A Thought

I was walking across the parking lot the other day, toward a Whole Foods. A bald man with a Dakine hoodie walked the other way toward me, holding a sandwich and laughing.

The distance between us collapsed and he looked at me, still grinning and amused. When we passed, I smiled and asked:

“What’s funny?”

He responded: “You must be thinking that I’m really hungry, to start eating my sandwich while walking to my car.”

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.

So, I had to laugh with him.

Catapulting Cows. Or Pianos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After consuming Frito pie and drinking a few beers while tailgating at nearby University, my boyfriend and I sat down for a discussion about Pure Moments.

He referenced the scene from Northern Exposure, where they capitulate a piano instead of a cow in efforts to experience a pure moment. We both agreed that a pure moment can’t be planned or expected. It’s the surprise or the unexpectedness in the expectation that is pure.

Francine Prose in Reading Like a Writer writes that “We all begin as close readers. Even before we learn to read, the process of being read aloud to, and of listening, means that we are taking in one word after another, one phrase at a time that we are paying attention to whatever each word or phrase is transmitting.”

Listening is a pure moment. Sometimes my mind wanders to plan the future or replay scenarios of possible personal failures or success as other speak to me. But when I listen, which I am learning to do in Kansas with its propensity of storytelling as a cultural protocol, I don’t know what I am going to hear. It is pure because I have no idea how the story will end, or if I think I know it usually never ends that way.

Writing is similar. The pure moments in writing are when we get out of the way of ourselves. Drop the expectations of being published or even that what we write is going to be good. Instead, let the pure moment flow from somewhere inside of you through your fingers and onto the page.

That’s purity. That’s truth. That’s why we read and write and tell stories.

Knuckleheads

Roger Clyne, with pointed boots and a mouth that hung seductively from a microphone, performed last week with the Peacemakers in Kansas City at the outdoor, industrial, adult Disneyland music venue that is Knuckleheads.

His voice dripped lyrics as a train visibly and intimately rumbled around the corner. At the venue, the neon sign was bright, the tin corrugated, the wood knotty, the beer cold.

I accompanied a few seasoned pros for my introduction to the band. Fortunately, the driver knew exactly where to stop on the return trip to Topeka. A WAFFLE HOUSE with three employees smoking on the curb as we pulled in at 1 am.

We sauntered up to the counter and sat on swivel stools, the only customers in the restaurant.

I ordered two waffles stacked for $4.04, with a side of bacon on top. The server magically unloaded peanut butter and chocolate chips to complement the waffles. The chips easily melted into the syrup.

I cleaned my plate (as you will unfortunately witness).

In honor of the man who bought DinnerBreakfast for us all, this is for you:

(It’s a series of waffle pictures with chosen lyrics relaying a story. The lyrics are from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers songs performed that night)

I have no notion where I’m bound

I used to be sly

Clouds tumble over themselves in the sky

Yeah the good guys and the bad guys they never work past noon

It’s givin’ my heart a little elbow room

God bless the fools, for screwing up all the rules

You know I’d do it all again

Pretzel Necklace

Rolling up the cuffs of my jeans, I unevenly attempt to avoid the mixture of mud, straw, grass, and discarded ale on the ground as it bubbles around my sandal with every step. I smile in a haze of good beer as we saunter around the park in the sometimes purposeful, and sometimes buoyant, beer fest amble.

At the 10th annual Parkville Microfest (as the banner declares), nearly 45 breweries pour tasting glasses to 3,000 attendees at the sold-out event, and the first beer festival I have attended outside of Oregon. Admission price includes entrance into a field that lines a wide Missourian river, while brewery representatives under white tents fill tasting glasses (no tasting tickets necessary here) for four hours on the overcast Saturday afternoon. Some brewery names are familiar – Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, Stone – but others are excitingly foreign – Nebraska Brewing, Cathedral Square, Flying Monkey.

The other excitingly foreign experience manifests in the form of a pretzel necklace. Reading about this in a newspaper article, I imagined a giant soft pretzel hanging like a pendant on a chain. Instead, the necklace is a thick string strung with lots and lots of hard pretzels. Both big and small. Some even interspersed with Funyuns. Leaning on my boyfriend’s kind (and heroic) sensibilities, I quickly find one around my neck after he makes a donation to the local Rugby club.

Soon, I notice patrons sporting multiple pretzel necklaces, seemingly jingling together in layers around a neck. One man complements the look with a beer koozie necklace, and one fashionable baby even sports his own necklace of Organic Fruit Os.

