted in a City paper. I clipped them out and still have the yellowing newspaper in my “Humor” file, a thick collection of various odds & ends I’ve found funny. It serves no purpose other than to amuse me. I don’t know if this is unusual but my humor has been fairly consistent; the things I found funny in decades past are still likely to make me laugh.

Roz Chast recently published Going Into Town: A Love Letter To New York, described as a “graphic memoir.” As soon as I heard about it I reserved it at the library. It’s a great, quick-read book. I’ll grant you my reading material as of late hasn’t been all that funny but I laughed more resding this book than any I can recall in a long time.

I don’t think you’d need any particular familiarity with New York to enjoy this book. I spent a little time in New York long ago but that is the extent of my firsthand knowledge. To be honest, I never truly understood the layout of the burroughs exactly or Manhattan’s streets before seeing Chast’s illustratios. Her New York is quirky and fun – this isn’t a book about subway murders or gang violence. She’s a middle class – probably upper middle – white lady; she’s writing about what she knows, not Harlem. I think that I need to make that clear but for me it takes nothing from the book or its point.

After reading the book in one sitting (about an hour) I went looking in my Humor file for that old comic. I would have posted it here instead of just adding a link but I expect that would be a copyright violation. While looking through the file I found a “one panel” comic I drew. The weird thing is, that while I KNOW I drew this – and feel it wasn’t that terribly long ago – I don’t definitively know why I drew it. This isn’t like me; I can remember things I drew in grade school so this memory blank is odd. I can certainly imagine what I must have been thinking/feeling, that’s not too hard! It made me laugh now so I thought I’d share it with you.

IMG_20180202_072552_kindlephoto-4470896

Advertisements

Why I’ll be watching the Winter Olympics

I want to get this post in here now when there’s still a little time before the Winter Olympics begin. I’ve been a fan of the Olympics, summer and winter, going back to childhood. I’m not fanatical; I can’t recite a lot of facts & figures or remember exactly which Olympics happened in which place. Nonetheless I have a strong emotional bond to the games and find a lot of meaning in watching them on TV.

In years past I’d watch the games and by the end I’d get super-excited for the next ones but then a couple years would pass and by the time the Olympics rolled around again, I’d be distracted by other matters and not so gung-ho and it’d take awhile to “get into” them again. This was a a mistake.  I have learned is to DIVE IN RIGHT AWAY. No, I can’t sit through all 18 hours of the Opening Ceremonies, but I make a point to watch a little and some of whatever sport follows the next day or two. I find that jumping in gets me excited and invested; I quickly feel like part of them. When I have dragged my heels and not leaped in, I’d typically regret it because soon enough they’d be over and I’d be wanting more.

I have my favorite sports, sure, but I’ll watch a little of a lot of things. I am amazed by what human beings are able to do. That alone holds me spellbound. I can’t skate or ski  or snow board or ride a bobsled but I sure enjoy watching people who can. The levels of skill people have reached in these sports – and so many others – is phenomenal.  When you watch the Olympics for awhile, you begin to feel like a professional judge too and sling around the language the commentators use: “He didn’t get enough air on that half-pipe.” “She has her legs under her today.” And always: “Look at that amplitude!”

I will watch sports I see no point in; like the luge. How did this become a sport? I don’t know. “Jim, they’re reaching speeds of 110 miles an hour on this turn in the track, which we call Dead Luger’s Curve.”

Bob Kostas, NBC’s main desk anchor for the Olympics since 1992 – 1992!! – has stepped down. I’m a bit disgruntled about this – I loved having him at that desk pulling things together in his affable, confident way – so I’m mighty curious to see how things go without him. At least the humorous Mary Carillo will still be doing her taped segments that focus on the host country’s culture and people. If you see one of her segments coming on, watch it. Learning about the host country is one of the games’ pleasures and she’s a fun commentator.

The Olympics make the world feel smaller. This year in particular I personally really need to feel that. I want to hear about things that unite us. I want to see countries “getting along” at least in the spirit of competitive games. Even North and South Korea have had a little thaw; the two countries’ athletes will march together in the Opening Ceremonies and the women’s hockey team will feature a conjoined team. I’m not naive enough to think “okay, great, everything will be fine now!” but I still find these small things heartening.

