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Posts from the ‘downers’ Category

downers: boy books

Now that Finn is reading, our house is littered with chapter books. From what I can tell, the offerings for young male readers fall into one of two camps: 1) mind-numbingly dull or 2) soul-crushingly terrifying.

You might think a lot of things in life are boring. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t know shit about boring until you’ve read 72 volumes of the Magic Tree House series. Those books are so bad that they will make you start hating things you used to think were cool, like time travel, Morgan Le Fay, and trees.

I thought I found a way to get around reading the Magic Tree House books by borrowing them on CD and playing them on long road trips. Bad idea, if a human is doing the driving. You’d be better off trying to drive after eating a whole roasted turkey and chasing it with a bottle of Nyquil.

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do not operate heavy machinery while reading

But I’ll take boring over scary, any day of the week. I want to cry when I think that my boys could turn out like the kids in “Captain Underpants,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “Stink,” who blow up toilets, rob unsuspecting neighbors, and engage in mail fraud. The boys in these books don’t really talk. Instead, they retort, or quip. It’s really hard to keep your kids from saying “stupid” and “idiot” at home when they’re reading those words in books that you’ve bought for them.

As an aside, the effort to stop my kids from saying the word “stupid” reached a nadir last month when my four-year old Tate began saying the word “doopid” as a workaround.

Me: “Tate, what did you say?? Did you just say ‘stupid’?”

Tate: “No mommy.” (Rolling of eyes). “I said DOOPID.”

Point is, I’m done with those crap books. Instead, I’m eager to introduce Finn to the chapter books I loved as a kid. Like the Ramona books, by Beverly Cleary, or the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. Later, perhaps some Robinson Crusoe or Alexandre Dumas—Athos was such a badass, and Lady de Winter! The best. Anyway, it was with these classics in mind that I bought a copy of “Little House on the Prairie,” and started reading it with Finn three nights ago.

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The good news is that Finn seems to dig the book, in spite of the long paragraphs about the dappled light on the prairie grass, and door carpentry. The bad news is that as a kid, I never realized how old-fashioned the book is in terms of gender dynamics. Ma basically does whatever Pa tells her to do, even though it’s clear from the get-go that Ma is ten times as smart as Pa, and also, not too keen on the idea of a long wagon ride to the middle of nowhere.

Yeah, Ma puts up with a lot. Later in the book they’re building their log house and Pa drops a fucking LOG on Ma’s foot, and Ma has to soak her foot and put on her own bandages while Pa parties with a neighbor and does a bunch of fiddlin’. I mean, if Tom dropped a log on my foot while he was building our log cabin, I…I don’t even know. But know this: I certainly wouldn’t be putting on my own damn bandages. Most likely I’d limp away in anger and then get eaten by a bear. But at least I’d have my self-respect.

Antiquated gender roles aside, Finn’s not the only one who’s digging on this book. The thing about reading Little House on the Prairie as an adult female is that you realize that Pa, being an alpha male, is totally hot. I mean, look at this illustration.

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uh, yes. i’ll take two

Not sure he’s got a ton of brains, but Pa is a doer, and I like that in a man. I also like that he’s a provider. The older I get, the more I want other people to take care of me, because I’m tired. Let’s not forget that when he dropped that log on Ma, Pa was building a log cabin. BY HIMSELF. And when the family was crossing the river in the wagon and they started sinking, he tossed the reins to Ma and jumped in the water and basically pulled the ponies to safety. Hot. If they made this book into a movie today, I’m pretty sure Chris Hemsworth would make an awesome Pa.

But back to the book. When Pa goes hunting with his gun, he gets it done. He PROVIDES. He brings back a prairie dog and two rabbits and some other vaguely rodent-like animal that I can’t recall. All I remember is that Ma makes gravy out of whatever it was.

