Monday, July 26, 2021

I am learning German while my friend Peter is learning English. I complain to him about long, ridiculously-specific words like “nebelfeucht” (“damp as fog”) and “kreidebleich” (“pale as chalk”).

I’m going to Munich on Thursday and sent him a note. He replied, “Why are you ‘looking forward’ to seeing me? What does looking have to do with your visit? Why are you looking anywhere at all?”

He has a point. He also said he’d get some bratwurst and kartoffelsalat so things are looking up.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Welcome to Hour 127 of Prince Philip’s funeral. Just like Hour 126, the female commentator will say “The duchess of Sussex can’t be here because she’s patiently awaiting the joyful arrival of Baby Sussex” thirty times, the male commentator will say “William and Harry are actually speaking to each other, which is the miracle we’ve all tuned in to see” twenty times, and your husband will say, for the four thousandth time, “Well, now it’s REALLY almost over.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

I love the German people for a lot of reasons: they're practical, logical, and exceedingly helpful. They never hesitate to give strangers helpful advice. If you walked around with a shoe untied, for example, several thousand Germans would point this out to you. And that's before you left your house.

One thing I don't love, though, is German bread. It's solid and hard and heavy and healthy. You can get it dense or denser, from forty different wholesome grains, with or without dried seeds on top.

Which is great -- if the first item on your To Do list is "Scrub my colon until it's shiny and pink."

The bread I like, though, is a rough and primal thing. It's hand-kneaded and hand-shaped and baked in a wood-fired oven. It's pretty much the opposite of German bread, so I was ecstatic when I finally found some in Germany. I actually smelled it before I saw it, in a bakery in Braunschweig, where the fire scented the air for miles around. In the window were huge, misshapen, crusty loaves, and inside the fragrance was pretty much the opposite of toast and closer to incineration.

This stuff wasn't served with a smear of marmalade. It was eaten around a campfire while dinosaurs watched.

On the counter, one mammoth slab had been cut in half. While the crust was scorched and solid, the inside was all fluffiness and air, with barely enough substance to support butter.

"One of those, please," I said. And I smiled all the way home.

I couldn't wait to tear it apart, but first I had to make plans. Should I slice it up, or just pull off chunks and stuff them into my mouth? Should I eat it plain or make a prehistoric sandwich? Would a wedge of cheese be too much? Would a slice of prosciutto be enough? Before I'd come up with a real strategy, my husband jumped in to help.

"That is too much bread," he declared. "There is no way we can eat that much bread. We must do something with it or it will go to waste." He was quiet for a second as his German brain weighed the possibilities. "Here is what we will do. We will freeze some, we will make croutons with some, and we will crumble some into bread crumbs."

It made sense to me, so I didn't complain. Besides, I love German practicality, and would never be so rude as to turn down their help. Ten minutes later, though, when I decided I'd start with a slab smothered in unsalted butter, I returned to the kitchen.

I looked for the bread. And looked. And looked. "Honey," I called shakily, "do we have any bread?"

There was a pause for a second, and then "No" was all he said.

Friday, March 26, 2021

My German teacher had a very strange idea: that people who have zero experience with the German language will be able to differentiate between right and wrong by the way it sounds.

"'I like you,'" the teacher said. "'I' is nominative. What about 'you'?"

"Dative," I replied. "Ich mag dir."

"Not accusative? 'Ich mag DICH'? Which sounds better to you?"

Which sounds better? That seemed like the wrong road to take. You could propose marriage in German and it'd still sound like you were thinking about hitting somebody with a brick. I didn't say it but I definitely thought it: "Lady, if we cared about what sounded better, you'd be teaching us French right now."

Monday, March 22, 2021

I'm an easy-going guy, relaxed and carefree, with just a few weird things that piss me off. Cheap toilet paper is one. I mean, who thinks, "Wow, we can save a dollar if we wipe our asses with sandpaper for a year!"? Then there's old, dried-out rubber bands that immediately snap when you try to stretch them. I actually came up with a pretty good solution for those, but if I don't have time to put on sunscreen, I'm not moisturizing rubber bands.

Recently, though, something else triggered me. Of course it didn't end well.

A few months ago I found myself frequenting an online chat group where everybody else was a straight, suburban housewife. Though they were pretty much my opposite, I stuck around for two main reasons: they appreciated everything I posted, and reading about their lives made me feel better about my own.