Whoever NBC packages as the “it” athletes of the games – the ones they promote and push on the viewing audience – will probably not be the heroes of the games. The Olympics always bring surprises, some good, some not so much. Sometimes a person touted as the best flames out at the games while an up-and-comer nobody had heard of steals the show.  I love this part, watching things unfold.

I am athletically inclined and fit but I am not brilliantly skilled in an sport. I can appreciate what it must take both to become so and to remain so, especially with younger, stronger athletes always coming along behind you. (Note: I will be rooting for Shaun White.)  When you watch the Olympics your notions about age become entirely skewed. An “old lady” in skating  is 28. The announcers will make such a fuss, they’ll make it sound like she left her walker at the rink’s edge before hobbling onto the Olympic ice.

When I watch the Olympics, I feel motivated. I make sure I don’t just sit on my ass in front of the TV for two plus weeks straight. I like to “participate” in my own little manner. I’ll do push-ups during commercials or other little physical things that help keep me in shape.  I have no dreams of joining any Olympic team but I like to maintain myself at my own level. If  THEY can do THAT, surely I can take a long walk!

I will cry. I alway cry when I watch the Olympics. Watching someone do something they’ve worked all their life for moves me. I love seeing the parents in the audience waving their flags and signs; they look like people you know, regular folk.  Sometimes an athlete will surprise themselves with the brilliance of their performance and break down in joyful tears. A winning team will jump on each other and hug as one moving animal. A hard-luck story,  of a skater who traveled 8 hours a day to reach the rink to practice,  or an athlete who learned to ski on cardboard skis or something  in a poverty-stricken sad lttle part of the world, never fails to get me where I live.

 

“Grandma’s Pizza”

This has nothing to do with my grandma whatsoever. I saw this recipe in a bread-making book and the author allowed that she didn’t know why it had that name either. At the moment I don’t care enough to investigate (have at it if the spirit moves you.

I make pizza weekly. This was a switch up. It’s a deep dish in a 9×13 pan. It was delicious! I refrigerated half and froze half in portions. I make my own crust (this was half whole wheat and half white flour) but if that’s not for you the same idea might work by using two store-bought dough crusts combined (the ones sold in balls or tubes).

I put my dough in the pan, added 3/4 cup Furmano’s Chunky Crushed Tomatoes, a conservative amount of sliced Mozzarella, a generous helping of dried Basil, and a splash of olive oil. If you try this and freeze some as I did, I suggest using a toaster oven for re-heating; microwaves make pizza mushy and you lose that wonderful crispness.

IMG_20180128_184850_kindlephoto-101198

Raw dough

IMG_20180128_192550_kindlephoto-1049277

After baking (375 degrees for about 30 minutes till golden brown)

IMG_20180128_193012_kindlephoto-1325984

Lake in winter

Three plus weeks into the New Year and my Kinda Sorta New Year’s Resolutions are well underway. I committed to visiting the local lake ten times. As of today I’ve gone three times. I’d rather go now before the nice-weather crowds descend in spring and early summer. I am really not a fan of combining crowds and nature. The mood is mellow now, the walkers and joggers fewer. I am glad I made a plan to do this. It really is peaceful and scenic.

IMG_20180125_152403_pan_kindlephoto-189373127

Panoramic view of main part of lake

IMG_20180125_152306_kindlephoto-192787238

Two bundled walkers between the two trees

Eat, pray, love, grieve

Most of you have probably heard of the book (and subsequent) film, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read the book and saw the film and liked them well enough but was not blown away (as some people were). What impressed me considerably more was a subsequent book, Committed, where Gilbert explored the concept and history of commitment. It combined solid research with her personal story. There was so much information in it that I felt it deserved a second read (one I have yet to do, but still).

