Would you like fries with your vengeful ghost?

While driving to the store today, I saw a family in a graveyard by the Baptist Church.

They were in lawn chairs and grilling.

Now, it’s difficult to shock me, and my list of things I’d consider “gauche” is pretty short.  However, enjoying an Oscar Meyer wiener and playing frisbee amidst the mausoleums is one of them, particularly when there’s a perfectly nice, green park about five miles down the road that isn’t fertilized by the decomposing body of someone’s grandmother.  Isn’t that the perfect setup to a horror movie? Some hapless family has a picnic in a cemetery and the angry spirits of the restless dead rise up to smite them?

I’m trying to think whether or not I’ve ever done anything remotely as insensitive in a graveyard. Surprisingly, no. I’ve done ghost walks, of course, but they were all sanctioned by official historical society people.  I’ve done etchings off a farmer’s 1774 tombstone in a tiny little country cemetery in Tennessee, but I was quiet and respectful and didn’t drop a burger patty on holy ground.  There’s a difference, I think, between visiting a graveyard to tour it, and visiting a graveyard because you can work your Green Egg.  There’s a matter of respect.

I held my breath for the super-historical cemetery I walked past every day in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There’s an old Southern superstition to hold your breath as you pass by a cemetery lest the ghosts jump into you. I’m not sure what would happen if a ghost were to jump into you, but according to the tone of Southern tradition, bad things would follow. It probably wouldn’t be as awesome as anything Whoopi Goldberg could manage, just saying.

So it’s very strange to me to see people just… grilling away. I hope they had a good time and didn’t disrupt too many spirits.  That cemetery is only a mile from my house, and I’ve seen Night of the Living Dead way too many times (“There coming to get you, Whitney!”).

And related to nothing, the tips of my brunette hair are now dyed blonde, and I can cross off one of the things on my list.

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Baking and I Break Up

While some of my friends struggle with cooking, and some think cooking involves heathen magic and they want no part of it, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to bake.  My cookies, cupcakes, and cakes are always fluffy, lightweight, and delicious.  I’m not a fussy cook or a decorative cook; if it involves making layers and piping frosting I’m not interested.  But the actual act of baking – not the presentation – that is so zen to me.  And I’m versed enough in baking by now that I’ve tackled more-complex items. Box cake mix is like doing push-ups the girl way and only for n00bs (incidentally, I should note here that I always do push-ups the girl way, and anyone who says that they don’t count can kiss my cake-box).

So when my mother requested that I make a particular strawberry cake today made with cake mix as a base, I sighed internally before setting to it.  Cake mix is filled with so many additives and questionable ingredients, but it’s Mother’s Day, and whatever Mom wanted, Mom would get.  I’d made this particular strawberry cake many times before. It’s brainless and delicious, a light pink sponge cake topped with cool, fluffy frosting. A perfect antidote to the heavy humidity lurking outside.  I put together the ingredients and cooked it a few minutes over, because our oven in our new house isn’t quite familiar to us.  Better to be safe than sorry, right?

But the cake came out beautifully. I let it cool, frosted it, and then when it came time to eat it, Mom got the first slice.

That was a mistake. I should’ve sneaked a bite before she got near it.  Because my cake tasted like Strawberry Shortcake had mated with a gummy bear and then laid out in the sun for a few days to dry out.

What happened? What happened? I survived cooking the entirety of the freaking Milk Bar cookbook but a recipe based off a cake mix threw me down? This cake was so terrible even my autistic brother wouldn’t eat it, and he literally eats his own shit if we don’t watch him closely enough. It was so violently, densely, nastily pink in the middle, it looked like the worst-case-scenario result of a prostrate exam.

The nearest thing I can figure is that maybe the box mix was old. Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough, even with the extra 4 minutes I threw in.  Because somehow it was both too moist and… hard. How do cakes get hard?  (Pervs, don’t answer that.)

