Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Southwestern Cookbook

A grainy, high-contrast overhead of a cluttered plate on the front cover. A gushing foreword, from an uncredited author, waxes lyrical about the romance of the Wild West. Cowboys cooking biscuits on skillets, tucking into bowls of Cowboy Stew, served from the chuck wagon. Dusty trails, steers, cornbread and friendly natives. The foreword concludes with a taste of what to expect in this selection of recipes, submitted by the good wives of the southwest, who have diligently submitted, in careful cursive, these ‘recipes for the man's fare of the Southwest.’
The ‘Salads and Appetizers’ section begins on a dubious note. ‘Long tall Texans probably scowled when their women first served them salads and appetizers. Their idea of right eating meant more substantial man-sized fare. If they could please skeptical six-footers, they’re sure to win you over, too!’ The fresh molded mandarin salad, for instance, submitted by Mrs. Joe Henery Nickols, of Dumas, Arkansas, is bound to please, with its winsome combination of lemon gelatin, canned orange juice, canned mandarin, canned pineapple and mayonnaise.
Niceties dispensed with, it’s time to get down to business. Meats. ‘When a Southwesterner thinks food, he thinks meat,’ says the unnamed author, being paid per line by the Favorite Recipes Press. ‘Southwesterners naturally prefer thick, juicy beef steaks and roasts, but they’ll admit that pork and lamb taste mighty good to a hungry man. Whatever the meat, whatever the method, every recipe in the following pages is guaranteed to fill up a man!’ Recipes follow hard upon, from Mrs. Ronald L. Hudson, of Dublin, Texas; from Mrs. Charles Redfield, Riverdale, Georgia; from Mrs. Sidney G. Ingram, of Statesville, North Carolina. Terse prose. Brown meat. Combine remaining ingredients. Add monosodium glutamate. Serve immediately. Eat the whole thing, now, y'hear. Tucked away in the bottom corner of a text-only page, the only man to appear between the covers of the book reveals, shamefacedly, his clumsy, ham-handed, oafish recipe. Mr. Paul Beeson, of Cacht, Oklahoma. The women giggle behind their sheets of coupons, lean toward each other conspiratorially, brushing crumbs from their aprons. ‘An Oklahoma man, in the kitchen? Well, I’ll be.’ Mrs. Warren Blass triumphantly submits her famous Antelope in Cream recipe, to general astonishment. Antelope. Why, that does sound exotic, don’t you think, Mabel. Nobody is quite sure what to make of Mrs. Adrienne King, of Dallas, Texas, whose intimidating offering of ‘Brains A La King’ sets mascaraed lids fluttering.
Soups and stews. ‘Soup’s on! This insistent call causes Southwesterners to perk up their ears and come a runnin’. Beef, beans, and corn, you’ll discover in these pages, are typical makin’s for soup and stews.’ The unnamed writer, in a dingy office in a New York skyscraper, is getting into his stride. Mrs. Helen Gossmann, of Arapaho, Oklahoma, takes no prisoners. Her recipe came in scrawled on the back of a receipt for hay bales, heavy pencil marks threatening to break through the page. A smear of something suspiciously like blood on the bottom corner. Cowboy Soup: 1 No. 2 can pork and beans, 1 No. 2 can tomatoes, 2 cans Vienna sausage, 1c. water, 3 slices of bacon. No Cowboy. She hurls the victuals into a cast-iron pot and stirs, furiously, with brawny arms, roaring at errant children as she boots chickens out of the way. The method: ‘Mix all ingredients in saucepan and cook. Serve with crackers.’
The disapproval is palpable in the desserts section. Nina Scanland’s recipe for Peppermint Pie appears, to general consternation, on page 181. Oh honestly, Mrs. Nix, says Mrs. J. R. Camp, at the Moultrie sewing circle, why that woman’s recipe appeared instead of Mrs. Evans’ famous Prahze Ahce Cream, ah will never know. Peppermint Pah. That’s right! Nina flashes a toothy smile. There is a little smear of scarlet lipstick on her front teeth. Why, I just whip it right up, she says, patting her bob. Easy as pie! A melodious titter. That’s what ah always say to Errol. Easy as pie, I say. In’t that right honey. That’s right, sugar. 1 package dessert topping mix, 2 sticks peppermint candy (crushed), 1 pt vanilla ice cream, 1 tsp peppermint flavoring, and 1 10-inch premade graham cracker crust. And that’s just all there is to it. Prepare topping mix according to package instructions. Mix the other ingredients and fold in the topping mix. Turn into the crust. Ay vwolla, as they say in Paris, France!
Mrs. J. R. Camp stabs her needlework with unnecessary force, muttering under her breath.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Evening run in the 6th Ward