No one can make cornmeal cakes with prairie dog gravy sound as delicious as Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can hardly wait for the later books when they make baked beans with salt pork. I don’t even know what salt pork IS, and my mouth is watering onto my keyboard right now. Anyway, what was I saying. Right. Pa gets it done for his family. And as an adult female, I really dig that about Chris Hemsworth. I mean Pa.

I’m really excited for the later books. I don’t remember them clearly but I DO remember the TV show, and so I know there’s lots of Mary being blind and Carrie being a rascal and a love interest named…Alfonzo? No. ALMONZO. That’s not a name. That’s a candy bar. But anyway, I’m excited. For Finn.

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downers: sweaty pits

Finn is on the cusp of something. I don’t know if it’s the beginning of manhood, or the end of babyhood, but I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t smell right.

As usual, Cuz voiced it first. “Finn smells,” she said. I had noticed it myself, usually after one of his soccer games, but had been in denial, for months. Normally, Finn smells like warm, active boy—a very good smell. Possibly, the best smell. More and more often, however, that boy smell comes with a dash of Gouda.

I can’t even tell where the smell is coming from. At bathtime, I stuck my nose under his armpit as he grumbled about privacy. It didn’t smell good, but neither did it smell like cheese. I think it’s his feet. I almost keeled over this week when he sat down next to me and pulled his feet, sockless, from a pair of Nikes.

finn pits

How did this happen? Finn is half Asian, and Asians don’t have B.O. I know, because I know a lot of Asians. And in general, none of them smell as bad as white people. It’s not a scientific sample, but take the Asian and white guys I know. The Asians might smell like a shit ton of Polo Sport, but they aren’t going to smell like rotting vegetable matter, like Tom does after a summer day in a suit. I’m just saying. Sidle up to an Asian after your gym class. Maybe not exactly roses. But not so bad, either. I can’t explain it. Might be the lack of body hair.

It sure as hell isn’t the lack of sweat. I am 100% Asian and I sweat profusely in situations requiring even the most minimal amount of physical exertion. Once, after a Zumba class, I passed by a nice old lady in the locker room. “I hope you enjoyed your swim!,” she chirped. Listen, friendly people: sometimes, it’s better not to make assumptions. Sometimes, in fact, it’s best not to say anything at all.

At least my sweat doesn’t smell. I know, because, duh, I’ve touched my sweat and smelled it.

Sweating really creates issues when it comes to clothes. I remember when I wore a pair of tight pants to go dancing, way back in college. They call it vegan leather now, but back then it was called plastic. Imagine dancing in a hot room in skintight plastic pants. I’d dance for a few minutes and then go to the restroom to roll down my pants and sop up the sweat with toilet paper. For the record, it’s really hard to look sexy in your tight plastic pants if people think you have a weak bladder or uncontrolled diarrhea.

Sweat is also really bad with silk. I wear a lot of silk, because it drapes nicely over my A cups and skims over my love handles just so. But for me, even thinking about sweat while wearing silk results in immediate pit stains of man-sized proportions. I’ve spent many a wedding with something wedged under my arm, to hide the evidence. Try hugging someone with a wedding program tucked under one arm, and an evening clutch tucked under the other. Or don’t. Best to wait to be hugged in such scenarios. You can participate in the hug by leaning in. I’m a great leaner.

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linds and me, leaning

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time googling stuff like “extreme sweatiness” and “excessive sweatiness” and “does Certain Dry cause cancer.” Linds turned me onto Certain Dry, which she says keeps your armpits sweat free. I’m sure Linds wouldn’t mind me sharing that as a white person, she worries about sweaty pits even more than I do. If there’s someone with B.O. in a room, she immediately assumes it’s her. Even I don’t do that. Anyway, the Certain Dry. It works, Linds says. Of course, she had to stop using it when it started causing her to scratch at her armpits uncontrollably in public. There’s always a catch. Why does there always have to be a catch?