They complained about their jobs, their families, their cars, their dogs, and just about everything else. They also posted uncomplicated, unpretentious recipes, like one for Beefy Sausage Stew.

The title sounded tempting so I skimmed the recipe before I checked out the comments. Had anybody actually cooked it? I wondered. Was it actually good?

"Wow — it’s really beefy!“ Sarah wrote. "Beefier than Russell Crowe!“ Nancy added. "How the heck did it get so beefy?“ Francine asked.

These comments confused me a little. I mean, they sounded positive, but they didn't actually answer the question. They didn't use words like tasty, delicious, or finger-licking good. They didn't say they loved it, but just acknowledged the main ingredient. If I served steak at a dinner party I’d be flattered if somebody said it was juicy. I’d be thrilled if someone said it was tender. I wouldn't exactly be ecstatic, though, if someone said it was meaty. “Well, you know,” I’d probably reply, “that could be because it’s MEAT.”

See, there's a difference between an observation and a compliment. "Those sure are PANTS!" isn't a rave about your wardrobe. If somebody said to me, "Wow -- on top of your head! Could that really be ... HAIR?" I wouldn't send a thank-you note to Supercuts. Those are observations, and I'm not even sure they're complimentary. If you spend three hours getting ready for a party and the first reaction you get is, "Look out, world -- here comes BRONZER!!!" I'm pretty sure you did something wrong.

Before I know it, then, I’ve added my own comment about the Beefy Sausage Stew. "I think a quick glance over the list of ingredients should answer your questions,” I wrote. “Or did you miss the two pounds of beef?“

Nobody replied to my comment, and it didn’t get a single like. The next day, though, somebody posted a recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Soup.

I knew I should have avoided the comments, but I couldn’t help myself. "Wow — it’s really creamy!“ Sarah wrote. "Creamier than Leonardo di Caprio!“ Nancy added. "How the heck did it get so creamy?“ Francine asked.

This time I may have conveyed some impatience.

"I gotta tell you, ladies, it ain't exactly a miracle. Nobody’s materializing loaves and fishes here. You don't have to be the Son of God to make a creamy soup using roast pumpkin and -- would you look at that? -- EIGHT AND A HALF CUPS OF CREAM. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can make Creamy Dog Collars & Shoe Insoles with that amount of cream.“

It felt good to vent and nobody replied so I just assumed they ignored me again. The next day, though, somebody posted a recipe for Chunky Pepper Salad. I don’t know if they were purposely winding me up, but the comments were almost exactly the same. "Wow — it’s really chunky!“ Sarah wrote. "Chunkier than Jack Black!“ Nancy added. "How the heck do they get it so chunky?“ Francine asked.

This time my fingers flew over the keyboard. There was no way I could stop myself, and this time I was absolutely furious. "You know what?“ I replied. "I needed every encyclopedia I could find and forty-seven hours alone in a laboratory but I finally figured it out. All of the ingredients in this recipe are — hold onto your hats, rocket scientists — cut into CHUNKS. No joke. Not fucking kidding you. The peppers, the onions, every single one of the vegetables is CUT INTO GODDAMN CHUNKS. I tell ya, when the lightbulb finally went off over my head, it was like Madame Curie seeing her fucking hands glow in the dark.

"Needless to say, this revelation has made an amazing impact on my life. I'm almost too ashamed to admit it, but I've been -- hold onto your chairs -- chiffonading all of my adult life. Whether I'm making meatballs or moussaka, chopping up tomatoes or potatoes, everything gets cut into long, thin strips. And for what? NOT ONE FUCKING TIME did someone taste my cooking and say, 'Whoa, Roman! If I look up "chunky" in the dictionary, I know I'm gonna see a picture of that.'

"I can't express how much this has bothered me. Every night since my wedding my husband has said, 'Sweetie, thank you for cooking for me. Dinner is tasty, but — and I say this with the utmost respect — what is up with all the GODDAMN CHIFFONADES? They’re disgusting. They freak me out. When you’re making dinner do you think, “Is there some way I can get this cucumber to look like pubic hair?”’ I was too humiliated to discuss it with my pastor, so I just had to live with it. FINALLY, though, with your giant Sherlock Holmes brains, I think it's history now. I don't think it's an overestimation to say you've saved my marriage.

