The REAL Swedish Guide to Staying Warm

Glogg up your winter with Martha and Lars

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“More glogg Ingrid? Thank you, Lars, don’t mind if I do.”

According to She Who Must be Obeyed (Martha, not me, at least in this instance), those masters of life on an ice floe keep warm and cheery through the 19-hour winter nights with a steady diet of pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, lox, potatoes and cream, chased with vats of simmering glogg. So far so good, at least for those of us who are toughing out the front end of a new ice age in most of the upper 48 — as for what goes on in Alaska during the annual ten-month winter, I can’t say. Actually, what with the blubber-eating, Ski-Doo racing and endless dark, I can’t even bear to think of what happens up there, which is something coming from a person who looks upon staying indoors and having Irish coffee for breakfast as a viable, even attractive, lifestyle choice, at least in January and February, though some years have seen a bit of December and March creep, but that’s a story for another day.

Anywho, where was I? Pickled herring, winter benders, oh yes, Martha’s winter palace dream party. Described thus:

“Six New York-based friends — all Swedish by birth or marriage — gather for an afternoon of cold-weather comforts: warm glasses of glogg and an elegant yet homey Scandinavian spread.”

What Martha doesn’t tell you is that this was all just a prelude to the main event, namely the consumption of about fifteen liters of Absolut followed by a naked rampage through the snow-covered great lawn in Central Park, which the partygoers took for a summer nudist colony owing to the “warm” nine-degree weather, sunlight and the presence of trees.

Make no mistake, folks, this is how to “warm up like a Swede.”

Absolut fire

“Glogg? GLOGG? We don’t need no stinking glogg, Jorgen. Now fire this baby up and let’s go find the public sauna. I think it’s on 79th Street.”

Targetted

target

Ready. Aim. Fire up that credit card!

Yup, that’s right, the Slattern family is just one of the millions of households whose personal data got lifted right from under the Target Corporation’s big old, bargain-hawking, crap-flogging nose this holiday season. I know this because I just spent three hair-combusting hours on the phone with every Target department from Fraud to Customer “Service” to Credit Card “Services,” right on down the line to Internet Orders and the guy who swabs out the executive washroom at the corporate treehouse up there in Minneapolis. His name is Frank and he’s very sorry about my problems.

Having failed to get any information whatsoever from the gratingly cheerful folks at Target, I hung up the phone — well actually I slammed the receiver repeatedly into the cradle in time to the torrent of filthy invective that was surging from my mouth like the Susquehanna after Three Mile Island — and called my credit card company. As a result of navigating approximately six dozen phone trees and speaking to ten guys named Ryan whose accents were suspiciously sub-continent, I came up with this:

Someone hacked into the Target database and stole some information about me. Or maybe they didn’t. It could be that they got my credit card information, name, mailing address, phone number or email address. But no one really knows if they did or not. And despite my very clear, very loud questions as to the nature of what they took or what said miscreants might do with it, I still have no idea what to even look for as an indicator that fraud may — or may not — have occurred in my name.

Well that is just swell. So now, owing to a foolish impulse purchase of a folding table to accommodate my holiday dinner guests, I have to undertake the process of canceling my credit cards, combing through the holiday purchases to see if I can ferret out anything that looks untoward (at this point it all does), changing all my internet and account passwords, and updating the credit card information on my recurring payments. I have no doubt that there will be at least one that falls through the cracks in the portable bar, which will probably result in my having to crash an EZ Pass toll gate, reinstate lapsed insurance coverage or go without my gym membership for a week or two. Guess which one doesn’t piss me off?

Now to make matters worse, this is the guy who is overseeing the rectification of the whole nasty mess:

Target guy

His name is Greg Steinhafel, and he is the CEO of Target Corporation. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does he? Just in case you think I cherry picked this photo, I want you to know that it comes straight off the Target data breach and happy time website. Check it out for yourself.

