36 hours

She shoveled the parking spot for her neighbor, the cute one who had trouble walking for some indeterminate reason, probably drunkenness or some other affliction. He often got home late, and she watched from her living room window as he staggered from his car to the front door.

He slammed the door with such finality that she jumped even though she knew it was coming. The sound provided unwanted closure: “Just in case you fuckers were wondering, I’m never leaving the house again, because fuck you.” She was fairly certain he lacked the ability to close a door in a way that civilized people would find acceptable.

snow day1

At least five inches of snow had fallen before she decided to start shoveling. She spent the morning slathering her face with lotion and drinking coffee, perching on the edge of the kitchen sink to smoke cigarettes even though she promised herself she’d never smoke indoors. She figured this was the kind of weather that demanded exceptions.

She wore three pairs of pants, four shirts, a puffy silver coat, and the best pair of gloves she owned, which weren’t waterproof but were better than nothing. It was the heart of winter, and the sky was impenetrable. Outside, the cold coiled around her bones like wire, and she considered abandoning the whole endeavor.

But she remembered how her neighbor looked at her when they ran into each other in the laundry room. She’d never seen eyes such a rich shade of grayish blue, almost purple. A jagged scar split the right side of his face like a canyon, like he’d gone through a windshield or been punched with brass knuckles — at least that’s what she imagined.

They both needed to use the only working dryer, and they reached for the door at the same time. She gasped when she saw him staring down at her. He was calm. He didn’t give a fuck.

“Excuse me,” she said, catching her breath. “I’m in a hurry, do you mind?”

He tucked his laundry basket under his arm, and she realized how huge he was, at least a foot taller than her and very muscular. He limped over to one of the washers and sat on top of it, his boots kicking against the hollow metal box.

“Nope,” he said, his voice rough. “I can wait.”

She loaded her stuff and rushed back upstairs, her heart pounding and her cheeks hot. When she came back down an hour later, her clothes were neatly folded. Even her underwear were tidy little squares, like handkerchiefs. She was surprised that this made her feel so special.

snow day2

It took her an hour to clear the parking spot and the sidewalk leading to the front door. After ten minutes, she started to sweat, and she peeled off her coat and tossed it on the ground. The snow was light, but there was a layer of ice beneath it that she had to hack through with the sides of the shovel.

She worked until her arms ached and the mound of relocated snow stood several feet high. When she was finished, she went back inside, put on a pot of tea, and waited by the window.

The snow continued to fall, swirling like glitter in front of the streetlights. She tried to appreciate its beauty, but she hated it. The cold made her put things off. She kept telling herself she’d make a change when the weather turned, but some days she wasn’t so sure.

When a car — the wrong car — pulled into the cleared spot, she jumped to her feet and said, “No.” She slid on her boots without zipping them and ran down the stairs to confront the car’s owner on the sidewalk.

“No,” she said again.

“Excuse me?” he said, looking somewhat amused. He was young, probably 25. He wore a Montreal Expos hat and yellow-tinted goggles instead of sunglasses.

“That’s not for you,” she said.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“The parking spot.”

“I don’t see your name on it.”

She didn’t see any point in arguing. She went upstairs, pulled her coat back on, and grabbed her shovel. The night was getting darker and the air colder, chilling any exposed skin within seconds. She quickly got to work clearing another spot.

Soon, her fingers were stiff and painful. If she smiled, she feared her cheeks might shatter. Her toes ached in the tips of her boots. Hazardous — this weather was hazardous. The spot was clear enough. It would have to do.

She went back upstairs and sat by the window, chain smoking to stay awake. She was nodding off when she heard his old truck rumbling up the street, the muffler rattling. She peered out the window, suddenly afraid he might see her.

He parked behind the 25-year-old’s car, his tires crunching through the snow. She’d shoveled the spot in front of it.

“No,” she said.

She ran downstairs without her shoes and greeted her neighbor in the doorway. He stared at her with those purple eyes, dulled by drink but still sharp enough to register the strangeness of her long underwear and rainbow-striped socks.

“You parked in the wrong spot,” she said.

“I don’t see your name on it,” he said, and he unlocked his door and shuffled inside his apartment.

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jalapenos are my jam

I’m jazzed about the homemade jams my boyfriend and I created last weekend using jalapeno peppers from my parents’ garden and fresh fruit from the City Market.

First up: Strawberry jalapeno, aka jalaberry or strawpeno.