I just don’t know what happened, but I’m never going to hear the end of my colossal failure.  My first major baking fuck-up just had to happen as my entire family watched.  Isn’t that the way of it? At least I was able to keep secret the time I managed to set the blender on fire with hamburger meat. But my parents have been crowing about my dazzling disaster all day, my Dad miming grotesque stomach pains (he had a few bites before giving up consuming the disgusting mush).

Baking, we’re through.  We had a nice ride, and I really thought I got you. But clearly, I didn’t know you at all.  If you ever want to see about getting back together again, I’m going to be at Nothing But Bundts, drowning my sorrows in a vat of cream cheese frosting.

Things I’d Rather My Parents Not Know: Part 2 of ?

Someone asked me what I was going to do when I finally move out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment. Now that that day is approaching, I’m formulating my plans. All the following will happen on the first Friday I am there:

  • Have Cheetos and wine for dinner.
  • Have cowboy shots of tequila for dessert.
  • Try to do Wii yoga.
  • Acquire mysterious and unexplainable bruises from the drunken Wii yoga.
  • Put on “Drive” and talk to Ryan Gosling’s ass the entire movie.
  • Start to build Lego Hogwarts.  And then stop after one turret. And leave the Legos out without picking up after myself.
  • Decide to learn Japanese. Look up filthy Japanese phrases and text them to random numbers in my cell.
  • Shower until I use up all the hot water because HAHAHAHA I OWE YOU PEOPLE NOTHING.
  • Wander around naked a while.
  • Talk to my cats in stupid voices.
  • Attempt to change my name on Facebook to “Whitney McCatlady”.
  • Get lost on Facebook for 30 minutes.
  • Pass out.
  • Wake up at 2am wondering why the hell Drive is on.

I think it’s good to have ambitions.

How I Work Out

I work out sporadically. I’m told that my lack of routine is a hindrance toward progress, but since working out is strictly based on the factors of guilt, boredom, and whether or not I can fit into my “average day” pants, workouts simply aren’t something that happens with any regularity. For those of you wondering what I mean by “average day” pants, here is a brief caveat: I have about three times too many pants in my closet. One-third of them are too little, ranging from “could lose 5 pounds” to “sausage casing tight”. One-third of them are too big for those days of lounging around or for days I feel huge. And one-third of them are just right. This Goldilocksian approach to fashion has made for a bursting closet, but there’s something optimistic about staring at a size 6 and going “I could probably… feasibly… get into that… if I took out my ribcage and ate nothing but leeks…” Continue reading

Leash Laws: Into the Wild in Alabama

One of the most obvious differences between life in Orlando and Northern Alabama is the wildlife. It’s not that Orlando was an asphalt wasteland devoid of life that wasn’t in a Mickey costume. I saw lots of wildlife. I saw it dead on the highway all the time, a menagerie of squished armadillos, various cranes that had taken a wrong turn at Tampa, and assorted flattened groundhogs. It was somewhat troubling that I’d never seen any of these creatures alive, but if you’ve ever driven in Florida for any length of time, you know that the odds of survival are against you as soon as you put a toe on the interstate.

My neighborhood in Alabama is brimming with creatures – and few of them are dead! We have the typical kamikaze squirrels, but we also have possums, raccoons, coyotes, deer, rabbits, and foxes. Our house is pressed tight against the woods, and the contents of the wild often spill out onto our property. The tall, green trees look nothing like the stunted palms of Central Florida. When I close my eyes and breathe, I smell sap, honeysuckle, and undergrowth – not the exhaust, dust, and waffle cones of the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

One other note about animals in Alabama? There are no leash laws.

This seems a minor point at first. If you’ve never lived in a place without leash laws, you just assume that everyone keeps their dogs and cats or whatever in a fenced yard. This is optimistic, but it’s not the least bit truthful. Dogs roam in packs over my neighborhood, and while they’re (currently) all friendly, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting to have five other canine joggers with you as you do your evening run. When I was little, a less-kind dog pack roamed, and selling raffle tickets to the neighbors became something of a life-or-death situation as I torpedoed from the safe zone of a front porch to another, hoping to avoid the snap of canine jaws. It’s something to think about before you let Chester the Cat outside. And don’t get me started on the exotic birds.