Why can’t they invent a silk that makes sweat invisible? Can you put deodorant on a six-year old’s feet? That Asian you know who smells really bad? I’m all ears.

downers: advent calendars

There’s always a wide chasm between my aspirational parenting and my parenting reality, and that chasm is neatly embodied in our advent calendar. I didn’t have an advent calendar growing up, so they were foreign to me from the get-go. But I saw this cute felt number in a Pottery Barn Kids catalog when I was pregnant and had to have it. The only time I respond to the emotional manipulation of Pottery Barn Kids, by the way, is when I am pregnant or newly delivered of child. During such times, I’m a pungent stew of hormones and neediness, and sometimes the only thing that can make it better is to buy something cutesy and then monogram the shit out of it.

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So, back to the calendar. I bought it with only the vaguest notion of what an advent calendar means, or entails. All I knew was, if other kids had these things, my kids weren’t going to go without. Our calendar is displayed prominently in our dining room, across from my seat at the table, where it sits in silent judgment of my deficient mothering. The first problem with the advent calendar is that there are so many days in December. I know it’s 25 days, but it literally feels like December is seven years long when you are trying to figure out unique gift concepts for each pocket.

And about those pockets. The pockets on mine are approximately 2 inches by 3 inches, and sewn flat. I also have two kids, so I have to fit two of the item into each pocket. To give you a rough idea of how much the dimensions of those pockets limit my options, here’s a list of the things I have found that can actually fit into those pockets.

1. Andes mints (2)

2. Starburst (2)

3. Quarters (2)

4. Peanuts in the shell (2, but very tight squeeze)

5. Binder clips (2, the small size)

6. Splenda (2 packets)

Given these kinds of options, my kids would be happy if all 25 pockets had Andes mints or Starburst in them, no question. But I can’t live with that. I just can’t. For starters, I’m not sure Tate knows how to eat a Starburst yet. I sat down to dinner and found an oleaginous pink square with bite marks, stuck to my placemat. And what would 25 days of sugar teach them, anyway? That Jesus wants them to have candy? That their mom lacks creativity, and sufficient motivation?

So I’m forced to spend my downtime thinking of things to stick in those pockets. I went shopping today with my friend Alena and all I could think about is that advent calendar with all its empty pockets. So annoying. And that’s why I’m so pleased with tomorrow’s selection, which are free sample atomizers from the Nordstrom perfume counter, two of which slide into the pocket for December 4th as if they were made for it. I think Finn is really going to dig the Tom Ford White Patchouli, because he’s really my glam boho at heart. And definitely the Balenciaga for Tate. “A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.” Tate is all about a lasting trail of odors. He’s going to love it.

Sigh. Just 21 days to go. Please help.

downers: boys’ clothes

I have fairness on the brain. I hear “that’s not fair” at least 20 times a day. “That’s not FAIR that Tate got more Cheerios.” “That’s not FAIR that Finn gets to sit in that chair.” “Yoona, it’s not FAIR that I can’t watch Monday Night Football when the Lions are playing, just because I’ve already watched forty hours of Tigers baseball in the past week.” A heads up for the unattached: if you don’t want to spend your entire life watching sports on TV, don’t get with someone from the greater Detroit metropolitan area.

You know what’s not fair? Walking into a kids’ clothing store and seeing 90% of the real estate covered in pink and purple bedazzle. I don’t get it. Everyone I know has boys. Around these parts, it’s like you can turn on your tap and a bunch of Y chromosomes will come gushing out. So why can’t we get some decent boys’ clothes? Why??

It makes me roll my eyes when my friends complain that they can’t get their girls out of their tutus. Cry me a river. I find the wearing of tutus in non-ballet contexts to be an obvious cry for attention, but I readily admit that I probably feel that way because I’m bitter that I don’t have something equally as fun to put on my boys. I tried suspenders once for Finn but that ended badly, with pinched skin and a monster wedgie. Suspenders look sweet when you see them at American Apparel. What no one remembers about suspenders until they go to wear them is that you have to tuck your top tightly into your pants to work that look, and I don’t need to tell you how cool your typical five-year old boy looks with a tight tuck. So yeah, my boys have worn girls’ leggings and bell-bottomed jeans. As a consumer, I crave variety and choice. And neither of those things are available in the boys’ section.

