I'm in Texas this week, which means a lot of heat and not paying for my own meals, and also the Butt Bond of the Chihuahuas.

My parents have two chihuahuas, Holstein and Longhorn, neither of whom seem to like me much on the surface because when I'm here, my parents pay too much attention to me and not enough attention to them. The first time I met Holstein he stole some underwear from my suitcase and paraded it around the living room. Longhorn kept forgetting who I was and barking angrily at me every time I changed my shirt.

But they've sort of accepted me, and now they do the Butt Bond.

Chihuahuas are ostensibly bred to like people, to bond closely with a few humans and be affectionate lap dogs. Holstein and Longhorn definitely love my parents and climb all over them, but with me they're a little more conservative. With all of us, they'll do a kind of bonding behavior where even if they don't want to be petted or if you refuse to pet them, they'll sit right up close with just their butt touching you, and if you move they'll shift so that their butt is still touching you. If I sit in the middle of the couch, they'll get up and sit one on either side of me, butts touching my legs, looking directly away from me. BUTT BOND.

They do it to each other too, which is extra hilarious, because Longhorn loves Holstein SO MUCH and Holstein barely tolerates Longhorn's existence. But he will tolerate Longhorn sitting down next to him as long as only Longhorn's butt is touching him.

THE GREAT CHIHUAHUA BUTT BOND.
So, Mum was visiting this weekend (it's a miracle I got RFM done) and we had a pretty good time -- we went to an AMAZING pastry-making demo at the French Pastry School, had brunch on the terrace at Terzo Piano, and I took her to see Hogs Killing A Snake and inadvertently flirted with someone in front of her (it was a whole big thing to do with how I know maybe more nerdy things about the Art Institute than I should).

But the best, most awesome takeaway from the weekend was The Cab Light, which my mother discovered while making small talk with the doorman.

It turns out that my building has a cab light mounted on it. I didn't know cab lights existed; I'd seen yellow lights mounted on buildings before, sometimes even flashing, but I thought they were some kind of emergency signal. Apparently they are used to summon cabs without having to go outside. I wish I had known this in the PREVIOUS EIGHT YEARS I HAVE LIVED IN CHICAGO, not to mention the TWO YEARS I have lived in a building that actually has a cab light on it.

I need to apologize to a couple of people I made wait in the cold while I tried to hail a cab without one. D:

So between the Cab Light and learning about how to age egg whites, I've had a very educational time of things. Also Mum bought me a box of cookies from Trader Joe's, but I paid that back by introducing her to the heat-and-eat samosas they sell in the freezer case.

Also to apple mustard, which she put on the samosas.

Mum: this mustard is amazing, where did you get it?
Me: I made it!
Mum: what’s in it?
Me: Apples, it’s apple mustard.
Mum: Apple mustard. *pause* blame the Internet?
Me: *laughing*
Mum: DONT TELL THE INTERNET I SAID THAT
Me: *making enchilada filling mix* Hey, do we have any sour cream?
Mum: No I don't think so. We have plain greek yogurt, same thing really.
Me: What.
Mum: Greek yogurt and sour cream are basically the same.
Me: On what planet?
Lucky: This is a losing battle, Sam, give up now.
Me: Greek Yogurt and sour cream --
Mum: They're both semi-fermented dairy products!
Me: THAT DOES NOT MEAN I WANT GREEK YOGURT ON MY ENCHILADAS OH MY GOD.
Mum: Oh hey, put some Chinese Five Spice in that enchilada filling.
Me: We need to hold some kind of intervention.
 Gran, what were you up to.

When we cleared out Gran's stuff this past May, out in California, one of the finds was a series of collectors' plates. Mum kept most of them but for some unknown reason, she bestowed upon me a green collector's plate featuring tourist attractions in KANSAS: THE SUNFLOWER STATE. 

I did a bit of googling around and I have come to the conclusion that my grandmother, at some point, acquired a bootleg, counterfeit KANSAS: THE SUNFLOWER STATE collector's plate. It has no factory markings, but it's clearly designed to look like it was produced by the Kettlesprings Kiln. 

Collector's plates, you guys, are a kind of dark sorcery that puts fear in my heart. Don't go where I have passed; stay safely on the porn side of the internet. 

This raises so many questions. Why was anyone bootlegging Kettlesprings Kiln collector's plates? Why would they do it for Kansas? Where did my gran, who had to my knowledge never been to Kansas, acquire such a thing? Why, even if she had been to Kansas, would she acquire such a thing? 

What do I do with it?

It's a really nice plate. Like, I'd like to use it as a plate, but I'm worried I'll give myself some kind of lethal poisoning. 
 OH MY GOD

About a month ago I managed to rip my duvet cover in half (I am hard on my belongings; I tend to buy rugged) so I went on a quest for a new duvet cover. Someone suggested I needed a Captain American duvet, and my response was essentially "Yes, so that I will never get laid again."

