Last week, when I needed a palate cleanser, I completely forgot that I had an ACTUAL palate cleanser, in the form of King Cake! The events of this post actually took place on January 6th, but posting about it slipped my mind because I needed to write about the Capitol Insurrection first to blow off some steam.
Several of my friends are New Orleans residents, so I’ve heard about King Cake on and off for years, but I had never had one. (I did have the German equivalent, Dreikönigskuche, or Three King’s Cake, around Fasching, but I didn’t make the connection until very recently.)
The basic idea is this: Every year, between Twelfth Night on January 6th and Fat Tuesday, when Lent begins, New Orleans is full of King Cakes and Mardi Gras events. You can get King Cake throughout that time, but don’t eat it before January 6th!
When I saw my New Orleans friends starting to talk about King Cake this year, I remembered that one of the DMV’s best New Orleans style bakeries was just a short distance away. I quick check on their website confirmed that they do, in fact, sell King Cake, and so I placed an order.
The Bayou Bakery King Cake is almost a sweet-bread more than a cake. It’s a Danish-style cake filled with “Creole Cream Cheese,” whatever that means. It’s topped with white icing and dusted with sugar in the three colors of Mardi Gras: gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice. It comes with some Mardi Gras beads, and a little plastic baby.
Some of the stories say that the plastic baby is from the olden days when there would be a bean in the cake and whoever got the piece with the bean would be King for a day, or something like that. The more recent iteration of the story is that you can hide the baby somewhere in the cake and whoever gets that piece is the lucky host of next year’s King Cake party.
The Bayou Bakery King Cake costs $39.95 and serves 14-16 people. Since I was only willing to have ten or twelve servings myself, I took it to a friend’s house and she and her daughter helped me to consume it.
While I have been writing a post for every day of November to be a part of NanoPoblano, I have also been reading the posts of the other Peppers. Their lives and their writings are amazing, and I am reminded of something Ray Bradbury said:
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
It’s been lovely to watch each of my NanoPoblano compatriots tipping themselves over each day. I wanted to also say thank you to those of you who spent time reading along and commenting during this NanoPoblano month- having comments to read and interact with made it a far more entertaining venture than simply writing into the void.
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do for the last post of November- I considered a recap of the month, but considering how much I dislike clip shows on tv, that seemed ill advised.
I considered a few brief thoughts on some random links and articles that I’ve been collecting all month, like geese and egg creams and weird winter relationship rituals, but I don’t think I want to do that right now. Maybe I’ll come back to that in December.
I thought for a while that perhaps I’d talk about all the things that I want to do when the pandemic is over, or the things I’m looking forward to coming up. I don’t want to do that now, though, because looking forward when there’s still so much Covid to endure just seems like a special new form of torture. We’re not there yet.
I considered wrapping up with a post I’ve had stewing for a while about St. Elmo’s Fire, growing up, and suffering through limerence… but that post isn’t cooked all the way through yet, and if I serve it too early, it will give my friends food poisoning.
I thought about posting some photographs of food, because good lord I sure do take a lot of photos of food, but this isn’t Instagram and I’m not a food blogger, although I sometimes pretend to play one on TV.
I thought I would have trouble coming up with something to write about every day this month, but I never really wanted for ideas, even if sometimes those ideas were a little cheesy, and even if sometimes I had trouble finding the time and concentration to make them real.
I am delighted by the fact that I can make a blog post out of all the things I’m not making into a blog post. I like the weird symmetry of that.
One last thing, before I turn my attention to an unrelated but very important piece of bloggery… I cannot believe that not a single one of you commented on my “Chairman Meow” joke during the Hong Kong posts!
And now for something completely different:
As we roll into December, I begin the annual challenge of Whamageddon. The rules are very simple:
The objective is to go as long as possible without hearing Wham!’s Christmas classic; “Last Christmas”.
The game starts on December 1st, and ends at midnight on December 24th. (I use my local time zone, but not everyone follows the rules in an identical way.)
You’re out as soon as you recognize the song.
Only the original version applies. Remixes and covers do not send you to the fields of Whamhalla, although they might raise your pulse a bit.
If you like, post on social media with the #whamageddon hashtag when you get hit.
The intention is that this is a survival game, and not a battle royale. In other words, don’t be a dick and don’t play Last Christmas to your friends. No Whammied Rick-Rolls, please.
I play Whamageddon every year, because it’s a really silly bit of fluffery and I enjoy pretending to anguish over my fallen brethren as they ascend to Whamhalla. Two years ago, I was taken out by a Wham-grenade planted by someone I trusted, foolishly. Last year I survived despite some perilous journeys to places where piped in Christmas music is the norm.