"So Sarah, Nancy, and Francine, I am forever in your debt. Now when somebody posts a recipe with half a pound of cheese in it and Sarah says, 'Wow — that’s cheesy!‘ and Nancy says, 'Cheesier than Nicolas Cage!‘ and Francine asks, 'How do they get it so cheesy?‘ I will happily join in with something like, 'Every bite has cheesy goodness!!!‘ instead of 'HOLY GOD, PLEASE LET ME PUSH THESE WOMEN INTO A LAKE!!!‘“

Anyway, I’m pretty sure somebody read that comment, because the next day when I tried to log in I got a message saying I was blocked. I couldn’t post anything, I couldn’t read anything, and I couldn't even message anybody to ask why. My life flashed before my eyes. Sarah, Nancy, Francine: they were my girls. What was I going to do without them? And what was today’s recipe going to be like: saltier than a pirate? Spicier than Rita Moreno? Easier than a truck-stop whore?

I spent an hour or so trying to sneak in through various methods before accepting that it was fruitless. How did it get so fruitless? Francine might ask, though this time around I couldn't reply, "BECAUSE THERE'S NO FUCKING FRUIT IN IT, YOU STUPID COW!"

I closed my laptop. It didn't matter. Like the rest of the internet, the site was a total waste of time. I had a great life, exciting adventures, and a wonderful husband, so why did I care about shallow internet bullshit? Besides, it was almost lunchtime. On another website I found a recipe for something called Hearty Chicken Fricasee and I resolved to make it, once I had a heart.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Guardian's Predictions for 2021

After this nightmare year, one thing is for certain: we are all desperately grabbing at hope. I know I am, which is why I was thrilled to see an article in the Guardian quoting psychics on their predictions for the future. That's exactly what I need, I thought: their clear, bright vision would re-energize me and spark hope that in 2021 life could be enjoyable once more.

For the most part, they didn't let me down. Here are some of the predictions and how they touched me.

Jayne Wallace is clairvoyant and practices aura reading, tarot and crystal healing. Her clients include Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner and Kate Hudson.
(Wow. Résumés don't get more impressive than that. At least without stars of Charles in Charge.)

"Every crystal has a different voice.... The darker, deeper the colour, the stronger the voice."

In heaven right now Nina Simone is like "FUCK YEAH!!!"

"As I link in to the first quarter of 2021, the biggest question people have is health."

Which is weird, because during the Great Pandemic of 1812 everybody was fixated on tacos.

"[T]hose first months are going to be stressful in terms of mental health. Make sure you have people around you who you love."

Shit. Okay, but my family isn't going to take this well.

"March through to June is about division in health, as well as realisation – understanding and accepting why some have suffered worse."

Acceptance #1: I'm not rich or related to Trump so I'll get the vaccine after chickens colonize Mars.

"For the first four to five months [of 2021], there will be weak structure."

Huh. Yeah, I guess it could be difficult for Biden to get anything done after Trump tears all the wiring out of the White House.

Demian Allan is a teacher at the College of Psychic Studies in London, and has practised western astrology for more than 20 years.
"We are entering a period of technological revolution in 2021 that will change jobs, education and how we interact...."

I would never have guessed that, because Zoom stock is still forty-five cents a share.

"Coronavirus is not going to disappear but Mars moves out of Taurus on 4 March, easing the general health picture."

That's a bold stance. I thought some klutz might drop a bucket of the vaccine and be like, "Damn! Well, let's try again for April."

"In this country, we tend to try to engineer things back to the norm."

Because in other countries when, like, your refrigerator breaks down, you think, "Hey, instead of just repairing it, why don't we convert it into an otter sanctuary?"

Tatianna Morales has been a tarot reader and holistic healer for six years
"Card: The Ten of Wands. [This card] points to working smarter, not harder,..."

Sounds to me like the cards have seen too many T.D. Ameritrade commercials.

"Card: The Page of Swords. [This card] brings an energy of busyness, of research and strategy in 2021."

Shit. And I was just warming up to "Let Go, Let God."

"It asks that if you are inspired to take up new studies, hobbies or find new income streams, you take action."

Let me write that down. "If you want to do something, just do it." Oh, wait: it's already on my shoes.

Dale Spencer Weeks has practised as a psychic numerologist and seer for nine years....
"If 2020 has been about building a rocket ship, I liken 2021 to that ship taking off."

Interesting. But what if 2020 has been about dismantling your rockets so your enemies wouldn't release your pee tape?

"It’s going to be a huge year of change."

