‘Tis the Season

As we put Thanksgiving in our rear-view mirror and hurtle onward toward December, two of my favorite seasonal beverages have returned!

The Family Friendly One: Egg nog! While some people make their own nog, I prefer the store-bought variety. Egg nog started to show up in stores partway into November.

I like Lactaid’s version of this holiday classic best because dairy and I are not friends and Silk Nog just isn’t quite creamy enough.

One of my favorite things about eggnog is that it kind of always tastes like there’s rum in it, even when there isn’t. Speaking of boozy drinks,

The Slightly More Adult One: I was first introduced to Glühwein while I was living in Germany. It’s mulled wine, and it’s served hot. If you ever have the chance to go to a Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas Market, a mug of hot Glühwein while you’re standing around outside with friends in the cold is just a delightful thing. I hate that the markets are almost certainly closed this year. Stupid Covid.

Trader Joe’s carries bottles of Glühwein this time of year, made in Germany and imported to the US for the consumption of those of us who love it. I was excited to see the bottles all stacked up in the store. All you have to do is heat it up and drink it.

I might bundle up and drink it outside on the balcony, just to have a more authentic experience.

Which do you prefer, eggnog or Glühwein?

49/52 (and 28 of 30!)

Adulting.

All the way back on day 12 of NanoPoblano, Charlene from “The Illusion of Controlled Chaos” recounted a brief story about troubleshooting a small toilet problem, and that got me thinking. My comment at the time was specific to toilets, but my thoughts didn’t stay there.

Before long, I was thinking about all the things that being an adult involves, both the good and the bad. On the good side, I like that my time is my own, and I can make my own decisions about where to live, what to do with my free time, and the like.

I was also trying to list all the things that I really don’t like about being an adult. I’m not talking about the big obvious ones like bills and taxes and the health issues that come from getting older, I just mean the silly ones.

For example, I mentioned toilet maintenance in the comment on Charlene’s post as a thing that I don’t enjoy about being an adult. Specifically, I was talking about that little dance with the bleach tablet and the scissors and holding up the top of the toilet tank which is somehow ALWAYS DRIPPING WET while putting the cleaning stuff down into the tank. I don’t enjoy that at all, although I appreciate the effect it has on my toilet.

Another thing I don’t like about being an adult is going to sleep at a reasonable time and waking up at a reasonable time. I’m not a morning person. My chronotype is “get sleepy around 2am, naturally wake up close to 10.” My employment requires that I be a DayWalker, though, so I have to wake up earlier each day, which means I almost never really get enough sleep. I think being an adult means managing a never-ending cycle of caffeine and poor sleep.

Perhaps the thing that I dislike the most about being an adult is the never-ending march of deciding what to eat for my next meal. Some people delight in meal planning, but for me, it’s a significant chore. Ordering from restaurants doesn’t really make it any easier, either. If I let the decision-making process go too long, then I get into a cycle where I’ll look at different things whilst being very hungry, and will have trouble deciding on anything at all. I know from experience that if I’m TOO hungry, I will default to the worst possible food, but only after a very long period of indecision and waffling.

What are the things you dislike the most about being an adult?

48/52 (and 27 of 30!)

An Obligatory Rambling Thanksgiving Post

For my Thanksgiving post, I had the brilliant idea to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving joke images today. Then I checked and sure enough, I had the exact same idea during NanoPoblano 2016. Damn it, Past Steven, why don’t you ever leave some of the good ideas for Future Steven to execute?

Since my first idea for a Thanksgiving post has already been done, I’ll have to come up with something else. Perhaps a tale of the first Thanksgiving.

No, not that one. Not the one with the folks with the buckles on their hats dining with the locals in their new homeland. I also don’t mean my favorite Thanksgiving story, the one with the dog and bird making all the food.

As an aside, can we talk about this for a second? Who ever thought it would be a good idea to have a dog and a bird create a feast for the entire group? For that matter, who thought that buttered toast and popcorn was a proper feast? (Full disclosure: childhood me thought that buttered toast and popcorn looked absolutely delicious, and in my tiny brain this meal was the height of luxury for many years.)

No, I’m actually talking about my first Thanksgiving in Germany. A quick recap for those who haven’t read this blog from the beginning: I started the blog in late October of 2011, and moved to Germany on November 11th of that year. This meant that when Thanksgiving happened two weeks later, I was alone in a new country. I hadn’t really made friends yet, and I was only just getting to know my coworkers. I was even still living in the hotel, because I didn’t find an apartment there until the following week.