Exotic birds? you ask. In Alabama? Well, yes. One of my neighbors collected them. Peacocks, emus, and guinea fowl. When he died, they roamed around the neighborhood for years; it wasn’t unusual to look out the window and see a peacock staring back at you, willing you to throw a piece of bread outside. When I learned to drive, emus chased the Volkswagen, pecking at the tires and flapping their useless wings. And guinea fowl? Are the stupidest creatures alive. They run straight into the car every time (I may or may not be lingering under the guilt of having hit a few in my earlier days).

There was also a beautiful parrot who was sometimes allowed to fly around the neighborhood. His owners assured us that he was totally fine and always flew home. He had the uncomfortable habit of looking in and squawking “touchdown!” whenever an actress on television took off her top.

So no, I didn’t have any of that in Orlando. I kind of missed it.

Insert Apocalyptic Joke about Turning 30 Here

With the first day of May comes a lot of biggies: getting my new apartment, going to Yellowstone on vacation, and turning 30.

I think I’m supposed to express horror or guilt or something desperate about the pending number. I will no longer be in my 20s. Those days are gone. Soon, I’ll be in my 30s, and all the things that I’m supposedly behind on – marrying, having kids – really start to count.

Let me be perfectly clear: the first person who approaches me to talk about my ticking biological clock is going to shredded like taco beef.

Babies are cute. Marriages seem cool. But whatever attitude of “meh” I had about joining either institution hasn’t faded with time (like approximately 33,000 people assured me it would). Ladies, you feel me? How many times have we been told “you say that now, but…” or “it’s different when it’s your own” with regards to children and getting settled and God help us, anything that goes against a social norm? It’s the most maddening sensation in the world, because it implies that they know my mind far better than I do. It’s also terrifying because it implies that my body is programmed to betray me, to want these things when I haven’t pined away a single moment in my entire life.

So no, I don’t really care about turning 30 so much as I dread the upped onslaught of “when are you going to get married?” and “BABIES!” that will surely escalate in my direction. Talks of my age I can handle – what-the-fuck-EVER, I’m hot – but all this double-talk about mysterious future changes just makes me want to hide in a fallout shelter until reproduction is impossible and I look like Iggy Pop.

On Accumulating Stuff and My Zen Thoughts of the Day.

This weekend was a dust-covered, sweaty, mash-your-fingers-in-a-door-jam mess. The insurance company delivered about 30 cardboard boxes of cleaned items that had been pulled from our collapsing house last July.  There was a satisfaction in prying open box after box to uncover belongings that survived the fire (or… sort of… survived the fire), but there was also a lot of amused frustration.  “That damn painting,” I said as I pulled a truly crappy oil painting I’d done in high school from the box.  “Why the hell did this piece of shit not catch fire but our photos did?”

Mom had the same reaction to being reunited with her boxes of her fine china. “I was hoping these had broken!” she whined, pulling out a twee-looking teacup from the 1950s.  “We never used them.”

So now we’re planning an Ebay excursion. It’s not that this stuff isn’t treasured, in its own way: it’s that we’ve gone without it for nine months and forgot it existed. That’s how unimportant it is to us in the grand scale. She will mourn her Zuni pottery, and I’ll think fondly of my Playstation (may it rest in peace), but there is so much stuff that we’d collected along the way that we didn’t care about. It’s not really until you lose nearly everything that you realize how irrelevant most of it is.

On the plus side, I’m inheriting some of the extras for my new apartment. Uncaring that the sets don’t all have the same number of settings, I’m receiving a gorgeous set of crystal wine glasses, champagne glasses, and sniffers. That way when I veg out on the couch watching old episodes of House I can drink in semi-alcoholic style.

I guess what I’m saying is that no matter how much or how little you have, it’s easy to part with some fraction. Get rid of old things, and breathe a little larger.

Just don’t get rid of it with a house fire, because that’s ass.