This year will be strange. On the one hand, I work from home and live alone, so my media control is pretty straightforward. On the other hand, I sometimes take the metro and go into places where I have no control over what I might hear. Even a walk across the street to get a sandwich might expose me to The Song.
Will you join me on the battlefield? Will you play Whamageddon with me? C’mon, it’ll be fun!
How was your NanoPoblano month? And will you play Whamageddon starting tomorrow?
51/52 (and 30 of 30, y’all! ::dusts off keyboard::)
I watch a lot of television. Because of that, I see a lot of commercials. Over and over again, I see the same commercials. Little by little, they drill their way past my disinterest to lodge brand names in my forebrain.
The worst of them are the drug commercials, with their happy people living happy lives. It’s rare that you can actually tell what condition a drug treats from the commercial alone- there’s a lot of couples walking on the beach, a lot of people playing with their children, a lot of people biking and hiking and dancing.
The mystery of what the drugs are for isn’t what got my attention though, it’s the names of the drugs. The names in these commercials are so multisyllabic and ridiculous that I started to play a little game with myself: Is this a drug from a pharmaceutical commercial, or an alien race from science fiction?
I think this is really funny, so I started to keep a list on my phone. I got this far along before I stopped:
The really ridiculous part is that I made this list a few months ago, and I’ve actually forgotten some of the alien species I added to the list.
Several of the other Nano Poblano participants this month have posted entries which led me to respond with comments about the set of rules that I have taken to calling my Prime Directives. Yes, that’s a nod to Star Trek, because of course it is.
Obviously I have to obey certain rules and customs to get along in this world, like wearing clothing to the grocery store and so forth. “Thou shalt not give people involuntary haircuts.” Aside from the basics, I don’t have a lot of rules though.
Being an adult with no real requirements on my time besides work and basic existence means I can pretty much do my own thing, and that means I get to set my own rules for getting along in life.
That’s where my Prime Directives come in.
This may not be a complete list- sometimes I add or remove directives on the fly, as they occur to me. I might also have forgotten something as I write this up.
For this precise moment in time, at least, and in no particular order, this is my list of Prime Directives.
Rule the first: Be kind.
This means exactly what it says. I try to be kind to other people, and I hope very much that when most people think of me, they think of me as a kind person.
Sometimes I’m bad at this one. Very few people in this world have seen me truly angry, but those who have seen my anger know that I can be a spiteful, vindictive, cruel bastard. I have Bruce Banner’s problem. It’s always there, the rage, right under the surface. I try to negate that as much as possible by choosing to be kind whenever possible.
It seems like the thing to do.
Rule the second: Never eat anything bigger than your head.
This one is lifted from a 1976 B. Kliban book I read when I was a kid. When I was little, it was funny to me, but as I got older, I realized it’s actually really, really good advice. I have stomach issues, and eating too much is a trigger for Very Bad Things to happen to my digestion. Plus I could make some earnest noises here about moderation being good for you, I guess.
Rule the third: Share the music.
Music is life. Music is very often the one thing that truly saves what’s left of my sanity – if I don’t listen to it for too long, I get cranky. It calms me, reduces my anxiety, helps me concentrate, and elates me.
If I had to choose, right now, between a life without delicious food or a life without music, I would say “sign me up for the cream of wheat, and then let’s go to a concert.”
It’s precisely because I love music this much that I believe it’s important to share it. When I was in high school, I made mix tapes. Later in life, I made mix CDs. Even now, sometimes I’ll put together mixes to share with people- the method changes over time, but the goal is always the same: “Let me play this amazing song for you! I hope you love it as much as I do!”
Music is life. Sharing the music means sharing life. It’s that simple.
Rule the fourth: Embrace your whimsy.
I am a silly, silly man, and don’t you forget it.
My second favorite thing to do with other people, right after sharing music, is to make them laugh. I’ve said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, and I think that’s basically true. If I am drained of my other emotions, and free of anger or ennui or despair, then what remains is just pure unbridled whimsy.
Leaning into my own whimsy helps me keep things light. Embracing my inner Muppet keeps me balanced.
Rule the fifth: Never wait longer than 70 minutes for a theme park ride.
This one is just good common sense for logistical planning. No ride is worth standing in line for more than an hour and ten minutes when you’re surrounded by the entire rest of the theme park. Especially when the entire ride only lasts five or six minutes. Just go do something else instead of waiting in line. You’ll definitely have more fun that way.
A Questionable Rule the sixth: Nothing good happens after 2 AM.
