Monthly Archives: September 2012
That’s right, folks, Big Ang is coming to my neighborhood!
Now, I have already come clean about my shameful addiction to the Mob Wives of Chicago. Unlike my pal Tom Wisk, however, I never got too interested in the original Mob Wives program, even though it takes place right here in New Yawk — well, Staten Island actually, but that counts. After all, it is one of the five boroughs, though not one you’d necessarily want to spend any time in, for reasons that become glaringly apparent the minute you step off the ferry or cross the mighty Verrazano. But I digress.
So today I was walking to the gym, musing about one thing and another, when the sight of this stopped me dead in my tracks. Now sadly I am going to be out of town the weekend of the big book tour, but I will certainly be sending someone to snap a photo and maybe even get a signed copy of Big Ang’s opus, “Bigger is Better.” The old town will never be the same. Sigh.
Now, for anyone who wants to attend (Tom?), it’s at 268 Court St in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn on October 13th, starting at 1 pm. I guarantee it will be a scene like nothing you have ever witnessed. Think Fellini. On acid.
And every snack in between if you’re peckish
Though as a rule I prefer to take the path of least resistance when it comes to cooking, I am in no way an advocate of processed foods, TV dinners, boxed meals and the like. With the possible exception of pie crust from a box, I avoid prepared foods like the plague. And anyway, since I’ve handed over my eating plan to the fat police, there’s very little chance of dessert reappearing on my table. Ever.
Of course, it was not always so. Otherwise how would I have ended up in the offices of Dr. Feelbad, MD, nutritionist to the stars and scourge of the chubby? I’ll tell you how. A lifetime of very poor eating fueled by a serious sugar addiction and a bad case of denial. As a child of the Sixties, I started life on formula, which the pediatrician told my mother was better for babies than breast milk. More scientific, you know. I was not the only one. From there is was a short trip to a diet built on the miracle foods of the era — canned vegetables, processed meats, fruits in heavy syrup, “fortified” breakfast cereal and bread that never went stale to name but a few.
Now, my mother is a pretty fair cook and was even then, but convenience foods were supposed to be healthier. No bacteria, no spoilage, no risk. Of course, the news that smoking was actually harmful to your health had only just broken — after years of government statements that there was no evidence it was in any way bad for you. Inhaling lung bucketfuls of smoke all day instead of air? How could that be a problem?
So anyhow, I was well into my thirties and still eating Pillsbury crescent rolls, rice and salt mixes from a box and Hostess Zingers (a bedazzled Twinkie for those of you with more evolved palates). I was also taken in by the no fat diet craze of the 90s, wherein you could eat as many carbs as you wanted as long as there was no fat. Remember Snackwell cookies (are they still available)? Oh no, those are no problem, I told myself as I stuffed the entire box into my gob and chased them with a big glass of skim milk. It’s like a health food!
I operated under these delusions for some time, like until a couple of years ago when Mr. Slattern discovered that it was sodium rather than heredity behind his high blood pressure and cholesterol. Since then we have eliminated salt and processed foods almost entirely from the family diet, and as as a result, Mr. S has safely eliminated all prescription medications from his diet. This was not so hard, but let me tell you getting the sugar monkey off my back has been.
Here’s what did it for me.
OK, not this exact article, but others on the same subject and in the same vein. In any case, may I strongly recommend you read it over? And if you’re looking for suggestions on how to cook without processed foods, here are a few posts from the archives. It’s not that hard, you know. I mean, I do it, for pity’s sake.
Reality TV scratches my id.
As even the occasional visitor to my well-appointed little lockdown ward knows by now, I indulge a fair few guilty pleasures. Some might even say I have more vices than virtues, though I think it just seems that way because I so often air my dirty laundry for your amusement, which is a compulsion of a different sort, but perhaps that’s a subject for another day. Among my filthy little secrets are insatiable appetites for swearing and the now-verboten Hostess Zinger (the sticky red coating over the Twinkie is pure bliss); my collection of Fleetwood Mac records; the admission that I like Grace Jones’s cover of La Vie en Rose better than the Little Sparrow’s original; and of course the fact that I have watched that dreadful 90s turkey Practical Magic about a hundred times. (I just love that scene where they all get trashed on midnight Margaritas and sing The Lime in the Coconut.)