Eye-opening to me was that, contrary to conventional thought, the early Christian church was not a big fan of marriage and preferred people be “married” to god, not mortals. Marriage was seen as a bit frivolous even, so it’s historically inaccurate when people argue that “god” and the church have always advocated marriage. Gilbert points out that while the standard heterosexual man/woman/kids family unit has weakened and dropped in numbers, it is increasingly gay couples who want to marry and have families (and who have met resistance).

As I read Committed I had a strong sense that the author was trying to talk herself into it (i.e. a second marriage after a failed first) and was using research to buoy her decision, which in the end, is to commit to the man she met as described in Eat, Pray, Love.

I haven’t kept close tabs on Elizabeth Gilbert’s ongoing story, just occasionally checking out her Facebook page, so I was surprised to learn that not only had she split from her husband a few short years ago but had become involved with a woman soon thereafter. This woman, Rayya Elias, became ill with cancer and died recently. Gilbert’s grief is very raw and I can’t help but feel for her. She is plainly devastated.

At first – not knowing about the marital split – I was confused when I google-searched and found hit after hit about Gilbert’s “partner” who died. There has to be a better word – and I don’t know why there isn’t yet – for a same-sex girlfriend or boyfriend. “Partner” is so dry and unemotional; it doesn’t do justice to human relationships.

It’s ironic that Gilbert ended up in a gay relationship, particularly after the Hollywood treatment of Eat, Pray, Love, namely “sailing off into the sunset” with a handsome man. More so because of her thoughtful reflections on the current state of same sex couples in Committed. I don’t know if Gilbert will write another memoir that would share her subsequent story but if she does, I’d certainly be interested to read it.

Little Free Library

Have you heard of Little Free Libraries? Individuals volunteer to build and maintain them where they live. Anyone can take or deposit books. They can be found all over the world. The website has all the details as well as a map of locations. Locally, within a mile of where I live, there are three. I see that two of them are not listed on the official map. (If you know me in “real life” and want the addresses of our little free libraries, feel free to contact me.) I thought it would be fun to show you “mine.”

IMG_20180118_141333

Taken two days ago (we had a little snow, since melted)

IMG_20180120_112625

Love the red

IMG_20180120_125357

Looks like repurposed cupboards

I haven’t visited these too frequently (I also have a public library just about a mile from home and I’m there often). Now that I am committed to reading more, like I used to, maybe I’ll increase my visits. Mostly, I’ve returned books I’ve taken to where I found them but here are two I kept (I just found the vegan book and already made the creamy lentil soup).

IMG_20180118_125755_kindlephoto-10350498

When I stopped to take photos today I found the current issue of Martha Stewart Living so I snapped it up.

IMG_20180120_130502

125 ways to energize your life, hot-diggity!

It has never occurred to me to start my OWN Little Free Library but this section on doing one inexpensively has got me thinking…

Easy, healthy Walnut, Date & Coconut treats

I saw this recipe on Facebook recently and I immediately made it. Shockingly, I had all the ingredients (this is almost never the case). The original recipe, posted by someone I know casually who practices a healthy lifestyle, used coconut oil as the “binder” but in the interest of an even healthier treat, I used plain water instead. I was delighted with the results!

Walnuts provide good fats, potassium, fiber, protein vitamin B6, magnesium,  iron, and a little bit of calcium. Dates provide potassium, fiber, carbs, magnesium, sugar, vitamin B6, and iron. Coconut provides saturated fat, potassium, carbs, fiber, sugar, protein, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6,  magnesium, and a little bit of calcium.

-20 pitted dates

-1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (I buy mine from Amazon by the 4 pack)

-1/2 cup walnuts

-1/2 cup water

IMG_20180118_100129_kindlephoto-48417159

Don’t feel wedded to the exact amounts or even the ingredients. This little recipe should lend itself easily to improvisation.

My Oster blender has a food processor attachment so I used that but if you don’t have a food processor you could try a regular blender; maybe break up the larger food pieces first.

IMG_20180118_101513

After mixing

The last step was to shape the mixture into little balls. I like to initially freeze them on a baking sheet. This made 15.

IMG_20180118_102459_kindlephoto-49819599

After they were in the freezer a little while (just long enough so they don’t stick together), I bagged them and put them back in the freezer. So easy!

IMG_20180118_125440