So let’s break this down, shall we? My personal information, and that of millions of other people was mismanaged and left unsecured by the folks at Target, and now Gomer here is going to sort it all out and tighten everything back up? Go-o-o-lly, that’s great! Apparently this guy is competent to run a cash register, stock shelves or greet me as I enter one of their retail pleasure palaces, but CEO? I’m not buying it. Chief executives should wear TIES, Greg. FYI, they look like this:

"Let the firewall slip, did you? You're FIRED!"

“Let the firewall slip, did you? You’re FIRED!”

Or this:

"It's about time Target got as organized as organized crime."

“It’s about time Target got as organized as organized crime.”

Or better still, this:

"Target has no truck with terrorists. Or idiots."

“Target must have no truck with terrorists. Or idiots, Gregory.”

Aw forget it, I’m going off the grid. I hear the Upper Peninsula is lovely this time of year.

Tuesday Fiction: Take the Slow Train to Brooklyn

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In the event you think all I ever do is work blue, drink too much and sling bad musical advice, here’s a chance to peek at my literary life. Of course, this little exercise in flash fiction is all about a caustic, down-on-her-luck dipsomaniac who stumbles into a subway jam fest, but I prefer to think of these as just a few of the many leitmotifs of my life, rather than signposts on the road to Betty Ford.

Thoughts?

Remedial Martha

Drooling, feeble-minded domestic goddesses take note

Cantaloupe

There is NOT more than one way to cut a melon.

If the latest missive from Martha to land in my inbox is any indication, the marketing gurus at Big Mama Stewart’s domestic juggernaut have located a new and potentially-lucrative market segment to exploit enlighten. For those of you not on the mailing list, I’m referring to mentally-underpowered domestic engineers. Of course, one might assert that this demographic has long been Martha’s bread and butter, and further, that captivating the attention of dim bulbs with too much time on their hands is the foundation on which her housekeeping house of horrors is built. No argument from me.

In any case, by now you’re probably all agog to hear about the latest cross-selling initiative, and really, who am I to keep you in the dark? So without further ado (and now that that third martini has finally worked its magic on my cerebral cortex), here’s a summary of what Martha is currently flogging:

 Martha Stewart’s top five videos for 2013

1. How to frost a cupcake
If you need help with this extremely challenging task, I suggest grabbing the first two-handed four-year-old you find and shoving a butter knife into his/her sticky little mitt. Watch and learn.

2. How to cut a melon
Are you kidding? No need for the preschooler, just get the knife — and stab yourself with it to be sure your nervous system is still functioning. Then cut the frickin’ cantaloupe already.

3. Bartending basics
This may be the most offensive video on offer, and I’ll tell you why. When I’m at the bar or hanging
around the punchbowl, the last goddamned thing I want is a drink that was mixed during amateur hour. If you need a basics course, skip the video, strap on your helmet and pilot your Segway on over to your loser cousin’s house for a Partridge Family marathon where you can sip a festive glass of Gatorade and ginger instead of a properly made Sazerac. For your sins.

4. How to can and jam
Unless this is the first release in Martha’s new series of porn videos, I’m not interested. Actually, I’m not even interested then.

5. How to cut a mango
I’ll admit it, these can be a bit of a challenge, but here’s an easy solution: Go to the bodega and buy a container of cut-up mango. Then throw it in the blender with a fifth of vodka,
rum, gin or similar. Congratulations, you now have a life worth living. Well done, Sweetie.

Boli-Stoli!  Well done, Sweetie!

Boli-Stoli?
Well done, Sweetie!

Happy Holidays from the Slatterns!

kazakhstan winter

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. On the coldest street in hell.

Greetings Slattern friends and family members!

Surprise, surprise, 2013 was (yet another) thrill-packed year for your favorite all-American family, the Slatterns! Although anyone who tunes in to HLN will already be familiar with some of the more sensational chapters of our story (where would Nancy Grace be without US this year?!), there’s more than that silly extradition business to fill you in on.

Street legal after all these years!

Street legal after all these years!