Up until recently however, none of my little treats or crutches could really be classified as shameful (well maybe the Grace Jones business, but I’ll bet there’s at least one person on the planet who agrees with me on that score). I viewed them as the standard foibles of a reasonably functional member of the modern world. As guilty pleasures go, I reasoned, mine were all fairly tame. Now, however, I find I have finally given myself cause for concern, and that’s going some from a woman who whole heartedly exhorts others to serve ham salad finger rolls at parties.
Since I know the suspense is killing you, I’ll fess up. It’s reality TV. Though not a huge fan of the genre generally, I do follow Project Runway and Top Chef, and even occasionally look in on the Real Housewives. (New Jersey and Atlanta only — I can’t tell one California bleach job from the next, and the New Yorkers are all too familiar.) As a rule, I prefer the competitive formats to the biographical ones. I mean really, Kim Kardashian has marital problems and mother issues. Well who doesn’t? Eating bugs for money, modeling for morons or camping for cash? Who cares? No, my newest guilty pleasure takes reality TV well beyond the usual limits of both decorum and decency, into the territory I think of as Surreality TV, which is why, I suppose, it appeals to me. That’s right, you guessed it, I have developed a (borderline) obsession with Mob Wives of Chicago. Really, I just cannot get enough of this show. Look!
First of all, is it me, or do they all look like a bunch of cranked up trannies who just knocked over the make-up counter at Macy’s? Allegedly. The extensions, the Vegas makeup, the boob jobs and the sparkles all telegraph drag show to me. And who doesn’t love a man in a tiara? Whenever I’m watching the show, I’m also half expecting one of them to burst into “Son of a Preacher Man.”
I know it’s horrifying, and yet I cannot stop watching, so intense is the fascination. And before you go all violence-desensitizes-us-and-destroys-society on me, let me just say that it’s not like I’m watching Showtime for lord’s sake. This is on VH1, the regular cable channel that brings you a thousand hours of 80s music videos every week. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good indication that this show is in the right place in terms of its overall intellectual level.
Nora: “I’m gonna resume my father.”
Renée: “I think it’s exhume.”
Almost as tricky as spelling HUMILIATION.
I especially love the hapless therapist who clearly wants to run from the room and looks like she’d probably rather be counseling a rabid civet than a woman who routinely gets into extension-yanking, bitch-slapping, knock-down, drag-out fights with her “friends.” I may be wrong, but I’d be willing to wager Dr. Thing pops a little vitamin V before Christina’s sessions. I know I would.
Dr. Thing: “How are you planning to work that out?”
Christina: “With a BLEEP shovel.”
Sometimes, the wives are very funny — on purpose — as when Pia the stripper comments on Nora’s obsession with digging up her father’s body to prove that it is actually he (“The German,” who died in stir) and not some hapless hobo that the feds sent to the cemetery. Pia, who is clearly practical-minded, says, ”It’s not like the man dug himself up and went to 7-11 and got a sandwich and a Coke.” No argument there.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What is the possible appeal of something this grotesque? I’d say that there’s such a sideshow feeling to it that it is entirely irresistible, especially to those of us who grew up in more emotionally-restrained environments. Take me, for example. As the product of a New England culture that looks upon anything more than a handshake as an intimate act, I find these women mesmerizing. Among my people, the only time anyone gets whacked is when Bitsy agrees to Binky’s request that she wear a saddle over her flannel nightgown on a Saturday night, but these ladies threaten to kill one another on a daily basis. With shovels.
What can I say, it gives my id a workout. And everybody knows how important a limber id is. If you don’t believe me, just ask Big Ang.
This morning I logged on to my computer intending to file yet another pithy entry about the trials and travails of life on the domestic front lines, but my plans changed when I read Bharat’s lovely post marking the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist bombings. I was living in New York at that time – I still am – and for me, like so many of my friends and neighbors, it is a rare week when it doesn’t occupy my thoughts, or at the very least cross my mind.
Bharat writes that on that day we were all victims, and he has a point, but that’s not the whole story. So if you’ll forgive a temporary darkening in tone, I’d like to add my own thoughts.
When the first plane hit the Trade Center Tower, I had just dropped my daughter off at school; it was the beginning of second grade for her. It was a glorious day, warm and clear with a bright blue sky, and as I walked back home I looked up at what I thought were a flock of homing pigeons. We live in an Italian neighborhood, and there are still a few people who keep pigeon coops on their roofs and fly their birds in big swooping flocks that sort of glimmer when the sun hits their wings just so. It’s an Old World hobby, like playing bocce or making wine in the cellar. After a moment I realized it wasn’t birds – the movements were too chaotic and random – so I stopped. I was passing the pharmacy, and a man standing outside told me a plane had hit one of the Trade Center buildings. At that moment I realized it wasn’t birds in the sky, but papers, thousands of pieces of paper that had floated across the East River and were fluttering above my Brooklyn neighborhood. And so I ran.