It contains:

  • one pound of jalapeno peppers, with seeds and stems removed
  • approximately two pounds of strawberries
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 14 cups of sugar
  • not quite enough pectin

Our second jam contained five main ingredients, so we called it “confetti.”

confetti cooking

It contains:

  • trace amounts of strawberries
  • 1/2 pound of jalapenos
  • approximately 10 kiwis
  • approximately one pound of seedless red grapes
  • one pineapple, chopped and cored
  • 14 cups of sugar
  • again, not quite enough pectin, apparently

The unfortunate part about the dearth of pectin: Without it, the jelly will not, um, “gel.” Right now the confetti in particular is more like pancake syrup than jam.

But it is not ruined. According to this blog, we can reheat the jam in a wide pot and slowly stir in powdered pectin until it thickens. Practice makes perfect!

Even though the confetti’s flavor is already as perfect as it can get — I ate some on a slice of brioche from Bloom Baking Co. and could have died happy right then.


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‘merica, fuck yeah: the giant donut edition

Yesterday I stopped at the gas station on the way to work. A woman on her way out was holding what looked like a baguette. How quaint, I thought, and I held the door for her.

But when the sunlight hit the tubular baked good cradled in her arms, it glittered like the frost on my windshield. That was no baguette she was carrying; it was a giant donut, glazed with a sheer coat of pure sugar and a wide swath of chocolate frosting.

I mistook one of these giant donuts for a baguette.

I mistook one of these giant donuts for a baguette.

“Jesus Christ,” I thought, “I hope she has someone to share that with.”

But she was probably going to eat the whole thing by herself in her car on the way to work. She wouldn’t chew well enough. She’d get some of the frosting on her pants and try to wipe it up with a receipt since she forgot to grab a napkin. And she’d do it again tomorrow and the next day, until she met Giant Donut’s sidekick, Giant Diabetes.

In any case, I hope she washes it all down with the gas station’s mysterious “prairie fire latte,” because WTF. It sounds like a harbinger of intestinal doom.

It genuinely sounds horrible.

It genuinely sounds horrible.

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Filed under adventures in capitalism, foodstuffs

11 random facts about lutz

1. It is really hard for me to sit still. This is unfortunate because my job entails staring at a computer for eight hours a day. I fantasize about running around the room kicking over monitors and laughing like a maniac. Sometimes this is the only thing that gets me through the day. That and doing cartwheels in the lobby when no one is looking.

2. I have more zits now than I did as a teenager. I am really self-conscious about it.

3. I like growing things in the earth, and I like cooking food, even though I frequently fuck it up. I’m especially horrible at baking. One time I made a cake, and I seemingly did everything in my power to ruin it. The oven was too hot, so the outside burned while the inside was still doughy. I dumped it out of the pan too soon, so it cracked apart. I tried to cover the cracks with frosting and sprinkles — I even wrote funny words on top in icing. But I didn’t allow it to cool, so the frosting melted, and the words dripped into the cracks, turning into illegible purple sludge. It didn’t even taste good.

4. I am not a traditional person, but I love it when my boyfriend gives me flowers and holds the door for me. Like LOVE IT. Gives me that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling.

5. I used to think that whiskey on the rocks would solve all of my problems (literally, I believed that to my core). Now I know the truth: Mustache kitty will solve all my problems, or at least make reality slightly more bearable.

This is mustache kitty. You're welcome.

This is mustache kitty. You’re welcome.

6. I hate driving cars, and I suck at it. I have wrecked every car I’ve ever owned (that’s four, for those keeping track at home), and one time I almost lost my license because I got three speeding tickets in a month. Granted, I’m much better at driving now that I no longer use whiskey to solve my problems.

7. For the first time in my life, I’m willing to admit that I would like to write a book, work for myself, and have a family. Historically I haven’t said what I’ve wanted out loud because I’m afraid I might not get it and will look like an idiot for ever thinking I could have it in the first place. Well, fuck fear.

8. As a kid, I was PAINFULLY shy — like I would run away if someone tried to talk to me. It has taken me every single one of my 31 years to get over this.

9. I am not afraid of heights at all. I’m also not afraid of bugs. I think all women should be able to kill their own spiders and carry their own groceries. Physically I’m really fucking strong (for a 120-pound girl, that is), and I’m really proud of that fact.

10. I am addicted to coffee and working out. If I don’t go to the gym for a couple of days, I start behaving like a caged animal, and my IQ is probably 30 points lower before I have my morning coffee.

11. I thrive on having new experiences and learning new things. I love traveling to places I’ve never been and doing anything that completely consumes my senses and forces me to be in the moment, like jumping in an ice-cold river in my underwear. Even something as simple as googling “giant squid sex” or “baby zonkey” can totally make my afternoon.