Dust, hot concrete and dirt on the Bayou Trail. The smear of river sits on its bed like a sullen teenager, refusing to budge. Dog-walkers saunter along winding paths, wearing ‘Texans’ t-shirts. Couples stroll together, lethargic, eyes on phones, texting in silence.
Young women bustle by industriously, with short, purposeful strides, in branded neon Lycra and colour-coded headbands. Blonde hair scraped into little ponytails, makeup still bafflingly in place.
I consider if I should feel self-conscious about my second-hand men’s running shorts, my raggy t-shirt, already sticking to my skin, less than a mile in. I decide against it.
Shirtless men spring toward me in effortless silence, feet moving in great ellipses, like Road Runner. Sweat drips from 5 o’clock shadows. Hairless chests gleam. They vanish as quickly as they appear.
Hefty body-builders chug along laboriously, head back, necks merging into shoulders in a continuous slope, like ramps on the freeway. Ragged breath, a gasp for every step. Basketball shorts and chunky shoes, mouths open in distracted agony, dark, glistening Vs pointing down their cotton backs.
I run past a middle-aged woman in black, who strolls alone along the path. No headphones. She looks around her, serene. She wears a pair of fairy wings on her back, ringed with fake fur, black to match her practical cotton walking outfit. ‘I like your wings,’ I say, as I dodge around her. ‘Thanks’, she says. I look back. She smiles at me. ‘Happy Hallowe’en,’ I fire over my shoulder. She looks confused.
Bridge underpass. Everything gets louder. Voices, footsteps, the laborious breathing of somebody behind me. Maybe it’s me. A rhythmic dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum from the cars gliding over the concrete joints overhead.
Out again. The acoustic deadens, like a car door slamming. Tanned women in bra tops, stomachs hard and rippling with sweat, pound past, impassive. Compression socks, impossibly long strides. They dart in and out among a pod of children on bikes, who struggle up the little hill to the bridge, heads encased in brightly-coloured helmets. A swarm of exotic, wheeled insects.
Up on the road now, over the bridge, back the other side. A knot of people stands at an information board, which announces the presence of a bat colony under the bridge. Some lean out over the edge of the viewing platform. A woman wrinkles her nose, squints. A man points, looks back at his friends. Looks back in the direction of his outstretched arm, brow furrowed. His companions look dubious.
I pass the retirement home. A suited official is giving a presentation in the dining room. ‘Medicaid’, says the title. ‘Things to know.’ Grey-permed heads are arrayed in rows, like lollipops. The presenter extends an arm, the better to indicate something on the screen with his laser pointer, unaware of the redundancy of the gesture. The overhead light has a greenish tinge. One of the permed figures shifts position on a plastic chair, rubs her lower back, winces slightly. An elderly man gazes out the window, ignoring the presenter. He wears a pastel, short-sleeved shirt, biro clipped in breast pocket, belted chinos hiked halfway up his chest. Square, practical glasses form a windscreen on his face. I catch his eye. He frowns.
Outside, a couple in their fifties, sitting on a park bench. The woman has a wheeled suitcase, the man has a rucksack. They study a map. The woman holds it out in front, elbows on knees, squinting. The man cranes his neck to see. Points at something. His finger collides with the paper, a soft thump, a rustle.
The bail bond office is still open for business. SE HABLA ESPAÑOL. Inside, a man leans across the counter, gesticulating at the clerk. His teenage son is half-turned away from the desk. He is kicking something on the floor, absently. Looks at his shoes.
The skyscrapers gleam silently. Lights go on and off, an animated chequerboard. The sky is red, dappled with pink, cross-hatched with jet trails.