Having boys means you’re likely buying a lot of one thing: stripes. In my boys’ rooms are drawers full of striped clothing in various stages of putrification. The problem with owning only striped clothing, of course, is that once your boys start dressing themselves, they are in danger of looking like blind mimes.

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not sure this works

Stripes aren’t all the stores are offering. They’re also offering t-shirts with school-friendly slogans like “My Mommy is a MILF,” and fedoras for toddlers. Our sons deserve better than clothing that looks like it was conceived by The Situation and J-Woww. The kids in the Crewcuts are working a look, but ironically, I don’t want my kids to dress like they care about fashion. It wouldn’t be honest, because they care not at all. Not to mention, as cute as those kids look in the catalog, my kid can’t wear suede chukka boots and a wool blazer to school—he would get stoned by his friends. I do like Boden’s boy pants. But $48 for a pair that he will grow out of in 3 months? Increasingly, not happening. Cuz says I need that money for retinol.

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mad that all his clothes are striped

I just want something that won’t tear, isn’t cheesy, and can stand up to gallons of dirt, blood, and urine. But please, no Gymboree. The clothing is inarguably well-made, but I have a problem with Gymboree. All my reproductive organs shrivel up whenever I go near a Gymboree. I guess my main objection to Gymboree is that everything in the store is designed as part of a set. Like, the frog pants go with the frog shirt that goes with the frog hat. Frogs seem like a cruel thing to do to your kid, especially in triplicate. And you’ll have those frogs forever, because Gymboree clothing is actually so well made that it has the half-life of plutonium.

When I had just the one kid, I would go to Cafe Press and customize Hanes t-shirts, like the one below. But now that I have two kids, I don’t have that kind of time. I once drove Tate all the way to school not realizing that both his legs were in one pant leg. So mostly these days I rely on H&M, but their sizing is weird, and the options few.

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Which is why I was so psyched that the folks at Prefresh sent me some stuff for the boys. I have a strong sense of journalistic integrity, but I happen to like these clothes a lot. And maybe you need leads. As you can see, the tops are awesome. Fun. Not trying too hard. With a perfectly laid-back neckline—something you might as well get your boys used to early on.

Take that, tutus.

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downers: birds

Some fears you are born with. Others take time to develop. Like my brother’s fear of heights, discovered inconveniently at the age of 20, right before we boarded a mountain cable car near Banff. Or my fear of flying, which has developed over the last ten years into a real impediment to the jet-setting lifestyle that I’d envisioned for myself as a child.

My fear of birds started slowly. When other kids would chase after birds at parks with day-old bread, I’d feel compelled to run in the opposite direction. Birds have beady, unblinking eyes, greasy feathers, and webby/bony feet that end in claws both sharp and unsanitary. They move unpredictably, with little forewarning. You’ll think a bird is walking safely away from you when it will suddenly veer off course and charge at you with aggressive neck bobs. I didn’t verify the info on Wikipedia or anything but I think birds are responsible for SARS, avian flu, and chicken pox. Anyway, I don’t like birds. Except for owls, which have a nice look about them. I thought I learned at some point that owls are not actually birds, and perhaps, that they give live birth (??), but when I asked Tom about that he started getting one of those pained and depressed looks he gets when I ask a question not to his liking. Like, are marsupials mammals; does Wisconsin border Kentucky—the kind of question that usually garners this response: “Yoona. You went to COLLEGE.”