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Filed under drink drank drunk, foodstuffs, plants and gardening, travel, writing, yoga & fitness

google is making me stupid

I’ve been studying for the GRE recently, and I’ve noticed something troubling: My brain does not work as well as it used to.

Back in the day, I could shred vocab and reading comprehension questions like a bitchin’ metal guitar solo. I might even smash the computer and throw my No. 2 pencil into the crowd for good measure.

But things have changed. Now, when I read the sample passages in my Kaplan GRE study book (which are invariably about something hideous like creationism or thermodynamics), my eyes glaze over. The words do not enter; they do not compute. Nothing connects in a meaningful way.

Granted, the passages are poorly and dryly written, intended to create confusion and clusterfuckery. But that does not get me off the hook on having to answer multiple-choice questions about the passage’s topic and scope, its implied limitations, and the specific functions of certain sentences.

This is a problem. Allow me to illustrate why:

Oil on water.

Oil on water.

My brain is the water. The information is the oil. It skims the surface but is not absorbed. I’m not sure why this chemical reaction (or lack thereof) is rocking my skull, but I partially blame Google.

I no longer rely on my own knowledge to navigate life, because I possess the vast wisdom of the ages: Within ten seconds, I can tell you who won the 1979 World Series, the exact temperature in Madagascar, and whether or not my weird neck pain is a sign of cancer (hint: everything is a sign of cancer).

Don’t get me wrong, I like having the internet at my fingertips, and I believe it does more good than harm. But it also prevents me from puzzling out solutions to my own problems.

Case in point: A few months ago, my boyfriend and I were sitting at Latte Land trying to remember all 12 signs of the zodiac.

“I’ll just google it,” I said, reaching for my phone.

Instead, he handed me a piece of paper and a pen. It took nearly 20 minutes, but the information I needed was locked away in the depths of my headcaves (most likely from that summer I got a detailed astrological reading from a guy who said I was a spirituality-seeking rebel who would probably wind up in jail at some point).

The fruits of my labor.

The fruits of my labor. This may or may not be hanging on my fridge.

I’ve become accustomed to the instant gratification of knowing the right answer right away, and that’s why studying — or focusing on anything for longer than three minutes at a time, including this blog I’m writing — has become so difficult.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to google “time-saving study tips.”

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today’s discovery: polycephalous snapping turtle’s two heads hate each other

Loki and Thor are snapping turtles, and they hate each other. This mutual dislike could be resolved with a simple fight to the death if not for one tiny complication: The two turtles share a body.

Oh, snap!

Oh, snap!

They belong to Todd Ray of the Venice Beach Freakshow in Los Angeles. Ray has a number of other two-headed pets, including a rare two-headed snake. According to the Huffington Post, when Ray feeds one snake a mouse, he has to “put a playing card between them because otherwise they’d start eating each other.” Fascinating!


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how to suck at meditating

1. Find a quiet spot where you can be alone, like the empty Walmart lot by your office where the truckers park to nap.

2. Put out your cigarette. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply.

3. As your thoughts arise, let them go. Imagine them floating away down a river.

4. But what are they floating on? Your thoughts feel so heavy when you have to carry them around all day. If they sink, that defeats the purpose. Place your thoughts on tiny rafts, and float them down the river.


5. But where are they heading? The river is going somewhere — to the ocean, or connecting to another river, or over a cliff. Holy shit, a waterfall — yes, that’s it. Send your tiny thought rafts over a waterfall.

6. There are rocks at the bottom of the waterfall. The thought rafts hit the rocks and break apart. The thoughts explode like water balloons. The sunlight hitting the water creates prisms in midair.

7. Some thoughts are tougher than others, surrounded by the skin of an avocado rather than the skin of a grape. They can’t make it out of this meditation fantasy alive. Little cherubs on the riverbank beat more persistent thoughts with clubs until they explode and dissolve into the air.

8. This is rich; what is really, REALLY bothering you? Think of that, and send it over the waterfall so the armed cherubs can destroy it. That sounds good, real good — do that.

9. You are great at meditating. You are so creative. You deserve a pat on the back. This is it — you’re doing it, you’re really doing it. Your head is clear, thanks to the waterfall and and the rocks and the cherub thugs. You can’t wait to do this again tomorrow. It’s time to go back to work, but your whole body feels heavy — you’ll stop in a minute, in just a minute.

10. Wake up — you’re late to work.

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Filed under a motherfucking fucking spiritual journey