To all the skeptics out there, there have been a few years of absolutely no change. but they were so boring everybody forgot.

"There will also be political unrest and missiles will fly."

Shit! I had fifty bucks on missiles taking the train this year.

"[T]he vibe of 2021 is about expression and looking for freedom."

Fingers crossed that means everybody named Trump will be in jail.

"People will speak out in large groups...."

Finally! Because now every time eight of my friends get together, Paco is always, like, "Hey, guys, you know the rule!"

"[I]t is not only those with peaceful or progressive views who will seek to be heard."

That'll be a big change from 2020, when we didn't hear from any conservative gun nuts.

"February brings a seven vibration, a time when truth will be revealed. Medically, that could indicate wider availability of a vaccine."

Damn it. Okay, you win. Nobody's gonna drop a bucket of the vaccine.

"We may see revelations about the government."

I'm not so sure. Maybe Biden will also bitchslap anybody who crosses him on Twitter.

June Field was voted the world’s greatest psychic medium, beating 70,000 others in International Battle Of The Psychics
(Stop reading right now if you're a doubter asking, "Why did the other 69,999 psychics bother entering?")

"These next 12 months are a stepping stone to something better."

Honestly, I appreciate that, but things can't get worse unless masturbation makes us burst into flame.

"People are in denial about the virus and that causes friction."

This is absolutely spot on. I'll never forget my first boyfriend who was all, like, "You act like gonorrhea is a bad thing."

"Long before coronavirus arrived in the UK, I had cancelled work commitments – theatre dates and events. I felt death coming. I wanted to give the year a miss."

Well, you've got to hand it to her: she can hit it out of the park predicting past events.

"2021 will present an opportunity to reassess what’s important."

Because in 2020 we were all like, "Fuck worrying: let's dance!"

"In politics, I feel there is major change coming next year."

I agree, and I'm actually kind of worried about that. Fingers crossed Biden can keep America on track without the genius of Ivanka Trump.

"You don’t need to be a psychic to see the anger over how this has been handled."

You don't need to be a psychic to see anything you've said so far.

"Political systems will be taken down, but we will then rebuild."

Really? Everybody I've talked to has said, "There's no way we can replace Donald Trump or Boris Johnson. Let's just watch cat videos for the next twelve years."

"We will hug again next year, and we will come through this."

Love the positivity, but it's not exactly a risky prediction. Because if we don't come through this, only cockroaches and Cher will be around to call you a quack.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Ram Tough

We know exactly two things about oversized American trucks: they burn through enormous amounts of gasoline, and they're primarily driven by politically-conservative men who allegedly have small dicks. Or is there some other explanation for why the truck names are indistinguishable from the brand names of penis pumps? Here's a list with a sampling of each. See if you can tell them apart.

a. Grand Stallion
b. Nitro
c. Ramrod
d. Sport Trac Adrenalin
e. Red Studmaster
f. Explorer
g. Magnum
h. Gladiator
i. Ranger
j. Commando
k. Power Man 6000
l. F-250 Super Duty

Answers: b, d, f, i and l are American trucks. a, c, e, g, j and k are penis pumps. h is actually both. Here's more information for those curious about one or the other.

a. The Grand Stallion has a tapered latex sleeve and easy-to-use gliding action.

b. The Dodge Nitro is powered by a 4.0 L SOHC V6 engine rather than AA batteries.

c. The Ramrod has a battery pack conveniently attached for single-handed operation.

d. The Ford Sport Trac Adrenalin has a blown 4.6 engine making 390 pound-feet of torque. If it were a penis pump, it would be Jon Hamm.

e. The Red Studmaster has a studded adjustable cock ring, but no cup holder.

f. The Ford Explorer is available in an Eddie Bauer edition.

g. The Magnum is equipped with a new safety vacuum gauge. Don't try to imagine what could happen without it.

h. With three-foot clearance, the Jeep Gladiator could easily ride over anybody's penis. Unlike the silicone Gladiator, however, it has no internal nubs.

i. The Ford Ranger has a towing capacity of 4,200 penis pumps.

j. The Commando is penis-shaped, with a multi-speed vibrating bullet. We told our boyfriend we have no idea what that means.

k. The Power Man 6000 comes with a pleasure ring attachment. You could use it without it but, like, why?

l. The Ford F-250 Super Duty is twenty feet long. We bet its owners claim it's forty-five.