Genius; the pretzel necklace is. Just when you get a hunger pang you look down and see the pretzels dangling freely below your neck. Crunching off one side, the pretzel hopefully falls from the string and into your mouth, curbing hunger and facilitating the beer fest experience to continue without foreseeable obstacles.

Something so simple, so supportive, so encouraging. Something so revolutionary.

PS – At least for me.

At an un-ticketed beer fest.

The Cracker Barrel-ing Experience

Kansas has been an experience of firsts: first NFL game, first time watching Space Balls, first gun show, first country fried steak (CFS), and first time at a restaurant that has the word Cracker in it.

Fascinated by the name, and the common expressions of comfort that glide over people’s faces when I reference the Cracker Barrel restaurant in conversations, I simply could not miss the opportunity for this “first” experience.

It did not disappoint.

I devoured my first CFS and all the sides: mashed potatoes, carrots, hash brown casserole, biscuits, cornbread. All concern about ordering that much food – especially when the waitress kept forcing me to make so many decisions – dissipated after dinner as I stared at my clean plate. It was worth every bite.

The southern-comfort-style restaurant chain sealed my quest of CFS exploration during my time in Kansas – wondering if there was another CFS that could equal that self-revelatory experience of the first.

The search continued at Weller’s – one of Topeka’s many sports bars. Here I began to notice the back of my elbows rubbed raw from spending so much time laughing and resting on the beer-filmed tables. Dinner appeared with broccoli covered in Velveeta, the highlight of the meal, but the steak was thicker, fattier, and slightly too unpredictable.

We returned to Cracker Barrel for breakfast – replacing the hash brown casserole with creamy grits. The CFS was good, but still did not compare to that first experience. The intruding presence of the egg added a layer of guilt since I wasn’t eating all of it, so that may have also compromised meal’s integrity.

But then, unexpectedly, something blew our hypothesis apart. We thought that humanity often searches to return and recreate the feelings associated with “first time” events: first beer, first drag, first kiss, first chicken fried steak.

At Blind Tiger, Topeka’s microbrewery, I found the CFS that was meant to complete that part of my soul that was gaping open and yearning for the perfect CFS. The homemade breading melted in my mouth, covering an honest and thick steak.

That was the CFS that was right for me. The Cracker Barrel experience, though, will always remain so dear in my heart – it was the first impression, the first taste, the first foray, the first experience. Without that first chicken fried steak, I could never have known what was possible, I could never have found the one that was meant to be.

(See Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band)

Some Time Drinking Some Wine in Some Square in Some City in Spain

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It was exactly what I never knew I ever needed: four hours, just sitting, in one spot. It was one of those moments you have lived all your life for. It didn’t happen a moment too soon.

With a purposeless afternoon approaching, I wandered through some random streets dripping with graffiti until I saw some square, strewn with some tables, in some part of Barcelona.

I sat down and ordered a glass of wine. I saw the restaurant proprietors carelessly lean with folded arms against the door jams. I gave the wandering toothless violinist a few coins. I listened to the clatter of silverware, the waves of lilting conversations, and a disconcertingly comfortable hum of a buzzsaw in the background.

I ordered another glass of wine. I wrote in my journal trying to catch up on the last week, but instead I wrote of the passing humanity – as I noticed them and they noticed me. The man who kissed his lover in her ass-tight jeans, the homeless man who disappeared into different restaurants and returned to the square adjusting his pants, the little pig-tailed girl dressed all in denim and flying through the square.

The waiter brought me a third glass of wine, accompanied by some ceviche salad and ‘brave potatoes.’ I watched the pigeons dauntlessly buzzing people in the square, and I noticed the light shift into the autumn trees.

Four hours later, I just had to use el bano, so I paid my bill (13€), and left.

I left with a new moment: feeling the peace and meaning of space, around form, in a purposeless afternoon.

 

My Wedding and/or Funeral Recipe

One long, open bar – (best with Bulleit, Oregon microbrews, PBR, and a selection of fine wines)

One fiddle player

Two memory cards full of candid photographs

A handful of beauty

A pinch of sarcasm

A lot of truth – seasoned to taste

Something read or played that means something (anything) to everybody

A few dozen flowers – but only ones that represent random meanings

Use sincerity and humor as needed (i.e., like butter in the Midwest)

Enough sugar for a transparent coating

Sprinkled generously with open hearts

Mix it all up – however you want and however it moves you – because no matter how it connects this time, it will produce love. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for nine months. Let sit for 30 plus years.

Feeds as many as needed. Best served with an array of sauces (hot and sweet) on the side.