Street lights hum and fizz, in their halos of gnats.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

You Have New Matches!

*Usernames have been changed. The content is real.*

Welcome! You Have New Matches.


Orion212 answered new questions.

You should message me if:
'You are a feminine, respectful, mature, not too talkative, open-minded woman. You have good listening skills. You are of slender, athletic or curvy but small-waisted build.'

Would it bother you if your boss were a minority, female, or gay?
A: Not really, but maybe
Explanation: 'Some female bosses I had were the worst bosses.'

Would you consider dating someone who has vocalized a strong negative bias towards a certain race of people?
A: It depends on which race.

Do you believe that there exists a statistical correlation between race and intelligence?
A: Yes
Explanation: 'Countless academic studies and history confirm this, so this is what I am relying on.'

Breast implants: more cool than pathetic, or more pathetic than cool?
A: More cool than pathetic

Would you consider being in a relationship with someone who has had homosexual sex?
A: I'm not sure
Explanation: 'I see it as different for men and women.'

Would you consider dating someone that is a little overweight but has a beautiful face?
A: No.

Do you believe that men should be the heads of their household?
A: Yes.


SomeDude837 answered new questions.

Should evolution and creationism be taught side-by-side in schools?
A: No, evolution has no place in schools.

Is global warming a serious problem?
A: No
Explanation: 'I believe big government and big corporations/banks are the problem.'

Do you consider astrology to be a legitimate science?
A: Yes

In the line 'Wherefore art thou, Romeo?', what does 'wherefore' mean?
A: Where

STALE is to STEAL as 89475 is to...
A: 98547

If 'some men are doctors' and 'some doctors are tall', does it follow that 'some men are tall'?
A: Yes

Are you a genius?
A: Yes
Explanation: 'I have a high IQ and have a low tolerance for ignorance.'

Sunday, 13 October 2013

You Have New Updates!

*All usernames have been changed. The content is real.*

You have new updates: Your matches have updated their profiles.

MrRight4u11 explained his answer publicly
Q: What do you think of strip clubs?
A: They are okay every once in a while.
Explanation: 'They have cheap happy hour drink specials.'

Jussipp88 edited his profile
My self-summary: 'I like the outdoors, hiking, swimming, fishing, beach. It is really weird to type so much so I am going to go to the next section.'

how2b4u11 explained his answer publicly
Q: If you were attending Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which house would you want to be sorted into?
A: Gryffindor
Explanation: 'pretty standard I know'

8787taco answered a new question
Q: Which of the following could you do without for a month most easily: phone, internet, toothbrush or porn?
A: Toothbrush

TheTron433 edited his profile
I'm really good at: 'Listening and giving (un)healthy advice. That's one of the reasons I'm still alone, I guess.'

SlideFzz22 edited his profile
My self-summary: 'I am a human male in my late 20s and I have all sorts of feelings. I'm a pervert and a weirdo and whatever.'

FKF343 explained his answer publicly
Q: Do you believe a couple should live together before considering marriage?
A: Yes
Explanation: 'Might want to make sure she doesn't transform into the Wolf Man three times a year before you put a ring on that shiznit.'

legendss23 edited his profile
You should message me if: 'You want to hang out, play tour guide, try new things. Look, I don't have it all planned out, and I'm not above playing it by ear, but I'm not in the mood to get jerked around.'

sweetas33 updated his profile
My self-summary: 'To sum it up, me, as a guy who was born in the East and live all over the global, I don't fit into any of your pre existing catalog, I am quiet odd-mix, like the Kong Fu Panda if you have seen that movie.'

Lookin4uu22 updated his profile
I'm really good at:
1. BBQ
2. Travel
3. Hunting
4. Photography
5. Getting alone with kids and animals

Texan8man44 updated his profile
The 6 things I could never do without:
'Friends and family would be my #1 and 2... maybe a laptop and ipod my #3 and 4? Not sure about #5 and 6 because I can do without alot of things.'