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i’d free you, bird, but you might peck my eyes out

Anyway, I go out of my way to avoid birds. So imagine my horror when I recently stayed in a hotel that not only features live birds as part of the décor, but encourages said birds to mingle in spaces that IMHO should be reserved exclusively for humans. The first day, I got lost on my way to the pool and wandered into a bird habitat filled with lazy and unclean swans. The birdshit-strewn path in the habitat wends its way around and ends in a footbridge that crosses a koi pond. Koi rank somewhere between grubs and birds in my regard. They are overgrown, disgusting, and likely riddled with worms, and I know that if I ever have the misfortune to accidentally fall into a koi pond, I will expire immediately from sheer terror.

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the only thing i love more than birds is quasi-asian statuary

Between the swans and the koi and the mandals on all the tourists stopped on the path, I found myself in the middle of my own personal nightmare. The only way it could have been scarier is if Gwyneth Paltrow was there. As I sprinted down the path, I got so panicked that I tripped on the footbridge and fell headfirst into the poolside lounge on the other side. Some well-oiled teens in bikinis pointed and snickered. But I didn’t even care about my ignominious spill. Because I was free. Safely delivered from the birds.

downers: man sandals

People love themselves some summer.  My own relationship with summer is conflicted. What I don’t like about summer is that summer brings out man sandals, and I have a big problem with man sandals (“mandals”).

I realize it’s unfair to disparage an entire seasonal category of footwear.  But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have NEVER seen a pair of men’s sandals that I felt good about.

Tom wears mandals.  I have a job and two sons and I can’t monitor Tom all the time.  But he doesn’t wear them in public, and he doesn’t wear them when he’s with me.  It’s in my marriage contract, look it up.  Although he wears them, when I asked Tom to model some of his sandals, he threw a sh*tfit of such epic proportions that I was frankly taken aback.  And some of the friends who own the feet in this post allowed me to use their photos on the condition that their identities are kept anonymous.  Which all leads me to the conclusion that deep down, men know that man sandals are wrong.

Acceptance is always the first step to recovery.  Below, some of the most popular mandals.

1. Slides


Are you David Beckham?  Wait, back up.  Are you David Beckham, and stepping out of a shower at this very moment?  If so, my number is 503-YOU-FINE; call me.  If you are not David Beckham stepping out of a shower and you are wearing these to do anything other than the recycling, what the hell are you doing?  These slides were really big when I was in middle school, when the popular kids wore them to class with tube socks.  I have, like, two fond memories of middle school, and the fact that I was not popular, and hence never did that, is one of them.  As an aside, I admit that the feet above belong to people in my family, but the smaller feet came home from school with the socks.  You can be damn sure that they did not leave my house with them.

2. Fisherman sandals

When I see these on a grown man, my soul cries.  For some reason, these are popular with many of my lawyer friends, like Doug (above) and Ben (below), who are both totally boss because each allowed me to use a photo of him wearing fisherman sandals that includes his face.  Anyway, they may be popular with professionals because they seem like a more serious man sandal option.  And they are serious alright, in the sense that religion is serious, and the only grown man in the history of time who has pulled these off is Jesus.  The irony in professionals gravitating towards the fisherman sandal is that this type of mandal makes men look especially infantile, because they are essentially a modified version of these.  It pains me to write this, because I have friends reading this post right now while wearing fisherman sandals.  You know who you are.  I know who you are.  And it’s going to be ok.

3. Keens

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I hate Keens.  I HATE THEM.  Keen makes some cute sneakers, but their bread and butter is this monstrosity, which is like the unwanted bastard offspring of a trail sneaker and an Aquasock.  If you have a boy child between the ages of 2 and 12 and you have tried to buy a cute summer shoe only to be confronted with these Keens in twelve different colors as your only options, I sympathize.  They have overtaken the market and I consider it National Priority No. 1 that they be stopped.

The thing that I don’t get about Keens functionally is that they cover so much of the foot that you lose the point of wearing sandals, which is to keep your feet aired out.  Anyone who has smelled their child’s Keens after a day of wear knows that there is absolutely no airing out going on whatsoever.  So, why do these shoes continue to exist?  I’m hoping that someone will educate me in the comments; I am all ears.