First the good news — and couldn’t we all use a little more of that? Owing to this year’s “recreational use” decriminalization statute, Grandma’s case was dismissed back in April before it ever went to trial. To tell you the truth, I think the Legal Aid lawyer was a little disappointed at not being able to try out the innovative “oldfluenza” defense he came up with, especially since this was going to be his first real case, but he perked right back up when Mr. Slattern pointed out that with all the “zero tolerance” policies at the assisted living facility, sooner or later the old girl is bound to run afoul of the law again. Next time she ends up in a holding cell, Grandma has promised that Counselor Schenkman will be her first call.

"Gall durn it, they said the ropin' and wranglin' was INCLUDED!"

“I thought you said the Twins was INCLUDED!”

And speaking of involuntary confinement, Uncle Fred is finally back in the bosom of his family after that little misunderstanding at The Mustang Ranch in Nevada. Last summer, thinking he was headed for the dude ranch vacation he’d always dreamed of, our favorite “cowpoke” was more than a little surprised to find himself in a cathouse instead of a horse barn. Still, it was the work of a minute for him to rally the old Slattern spirit and go with the flow. By checkout time they had to use a crowbar to get him out of there. Literally, they chased him out the front door with one. Unfortunately, there was some additional unpleasantness about the bill, which included a long list of expensive “extras” that weren’t part of his package, but in the end management agreed to garnish his Social Security for the next fifteen years in exchange for his prompt and permanent departure. Thanks for all those get well soon wishes! We’re pleased to report that the doctors did finally find an antibiotic that worked. They say that the lesions should heal up eventually, and when they do, Uncle Fred’ll be as good as new.

They had no right to issue a "gag order" just because this filthy traitor is a thirteen year-old kid. Guilty, I say, guilty, guilty, guilty.

They had no right to issue a gag order just because this filthy traitor is a thirteen year-old “kid.” Guilty, I say, guilty, guilty, guilty!

As our cable-news viewing friends will know by now, young Master Slattern has become a real computer wiz. Although we’ve been advised not to make statements about his case, I can say that the allegations of his CIA database hacking and downloading, however sensational, are nowhere near the truth, and we are one hundred percent certain he will be cleared and our return to the US approved any day now. Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that Khazakhstan really is lovely during the winter holidays, with all the snow and ice out on the steppes, and in the parking lots, and the hallways. And our hotel room.

After two weeks in country, we’ve already mastered a few essential phrases in Kazakh, and boy, do they come in handy. Roughly translated: I’m sorry, but we ‘re not in the market for a camel today; We may look like Uzbeks, but I assure you we are not; and of course, No, my daughter is NOT for sale. With the help of these and several other little cultural tricks, we find that daily life goes on much as it did in the good old US of A with meals to prepare, housework to do and extended visits to the various embassies, consulates and police precincts to negotiate our legal status.

Supplies are a bit scarce over here, but in the outdoor market, I find I can trade my Klonopin and Valium for almost anything, and Mr. S has even developed a taste for the national drink, fermented mare’s milk, which he claims goes well with Russian vodka (it’s cheaper than tonic water!). Most days he can be found comfortably settled on his pony-skin floor mats with gallon jugs of both by his side, listening to the Voice of America. He almost never cries anymore. 

I’m finding the combination of a crushing load of stress plus the local goat-based diet has made it possible for me to lose that pesky twenty pounds, and owing to the lack of internet connectivity young Miss Slattern has traded her Facebook and BuzzFeed habits for daily instruction in kick-boxing at the local gimnasia. As an added bonus, she seems to be picking up some Russian from her trainer, Nikolai Nikolaiovich, who is also quite the fashion photographer and cossack-about-town!

And that, my friends, is all our news. We are looking forward to having the warrants lifted and returning home soon. In the meantime, all donations to the Slattern Family Legal Defense Fund are greatly appreciated. The good folks at WikiLeaks have assured us that, although donations are not tax deductible, they’re not remotely traceable either.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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