What’s the worst pop song ever?
So last night Mr. Slattern and I were having a rollicking game of Scrabble while working our way through a bottle or two of something or other. Since I was knocking the slop out of him (for a change), we decided to lighten the mood (his anyway) by adding a bit of music to the evening’s festivities. Not wanting to interrupt the flow of things, we just picked a random satellite channel and got on with the
The name of the station was, I believe, “The Bridge.” I tell you this out of the goodness of my heart and to save you a world of hurt. Should someone you love, or you yourself, ever stumble upon this house of musical horror, turn around and return to the preceding station, or any other you can find, even if it’s the one with the all-Grateful Dead format, because let me tell you that spending the next few minutes with Jerry’s kids will be infinitely less painful than being subjected to the playlist of The Bridge, whose format is described on its website as follows:
Cross The Bridge to the softer side of rock. Stress-free music from Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison and Elton John. Nothing too hard, just great mellow rock.
Here’s how I’d describe it: A trip to hell featuring extended layovers in a string of audio re-education camps with entertainment provided by a mopey, poetry-writing high-school girl circa 1975. Listening to this station is about as pleasant as spending the second full day of your summer diet hungover and trying on woolen underwear at the Barney’s warehouse sale — with Barry Manilow singing Copacabana on an endless loop on the sound system.
Anyways, being rather absorbed in the game, we weren’t really paying close attention to the music, so when we heard the opening lurch of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald we chuckled because Gordon Lightfoot in general, and this song in particular, have both become running jokes in our house. Listening to this stinker always makes me feel a bit queas-Y, like I’m barreling along with the God forsaken crew when the gales of November come ear-LY. Just thinking about this song makes me seasick. And always I ask myself the same question, Does anyone know where the love of God goes when this song turns the minutes to hou-ERS?
I find this performance particularly irritating because Gord sings it in Canadian instead of the regular English he used on the record. Maybe his jaw’s tired from all that emoting, or it could be he’s just too lazy to open up his mouth. Hard to know. Harder still to care.
Too lazy to get up and reset the radio, we were both hoping this song would be the musical equivalent of a long overdue belch that clears the line and makes way for a cleaner, purer flow of sound. How wrong we were; what followed was one or another of Billy Joel’s nasty mid-career hits, all of which are putrid, but none more so than Piano Man. This was not the selection chosen by The Bridge; however, we changed the station immediately anyway, sensing a trend that could only lead to something far worse, along the lines of Billy Don’t Be a Hero or Brandy You’re a Fine Girl. Just the mention of one of those songs will create an immediate, soul destroying earworm that can last days, or even weeks. Many good people have cracked under less pressure than that. You remember what happened to Britney, who, I have it on good authority, was heard listening to The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia over and over right before she took a golf umbrella to that car.
The game ended and as we repaired to the living room for a nightcap, a lively debate about the worst pop song ever committed to vinyl soon began: Piano Man or The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald? Mr. Slattern, who is actually musical and therefore entitled to an opinion, takes the position that Billy Joel is the worse offender. He feels the faux Irishness, pretensions to crappy poetry (“a real estate novelist”) and limerick-y midline rhymes (“They sit at the BAR and put bread in my JAR”) make this song the worst one ever written. Further, he maintains, the instrumentation is insane and makes the cheesy lyrics and overwrought delivery indescribably worse, with a harmonica and an accordion locked in a fight to the death in the arrangement. Then of course there’s the wholly undeserved, smug, self-aggrandizing message (“Man, what are YOU doing here?”).
Listen, if you can bear it.
Now there are those who would not agree with Mr. Slattern that Piano Man is the worst song ever written. They might point to other notable entries in the oeuvre of the pride of Long Island, and they might be right. Look:
In truth, I can’t find much to argue with here, but I still have to give the edge to old Gordon Lightfoot in the worst song sweepstakes. Of course, now I’m in the lowest level of music hell. Not only am I hungover and sleep deprived after staying up all night watching bad music videos on YouTube, but I’ve now got the lyrics to Piano Man running through my brain to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitz-GERALD. Both are in waltz time, you see. And really, what is a pop song doing in three-quarter time anyway? It doesn’t make sense.