4. Crocs

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What can I say about Crocs that hasn’t already been said?  I can say that I find them cute on children, but that could be the Stockholm syndrome talking.  I can also tell a story, about the time that Tom went on a man trip with some men with guns.  Beer, cigars, and poker were had.  The next morning, Tom woke up to find pieces of his orange Crocs strewn across the property, because someone had shot them up after he fell asleep.  To that anonymous man, I say: well done, sir.

Crocs also bring me to a point that should have been made up front.  And that is this: in general, your chances of pulling off a pair of mandals depends in great part on how attractive you and your feet are.  I am sorry to put it out there like that, but there it is.  It helps if your feet are tan, for starters.  Tom’s feet are so pale that in the wrong light, they look blue.  He also has toes that are better described as, well, knuckles.  Suffice it to say that Tom is better off keeping his dogs covered.  But sometimes, it just doesn’t matter how hot you are.  My friend Eric (below) is very hot.  And dare I say that even he isn’t up to the challenge.  In that regard, I guess Crocs are the Great Equalizer.

5. Flip flops

I know I’m going to get pushback on this one.  I think a pair of cheap rubber flip flops or Reefs is probably acceptable–if you’re hot, 18, or at the beach.  I have not met the guy in the picture above, who is a friend of a friend, but clearly he is at the beach, given the sand, and hot, given that he is pulling off flip flops and wearing sideways seersucker.

What I find unacceptable are the flip flops that have thick soles on them, or leather trim, or some other gussied-up detail that is designed to make the flip flop seem street legal.  Below, my case in point.  The feet below belong to my friend John, whom I adore.  But the fact that I adore him makes these mandals no less of an abomination.  Tom saw this photo and suggested with a straight face that these shoes would be great for camping, for when you “accidentally kick a tree root.”  I grant that these might be ok in that sole instance.  Outside of that one circumstance, I can’t think of even one other situation in which these would be acceptable, and that includes fleeing a housefire in the dead of night.  Repeat after me: just because someone makes and sells them, doesn’t mean you should buy them.

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To conclude: guys, don’t give me any bull about mandals being the only viable summertime option.  Sneakers (Chuck Taylor, Jack Purcell, Tretorn, Superga, etc.) are almost always going to look ok, assuming you are capable of wearing them without socks.  Toms stay cool and are comfortable, if you don’t mind walking on cardboard.  Boat shoes maybe, if you can pull them off, but don’t assume you are a good judge of whether you can pull them off–you have teens in your life for that.  Point being, there are options.

I hope you take this post in the spirit in which it was written, which is, in dead seriousness.  Happy Monday.

downers: bike commuters

To get your eastside Portland bona fides, you need a bike for you and every member of your family. Per the usual, I put the cart before the horse a few years ago and got a bike rack for my car–a super burly one that, once fitted onto the vehicle, suggested that my weekends are spent at the mountain, when in reality they are spent at Trader Joe’s eating samples. Turns out I wanted the bike rack more than the bikes. I planned to buy the bikes shortly thereafter, but only got as far as my older kid’s bike. So it was that we drove off for a summer vacation in Bend with a single toddler bike teetering precariously off the end of that burly four-bike bike rack.

Every time I want to buy bikes, something else comes up that requires my money. Like bills. And it’s ok, because in the time that has passed, I have built up a loathing for bike commuters and everything they stand for. I realize I risk offending 80% of my readership with this post but what it comes down to is this: if I have to follow traffic rules in my car, so do you on your bike. I don’t care how cool your bicycle saddlebags are or how neat your jeans look all rolled up on one side with the ironic sock underneath–if I have to stop at a stop sign, so do you. Especially since the City of Portland is actively taking steps to remove all car lanes and replace them with those annoying green bicycle boxes, and refusing to let you turn right on red lights for fear that you might hit a bicyclist sitting in your blindspot. Hello! if you know you’re sitting in my blindspot, get the hell out of it.