While I never heard this one articulated until I was watching “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s an often true statement. I can think of many, many times that I’ve stayed up late on the off chance that something cool would happen, only to have nothing happen, or worse, to have bad things happen instead.
I marked this one as “questionable” because I can think of a handful of times that I’ve had really cool stuff happen well after 2 am. Only a handful, though. Most of the time, it’s just better to go to sleep.
Everyone says you should get enough sleep, right?
Rule the seventh: Family is important.
I am fortunate to have a fairly close-knit family. My siblings and I get along really well, despite all the times they’ve tried to kill me. This extends to more than just that first ring of family, too. Just last week, I had lunch with my cousin because she’s not far away and I enjoy her company. It’s important to me to try to nourish those relationships when I can. Speaking of which- Happy Birthday, Older Brother! (Even though I’m positive you’ll never see this blog post.)
Obviously this Directive doesn’t work for everyone- I have loads of friends who don’t speak to their birth family or have disowned parents or siblings over long and sustained pain. That’s why this isn’t just limited to families of blood. Families of choice are important too.
The people you choose to thread through your life are another kind of family. I have friends all over the world, and many of them are, in my estimation, a type of family. There are people in Germany who are dear to me, and people in Orlando, and people in Long Beach, or in New Orleans, or in South Florida.
Family is important, whether you grew up with them or added them on later in life.
Allllllllll the way back on the second day of Nano Poblano, Anyes posted a “Let’s get to know each other” entry on her blog, and it posed a few questions that I thought would be fun to come back to.
What’s the #1 most played song on your playlist?
When I saw this posted by Anyes, I checked the play counts in my iTunes app, and found that “Undisclosed Desires” by Muse was at the top of the list. Well, a non-musical binaural sleep track filled with white noise was actually the most played item, but Muse was right behind.
Here are the top five played (musical) tracks in my iTunes library. It is undeniably a fascinating cross-section of some of the music that makes me tick.
There’s a problem with this list, though. Several problems, actually. First of all, I suffered a library glitch with iTunes on October 5th, 2008. All the data was reset on that day- no song in my iTunes library has a “Date Added” later than 10/5/08, and any plays from the years before are gone. I started using iTunes with my first iPod back in 2003, so that’s five years of play data gone.
Secondly, this question doesn’t specify which playlist. I have many, many, many playlists. Or even which audio source- there is still a CD in my car’s deck, although I’ve forgotten which one- but I used to spin it a lot. Before that, there were mix tapes and soundtracks that got played until they were practically worn out, and I’m confident some of those had more plays than the count on that Muse song at the top of this post.
Third, this question doesn’t take into account things from streaming sources like Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music- and you’d better believe I use all three.
Music is life.
I checked my Spotify account, and while I can’t find actual play totals, I can tell what the two most played songs on my Spotify account are. The first is Shriekback’s “Nemesis,” which I love in part because it’s a dance-floor banger and in part because they managed to squeeze “parthenogenesis” into the lyrics and it totally works. The other one is Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen from Nashville singing “If I Didn’t Know Better,” which is an absolute smokeshow of a song.
Clearly, the most played song is flexible, frangible. It can be changed by time, or mood, or salinity, by life events and tragedy or triumph.
Sometimes I just like to hear certain harmonies, certain orchestrations.
I strongly doubt that this has helped you to know me any better.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
I have loads of favorite quotes, but the first one that came to mind when I was writing this post was-
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” The words were Yoda, but the delivery was Frank Oz. This line is from a four minute long scene on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back which contains a heap of Yoda’s most famous lines: “Do or do not; there is no try.” “Judge me by my size, do you?” “That is why you fail.” These are all lines from the same scene, but the one that always gets me is this one. If this movie is playing on television and I happen to be walking through the room, I will stop dead in my tracks for this line.
I feel like my explanation for why I like this quote so much is inadequate. I do believe in the shining potential of most people, though, and I think it sums that up pretty well.
What sound do you love?
Anyes already claimed rain, so I can’t use that as my answer. I guess I’ll have to go with the sound of a rolling suitcase moving over sidewalk- that roll-click-roll-click-roll-click sound.
My apartment in Germany was less than half a kilometer, about a third of a mile, from the city’s main train station. People would walk past all the time with those rolling suitcases. Since I had no air conditioning, I kept the window open through most of the year, and that rolling thumping noise became very soothing to me.
Now that I think about it, all the other sounds of the train station are soothing to me as well. On a clear, quiet night, the announcements on the platforms were audible from my apartment. I could hear the sounds of trains rolling in or rolling out in the distance.
I loved all of it.
Now it’s your turn. Care to answer any of these questions?