RusskiYolo99 updated his profile
'I am Italian and Russian, hazel eyes, very into daily self improvement, there is hardly ever a day wasted in my life, I am living my best life. I don't have any girl friend or kids. I am in showbusiness nad I believe this is my break out year so I am looking for a lady who will add not take away from my life because I value my time. I mainly attracted to brazilian, BLACK and latina due to their full lips, and generous backsides.'

Dude_22 updated his profile
The 6 things I could never do without:
1. Family
2. Friends
3. Doughnuts
4. Pizza

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Dating Fatigue

It’s mid-afternoon in the coffee shop. Double-height ceiling, fans rotating lazily in the lofty gloom. A mezzanine level, ringed with silent customers staring at laptops, papers spread on tables. Highlighter pens, coffee mugs.
Two men lower themselves into director’s chairs around a circular table. One is wearing a pink shirt, open collared, polo-player insignia on the breast. Close-cropped blonde hair, tanned. A heavy, expensive-looking watch hangs slack around his wrist. He turns the chair so that he’s sitting side-on to the table, extends his legs. Well-made leather shoes, crossed at the ankle.
He leans back in his chair, expands to fill it, one arm on each armrest.
The other man is smaller, darker. He faces the table. He has a biro in the breast pocket of his plaid shirt. He leans forward.
‘You still on that dating website, man?’
‘Yeah.’ The blonde man shakes his head. ‘I don’t know, man, I’m getting kinda tired of it.’
‘Oh yeah?’ His friend makes a moue. ‘You’ve met a lot of people on there though, right?’
‘Yeah, but,’ – he shifts his weight, his breath catching – ‘I don’t know.’ He sighs. ‘It’s just hard to get excited about it after a while.’
He takes his sunglasses off his head, polishes them with the corner of his shirt.
‘You don’t want to meet someone any more?’
‘Nah man, it’s not that.’ He looks him in the eye, looks away again. ‘I just want to meet someone, you know, and have, like, an instant connection. I don’t want to have to go on, like, forty dates, to see if there’s chemistry.’
‘Right.’ The other man nods slowly, looking into his coffee mug.
‘And the other thing?’ He leans forward, conspiratorial now. Looks around his shoulder, cranes his neck, scanning the crowd. Turns back. ‘Some of them are pretty crazy, man.’
‘Yeah?’ The other man widens his eyes, makes a face. ‘How so?’
‘Well, they start talking about their problems, and to be honest? I just get irritated.’ A heavy sigh here. He shakes his head as though clearing water out of his ears. ‘The California one? Remember her?’
‘Oh yeah, I remember her. Angela, right? Hey, she was pretty hot, man.’
‘Right. Well, she’s just annoying. She goes on these uneducated rants on Facebook. She texted me five times in a row recently, complaining about how her dad wouldn’t pay for her flight to Houston, because she wants to go to a baby shower, and her mom doesn’t have the money, and her sister is the favourite, and her sister is getting loads of shit from her dad, and it’s not fair.’ He widens his eyes, stares at his friend. Shakes his head slowly.
His friend shakes his head in sympathy. ‘Jeez.’
‘I know, right?’
‘What did you say?’
‘Well, I was like, if you want a plane ticket, get a fucking job.’
The other man laughs. ‘Bet she loved that.’
They both shake their heads in silence.
‘Are you guys still friends on Facebook?’
‘You should delete her, man. She sounds like a pain in the ass.’
‘Oh, she’s a pain in the ass all right. Yeah. Oh,’ – he remembers something, finger in the air – ‘and apparently she’s got a boyfriend now. She puts all over Twitter and Facebook that she’s got a boyfriend. But she’s still contacting me, like, all the time. Like, hey John, how you doin’ tonight? That kind of shit.’
‘So I’m like, if you have a boyfriend, why are you still talking to me?’
‘I hate Facebook, man.’ He blows air out, cheeks expanded. ‘That’s why I’m not on there.’
‘I know, right. It’s horseshit.’
‘You should delete it.’
‘I know.’