Cars have rights too, ok? Especially new cars, like mine. They need room to move and go places, and they can’t do that when you’re leisurely peddling your bike in the middle of the lane at 5 MPH. And it doesn’t make it better if you get a friend to join you so that there’s two of you riding at 5 MPH, side by side. 5 MPH + 5 MPH does not equal 10 MPH, and even if it did, you’d still be 15 MPH under the speed limit in a 25 MPH zone. Newsflash: you look ridiculous, and you are impeding the flow of traffic. I mean, a driver can get a ticket for driving too slow–I looked it up during a debate with Tom about the arguable legality of his driving–so why can’t a bicyclist?

Even worse than the middle-of-the-laners are the bike commuters who make a big show of shifting over to one side and waving at you to pass them, all with a put-out expression. Hey, since you’re such a giver, how about moving over enough to actually let me pass without hitting oncoming traffic? I like to follow these people really slowly, for blocks on end. Eventually they will get exasperated and pull over altogether. Great success! When they do that, it means I’ve won the road.

Let’s hear it. I’m a dying breed. My new car is a monstrosity. I’m just jealous I can’t fit my head into a regulation size bike helmet. What have you got? Because here’s what I’ve got: bike commuters who don’t follow the rules–you get me down.

downers: your BMI

I hate weighing myself and do it as little as humanly possible.  But my doctor is always trying to weigh me, so I know I’ve been anywhere between X and Y pounds (a 20 pound range, leaving out pregnancy) since I reached my full height of 5’8″ and 1/2.  The Y was when I was in college, eating Panda House three times a week.  The X was about five months ago after six days of a cleanse and a particularly virulent bout of the flu.  I have little hope of attaining that number again, but it’s nice that I can cling to it in rough times.  It’s like how I cling to the fact that I got a perfect score on my verbal SATs whenever some troglodyte corrects me on my grammar or some ignoramus assumes I can’t speak English.  By the way, it’s amazing how much English you can learn from a steady diet of romance novels.  And yes, it HAS been really hard waiting until my 71st post to mention my SAT score from 17 years ago, thank you for asking.

In any event, you’re not supposed to care how much you weigh.  Instead, you’re supposed to care about your body mass index (“BMI“).  But I’m not sure the BMI thing works as it should.  Tom, not liking the results of his own BMI calculation, immediately dismissed the concept of the BMI as junk science.  And in his case, I’m inclined to agree.  We worked in reverse and calculated what he would need to weigh at his height (6’4”) to enter the lower end of the normal range, and it was like, 147 pounds.  I don’t want him to be unhealthy, but I also have myself to think about, and given that he is 8 inches taller, I require that there be more of a difference between our weights than the equivalent of a fat house cat.

Anyway, no matter how you slice it, the Body Mass Index is a downer.  So BMI: thanks for playing, but I reject you.

downers: composting

Six months ago, as part of its ongoing bid to secede from the United States and get annexed by Scandinavia, Portland instituted mandatory composting. The city provided every house with a cute 3-gallon composting bucket, and began picking up garbage bi-weekly, instead of every week. The second move was a brilliant piece of brinkmanship, as it forced recalcitrant families to compost into their yard bin, in order to save their now-precious garbage space for primo trash, like diapers.

Compost bucket

composting as nature intended: full of healthy juicing scraps. bin and photo, Grant Us the Luxury

As with other nature-related things (e.g. camping, the ocean, birds), I love the idea of composting more than I love the reality of composting. I mean, I support the idea of reducing waste–if you can’t get behind that, that’s weird–but the reality of composting has added a layer of stress to my already stressed-out existence. And sometimes, it’s not even just stress that’s added, but abject fear, and horror. And those are emotions I shouldn’t have to deal with in performing a household chore, unless I’m cleaning my boys’ toilet.