What I did have was an overabundance of preparation- I had Internet-stalked the local English speaker’s Stammtisch, and had pre-emptively become Internet-friends with a few local folks. (A Stammtisch is basically any group of people that meets regularly, often in a pub. The literal translation is “regular table.” The shared topic of a Stammtisch can be absolutely anything- a photography Stammtisch, a bridge-player’s Stammtisch, you name it. Think of it like meetup.com, but in Germany and without the clunky website.)

Because I had started the conversation with other people almost before I arrived in Germany, I managed to score an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner being held at a local Irish pub called Murphy’s Law. (This Irish pub became one of my most frequent haunts for the three years I lived there, but that’s another story.)

Murphy's Law

The pub is all downstairs, and it feels like it’s carved out of a cave. It has a front area with a small amount of space ringing a U-shaped bar and a second much larger room which left empty unless they’re very busy. I was guided to this room on arrival, and I was seated with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I really only knew one person in the room at that point, and that one only just barely, so this was socializing-under-fire.

The dinner began, and it was a warm and friendly affair. I was the only American at my table, so I found myself acting as an impromptu American ambassador. I answered lots of curious questions from the others about traditional Thanksgiving customs back in the US. I wish I could remember some of the questions they asked, but this was nine years ago and I foolishly didn’t blog about it at the time.

Someone from the nearby US Army base in Hohenfels was at one of the other tables, and they had brought an American delicacy to be shared with the group: Twinkies.

I do love a traditional Thanksgiving Twinkie.

Speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, since I’m in my new apartment here in Arlington, I’ve managed to score a can of jellied cranberry. It just isn’t a proper Thanksgiving meal if I can’t see the ripples from the can on the side of my cranberry, you know? Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure one of the questions I was asked at the German Thanksgiving dinner was about cranberry sauce. I have a vague recollection of someone being astonished that this was a food that Americans actively seek out and enjoy.

I totally just grabbed the first cranberry jelly image I found on the Internet for this.

My family also has another tradition that is incredibly silly, now that I think about it. We would always have multiple pies after dinner, so you could choose which one you wanted to eat.

That’s not the silly part. The silly part is that one of those pies is a chocolate pudding pie. It is literally just chocolate pudding in a pie crust. With a little bit of whipped cream, sure, but it had no structure after it was sliced. It was just loose pudding in a pie crust.

This image was also stolen from the web, but it looks almost exactly like the chocolate pudding pies I am used to having.

Does your family have any unusual Thanksgiving traditions?

47/52 (and 26 of 30!)

Shadows of the Past

Palimpsest.

I was reading a novel, and the author kept using this word. I remember learning the meaning of palimpsest a long time ago, but I forgot over time because it’s not the sort of word that gets used a lot in casual conversation.

pal·imp·sest | ˈpaləm(p)ˌsest | noun 

• a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain. 
• something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

It’s an unfortunate and often frustrating fact of life, but things are always in motion. Entropy is the law of the land. I see it every time I return to places I used to live. I spent a large part of my life living in more or less the same area, and seeing the changes as I drive through certain parts of town makes me a little bit melancholy.

Time ate the 1980s for a snack. An ice cream shop I loved in childhood is long gone. The SupeRX pharmacy where my father worked when I was little eventually became a Rite-Aid. I don’t think many people even remember SupeRX.

I stole this image from a blog about the history of the Kroger-SupeRX drug stores. If you’re really curious, you can read the whole timeline here.

The movie theatre where I saw “Ghostbusters” and “The Goonies” and “Karate Kid Part 2” was razed and reborn as a Ross Dress For Less. The theatre where I saw “Superman 2” and “The Great Muppet Caper” was flattened and left as an ugly portion of strip-mall. The original, really awesome Chuck E Cheese was turned into a Cinema and Drafthouse until that too failed. (Which is good- I still blame them for my mistake of watching “Se7en” while eating pizza. Bad idea.)

The Candyland Arcade, a huge favorite in my high school days, is nothing at all now. The same goes for the comic book store that was a few doors down from the arcade. My father switched from SupeRX to Albertsons, but that store is gone now too, bought up by Publix.

Time went clogging on into the 90s. My mental map of Palm Beach Community College doesn’t contain all the buildings that are there now. It doesn’t even have a third of them. A big ugly fence went up around my old high school- as much to keep the kids in as to keep interlopers out, I imagine.

The Clock Family Restaurant, a big favorite haunt in the early 1990s, is long gone, replaced first by a Denny’s, and then later on by a Tijuana Flats and a Sleep Number mattress store. (There’s still a Clock in Gainesville, but it’s not the one I know.)