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The strip-mall bar

The ceiling fans whirr furiously, humming, rattling, buzzing, their pull-chains quivering, dancing nervously in the artificial wind. The blades could detach from the ceiling at any moment, decapitating swathes of luckless punters in a beer-soaked bloodbath.
A forest of taps bristles behind the bar. Bartenders dart like bees.
Pastel clumps of polo-shirted men in golf visors cluster around low tables, their smart phones on the table. Lone, puce businessmen loosen their ties, lowering themselves onto bar stools, exhaling. Car keys on the counter. A woman sitting at the bar has lost a flip flop; it slumps, forgotten, on the floor.
A doctor orders a beer. His scrubs are branded with ‘Hermann’ on the back of the neck. There is a barcode on the seat of his pants.
Flat, stucco ceiling, wood paneled walls festooned with vintage drink advertisements. Glenmorangie Single Malt. Guinness Is Good For You. Cabinets full of old beer bottles. A nod to the old country, some old country, any will do.
Outside, shoppers pull up to the strip mall in glinting trucks, air conditioning roaring.
A meaty man, neckless in a black shirt, a silver chain glinting on his swarthy chest, faces two women sitting across the table from him. His hands are big, splayed on the table. They lean towards him.
‘Yeah, I was a boy scout. This one time, we were handed a rabbit and told, this is your dinner.’
Exclamations.  ‘Did you have to kill it?’
‘Sure did.’ Dee-id. ‘They gave us a hammer. Had to look it right in the eye, and boom!’
Gasps from the women.
He nods slowly. ‘Uh-huh. Ate it, too. Skinned it, cooked it, whole nine yards.’ He pushes back from the table, shirt buttons straining. Leans back on his low stool. It squeaks in protest.
He shakes his head, looks out the window.
‘Yeah, my buddy couldn’t do it. We were, what, twelve years old, right? So I says to the scout leader, I says, give me a rifle. Give me a rifle and I’ll shoot it from twenty feet away. You know? Be easier that way.’
Murmurs of assent.
He takes aim with an imaginary gun, squeezes his trigger finger. ‘Easy.’ Shakes his head again.
‘But I guess they didn’t have guns at camp, so I had to do it with the hammer.’
He slaps his meaty paws together. ‘Boom!’ His eyes shine. ‘Boom,’ he says again. ‘Right between the eyes.’
The woman sitting at the bar is wearing a sheer shirt, which veils a tattoo of Chinese symbols in a row all down her right side. They disappear behind a black bra strap, emerge again further down.
Two men arrive together, carrying bicycle helmets. They are both texting furiously as they navigate unseeingly, silently, to the bar.
A pear-shaped man, grey hair sitting lank on his collar, waddles in behind them, sandals slapping on the floor. Pigeon-toed. He wears a check shirt and check shorts, a pair of sunglasses hooked into the open collar. The shirt is the same colour as the shorts, but the pattern is slightly smaller, giving him the air of an optical illusion. He tilts his head back to squint at the beer menu over the counter, wrinkles his nose, open-mouthed.
At the table behind me, the conversation has moved from boy scouts to the military. It would appear that there is a career path from one to the other.

‘Well, I didn’t have the GPA to be in the back room of a ship. Taking care of the engines, you know. I mean, I was like, oh okay’ – arms wide, elbows bent, a booming Messiah – ‘it’s not like I spent my entire career trying to get to this point or anything, man.’ Pulls his chin back into his neck, wouldja believe those guys.
One of the women makes a cluck of sympathy. ‘That sucks.’
‘I know, right? But hey,’ he plants his pint glass down on the table for emphasis, ‘it turns out I do have the GPA to sit in the back of an F14 fighter plane.’
‘Right.’ The women look at each other, eyes wide. ‘Go figure.’