Why the fuss? If you don’t compost, let me lay some groundwork for you. The cute little 3-gallon pail sits on your kitchen counter, and you fill it with table scraps. Any kind of food scraps, including meat and fish bones. Once that bucket fills up, you transport it outside, and dump it into the curbside yard waste bin, which gets picked up every week. The first issue is that table scraps–especially when mixed with other table scraps–are gross. While it may not be ecologically sound, the beauty of putting table scraps down the disposal is that once they are disposed of, you don’t have to look at them again. With composting, you are confronted with what you had for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, over and over again, every time you open up that pail to put more scraps in.

So why not just empty the pail more frequently? Because emptying it more frequently would mean more frequent trips to the curbside bin. And what lies in wait inside that green bin, simply put, is some scary-ass shit.

Not even the fecund mind of Stephen King could do justice to that green bin and its contents, but I have to take a stab. The bin gets food waste dumped into it every day. For a full week, the food waste sits there and does what food waste does, which is to rot and attract wildlife–and I’m not talking about puppies and kittens. I’m talking about the kind of animals that are more properly characterized as vermin. In the winter, it’s not so bad, because the food just rots in the cold. But now that we’re getting into summer, the things happening inside that bin are downright primeval.

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Unfortunately, as it turns out, you can’t transfer scraps to the bin without opening the bin. There’s a lot to deal with once that lid is open, so it helps to have a game plan. Here’s mine. First, stop breathing. The noxious odors and gasses coming from the inside of that bin are most certainly poisonous if inhaled. Best to close your eyes too, because the one time I opened them I swear I saw movement inside, and that movement may have been maggots. As a child, I was scared of two things: nuclear war and maggots. So it’s a real thing for me. Third, close your mouth. You have to open the bin with your mouth closed, or you may accidentally ingest one of the 100 flies that will fly into your face. Fourth, and this is the important one–for God’s sake make sure it’s light out. At night I get so jittery and panicked that I might encounter a rat, that I have missed the bin entirely when dumping out the contents of the pail. It makes me sad when Tom has to pick spaghetti and meatballs off the driveway on his hands and knees, in the dark. Especially because there may be rats out there.

I suppose there’s a chance that time will take the edge off of the composting. But it’s been six months, and it’s still scary.  I get the value of composting, like I get the value of carrots, and math. And being forced to compost has made me a lot more mindful about not cooking excess food–which may, ultimately, be the real benefit of composting.  So I’ll continue to compost.

But no one, not even the City of Portland, can force me to like it.

downers: Saran Wrap

The hardest thing about this blog is not giving into the temptation to use it as a platform to rant about all of life’s minor annoyances. But everyone has their limits. And I reached mine with Saran Wrap, the plastic cling wrap that does not cling.

I’m not going to write an essay about it. Let me just say that this product is intended for one purpose: to cling to plates and create an airtight seal so that your food is preserved. It’s not like I’m using a product for something for which it is not intended–like the tennis ball I throw in the dryer to keep my sheets from balling up. Hey, if that tennis ball lights my dryer on fire, I get that I probably don’t have a great product liability claim against Wilson.

is this a joke?

But Saran Wrap: you anger me. Because you do not cling, tightly or otherwise, to glass or ceramic, the materials that constitute 99% of all dishware. I mentioned how much I hate Saran Wrap to my friend Josh and he told me that his trick with the stuff is to wrap the entire plate with it. If you manufacture a cling wrap that requires you to wrap the entire plate to create a seal, or requires a “trick” to get it to work properly, I submit that you (SC Johnson) are in the wrong business.

the ross method

So I’m calling you out, Saran Wrap, and imploring my readership not to make the mistake I make every six months. Which is this: to stand in front of the plastic wrap section of the supermarket, trying desperately to remember which brand it is that does not cling, and then to choose Saran Wrap, because you think “hmm, the stuff is generically called Saran Wrap, so that must be the one that works.”  It’s not, it’s not.