The Motorola factory where I earned my paycheck in 1995 has been demolished and rebuilt as fashionable condos and shopping. Dad started working for Winn Dixie Pharmacy, and he managed to retire before most of the Winn Dixie stores vanished from the area.

Four different movie theatres that I worked in have been closed or demolished. One of them is an L.A. Fitness now. The Carefree Theatre, home to so many of the best stories of my early twenties, was first abandoned, then knocked down, and is now an open field awaiting the construction of fashionable little condos. The car dealership next to it has been demolished to make way for, you guessed it, more fashionable little condos.

The places where I went to dance and love and breathe in the music in the late 1990s are almost all gone now. I already talked about the Embassy Music Hall in a previous post; it’s a Walmart Neighborhood Grocery now.

When I moved back to Orlando in 2017, after eighteen years away, the same thing happened. The places I knew in Orlando were gone, or irrevocably changed. The roads were different in places.

With all of this change, it’s no wonder that the word palimpsest resonates with me. With new names overlaid onto old places and the ghosts of all my past lives marching past with every visit, it’s a concept that I’ve been keenly aware of for a very long time.

When I go past a place that was part of my life before, I see every version of it that ever was. My memory is often absolutely terrible, but I remember the past clearly when it comes to this.

Palimpsest. The shadows of the past overlaid onto whatever crap is there now. I just wish it wasn’t such a clunky word. Palimpsest doesn’t really roll off the tongue easily, you know?

Now nostalgia… there’s a word that springs easily to the lips.

What are you nostalgic for?

46/52 (and 25 of 30!)

The Worst Cover I’ve Ever Heard™

I love cover songs. If any artist has an interesting or entertaining version of someone else’s music, then I’m generally down for it. My personal music collection contains something like 1500 cover songs from different artists.

I especially love when a cover is so good that it becomes the more well-known version, and the fact that it was sung previously by another artist becomes a matter of trivia. A great example of this is “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” I became acquainted with this song originally as the version from They Might Be Giants, on their 1990 album Flood. The original is a 1953 track by The Four Lads.

Sometimes, if I’m not in the mood for something specific, I’ll just fire up a good old fashioned shuffle play. My continuing adventures in shuffle-play recently served up the Worst Cover I’ve Ever Heard™. I do not use this label lightly. I’ll forgive a lot, with the possible exception of covers of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah- none of them get it right. Sometimes a cover misses greatness and it’s just sort of okay- this was not that. This cover is actively, horribly terrible.

I’m not making this up. And those of you who’ve known me for a while know that because I’m fond of covers. I love the hell out of all kinds of covers, even the covers that make purists run away, climb trees, and gibber.

But this… this…

It all started one night many years ago, probably in 1998 or 1999. I had gone to Respectable Street Cafe to dance and drink and hang out with my friends. When I arrived, there was a band playing.

The band was called Apocalypse Theatre, and they produced two albums between 1998 and 2002. They still have an active FaceBook presence, although I haven’t been able to find any new music by them after 2002. I remember thinking at the time that most of their music was fine, a sort of industrial-with-a-side-of-noise aesthetic. They reminded me a bit of Android Lust, only not as danceable.

I remember it very clearly- I was sitting out on the back patio happily talking with friends when they played The Cover. I didn’t even notice it at first- It was so, so bad that they were a good two minutes or so into the song before I even realized what it was. When I noticed it, I stopped, flabbergasted. Then I ran into the interior of the club to hear the rest.

It was so amazingly bad that I bought the unlabelled cassette they were selling for $8, hoping like hell that the song would be on it. By the way, this show occurred well after the compact disc was commonplace, but they were still selling tapes.

The tape did have the Worst Cover I’ve Ever Heard™. Years later, I took the time and effort involved to move it from cassette to mp3. Now I’m sharing it with you. Apocalypse Theatre’s finest work. The Worst Cover Song Ever.

I deliberately encoded this without the song title, because I want to see how long it takes each of you to figure out what the song is. ::evil grin::

Try to figure out what song this is.

If you figure it out right away, please, please, please don’t answer in the comments. I don’t want to deprive anyone of their chance to puzzle through this for the first time. If you’ve listened, and you still haven’t figured it out, I put the answer over here. Oh, and the rest of their stuff is over on Spotify, and it’s worth a listen.

Provided this one track hasn’t shaken you to your core, that is.

What’s your favorite cover song?

45/52 (and 24 of 30!)