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Hipster Den

The hum of air conditioning and industrial fridges fattens the middle of the frequency spectrum. The chirruping of mouse-clicks and clinking of spoons takes care of the top. Mismatched chairs, G-plan style. Low-slung coffee tables. Bare ventilation pipes on the ceiling. Cracks on the lino floor.
Three Warhol-style prints of Lindsay Lohan stare at me belligerently from the back wall, daring me to form an opinion. Beneath them, an evenly-spaced row of silent punters. Each one is seated behind a softly glowing Apple logo. They gaze expressionlessly at their screens, limbs arranged in various attitudes of distraction. Some legs are crossed, some are planted square on the lino floor. Some flip-flops have been discarded, feet tucked under buttocks. Their faces have an unhealthy, electric pallor. White tentacles snake from plugs in the wall at their feet.
I order a coffee and a banana from a square-faced hipster with an intimidating black beard. I sit down by the window, opening my banana from the wrong end. The American end. It turns out to be the better end to open bananas from, after all.
Ba-nee-ah-nah. A lot of open ‘ah’ sounds have a diminutive ‘ee’ stuck on the front of them, like roadkill on the grille of a truck, screaming past, squealing its last.
The clientele sports an array of full-sleeve tattoos, unkempt and sun-streaked hairstyles, interesting eyewear. With the exception of two men in polo shirts and belted chinos, both of whom have identical wraparound sunglasses perched atop their balding heads. They wait to order, clutching their iPads defensively to their chests. One of them jingles coins in his pocket. They glance around them warily.
All around, the hipsters watch, wait, concealed inside shrubs of facial hair.
Motown classics shimmer on the stereo. Across 110th Street… I am nostalgic for 1970s Harlem, despite being white, being Irish, and not having been born until the 80s.
The square-bearded barista, now revealed to have a tattooed foreleg, comes in from the car park. Parking lot. He clears his throat, glances around.
‘Anyone own the white Camry parked outside?’
A slim Asian girl in high-waisted shorts looks up, puts down her coffee cup. Stands up hesitantly. ‘Uh, yeah.’ She pushes her dark fringe out of her eyes.
‘Yeah…’ he wipes his mouth with his hand, in a downward motion past his chin, makes a rueful moue. ‘It’s being towed.’
She gasps. Hand to mouth, echoing his gesture. She races past him, short steps necessitated by her flip-flops. He steps neatly out of her way, stops the door from slamming shut.
A wave of schadenfreude ripples through the café.
A girl in front of me sits down with a cafetiere of coffee. A French Press. Short butter-blonde hair, the suggestion of dark roots beneath the unkempt curls. Heavy black eyeliner, red lipstick. Plain grey backless dress. A pair of vertiginous, ungainly suede heels invalidates her otherwise-viable hipster credentials.
The Wikipedia page for ‘cerebral blood flow’ is open on her browser. She opens a PowerPoint entitled ‘Central Nervous System Summarized’. Her coffee cup is already ringed with crescents of lipstick.
She opens Spotify. I see Boards of Canada. Conspecific, though the heels gave me pause. I crane to see what else is on her playlist.
New barista on the till now. He regards the waiting customers from behind heavy-rimmed black glasses. A suggestion of stubble on pale skin, delicate features. He has an improbable shock of hair, tight black curls rising in a cliff from his forehead, giving him the vague appearance of a bespectacled Poodle.
Having placed her order, a woman in a short black dress toys with her locket, staring into space. Black biker boots, loosely laced, with black socks pulled up inside them. Short red hair. Lots of lipstick.
Behind her, a man in basketball shorts, grey marl t-shirt, close-cropped hair, with ‘Doc’s kid’ tattooed just under the elbow of his right arm in blue pseudo-Celtic script. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, glances back at the door. Checks his phone, puts it away. He’s chewing gum. Blinking a lot. His eyes are a vivid aqua, his teeth disconcertingly white.
Outside, sunlight bathes the trees across the street. A squirrel runs deftly along a power line. Thunderclouds are gathering, the sky deepening to a dark, velvet grey. The billboard on the laundry next door, black letters on yellow, proclaims that it is TIME TO GET CLEAN.
A saxophone screams a high B, at the apex of the solo. I accidentally kick the metallic leg of my table. It pings. The same B.
All is right with the world.