This morning Mum sent me an email announcing that she was mail-ordering me a blanket so that she wouldn't have to bring an extra one when she came to help me move. She included a link.

She bought me an Avengers duvet.

The best part about all this? The reason she bought it for me is that I told her the story of the Never Get Laid Blanket, but what she took away from it was that I wanted a comic-book themed duvet. 

Mum is watching Property Brothers in the hotel room.

Sam: You know, Jeremy Renner used to flip houses? Apparently he'd buy one, live in it while he was renovating it, then sell it and move on.
Mum: You know who else does that? Vanilla Ice.
Sam: Seriously?
Mum: They should team up!
Sam: Best home renovation show ever.
About four months ago my parents installed security cameras in their house, one pointed at the front door and one at the back door, so that they could check in on the dogs during the day and so that they would have images of any burglars who tried to break in. The cameras are pretty cool -- they come with an iPhone app where you can log into the camera and watch what's going on in your home from your phone.

My mum has discovered a new use for these cameras. She's having a great time here, but of course she misses my stepfather, who is staying home and recovering after minor surgery. So in the evenings, after dinner, she logs into the phone and spends about ten minutes watching him putter around, feeding the dogs and fixing himself a meal.

It's basically like spending some time with him without having to hold a conversation, which -- and this is where it becomes super evident that I am her son -- is probably her preferable way of interacting with him most of the time. She loves him to bits, and it's not that we're not conversationalists, but towards the end of the day we prefer quiet. To be fair, so does my stepfather, so they're very well matched.

I just find it kind of adorable that she misses him, and uses creepy surveillance camera tech to fix her homesickness.
We went to dinner at Red Lobster this evening.

Mum: Be careful with the menu, apparently that's where all the germs are.
Me: So...no licking the menu, is that what you're saying?
Mum: Just don't smear your hands all over it and then eat with them.
Me: I'm going to rub the menu directly on my surgical incisions.
Mum: We are going to get thrown out of Red Lobster.

I don't know if any of you have been to a Red Lobster recently (or if you're outside the US, ever) but I hadn't been to one in probably ten years. They got really expensive, or so I thought; seafood is pricey but not THAT pricey. But then they actually brought out our food and I realised.

Red Lobster is where you go if you have a powerful hunger.

I ordered a half-plate of crab linguine, expecting maybe a cup, and they brought me twice as much as I would fix for myself at home. Because I was expecting a little cup of pasta, I ordered a skewer of shrimp as well, expecting maybe six or eight. I got an enormous spear covered in shrimp, a JAVELIN of shrimp.

Needless to say, my stepdad is taking a shrimp po'boy to work tomorrow, and I'll be eating linguine probably until I leave for Chicago on Thursday.
Mum: They're doing a sequel to It's A Wonderful Life. There's a lot of controversy about it.
Me: I can see that. They did one made-for-tv in the 90s, it was dreadful.
Mum: What was it about?
Me: Clarence showing up in the 90s to help out a yuppie.
Mum: There's your problem. They should do a contest to decide who's going to write it. I bet I'd win.
Me: What would you write about?
Mum: I'd write it about Clarence giving Mr. Potter his comeuppance. Like Scrooge and Marley.
Me: *stunned silence* Yeah, I bet you would win.

You guys want to know where I get my story ideas, it's apparently genetic.
My mother is texting me interview advice.

Mum: Remember to make eye contact and check in with the interviewer that you answered the question.
Mum: And don't lick your fingers at lunch.
Me: No licking fingers, got it.
Mum: Unless they lick their fingers but even then it's bad manners.

Frankly it's pretty good advice, I do sometimes lick my fingers.
Well, Mum is home from the hospital and resting cantankerously. She's still on some pretty heavy pain medication which makes it difficult for her to connect events like "waiting to take medication" with "suddenly being in pain". She takes her bandage off and feels GREAT! and then an hour later is SO ANGRY she took her bandage off, when in reality she's in pain not because of the bandage (which is a stick-on, not like, any form of compression) but because she wouldn't take her fucking medication when she was meant to.

She also is suspicious of ice packs and paranoid about blood clots, which to be honest is not a great combination. Yes, your leg is red and swelling; it's red and swelling because you won't ice or elevate, and your chest is tight because you won't use your inhaler. I've taken to sneaking in while she sleeps and stealth-elevating her leg. The nice thing about the meds is that she wakes up and doesn't realise anything has changed.

It's a work in progress.

On the other hand, she seems to be doing better than basically anyone I've talked to about knee replacements. The only pain she experiences is when she sabotages herself. Which, not a whole lot I can do about that. I've realised that the serenity of mind I try to cultivate and the organisation I have worked really hard at are because my family are a bunch of disorganized emotional volcanoes. No wonder I like robots.

Best conversation of the day:

Mum: Get that pumpkin pie I bought out of the freezer and defrost it.
Me: It says freeze until baking.
Mum: No, you don't bake it!
Me: Yeah you do, it has baking instructions on the back.
Mum: But it says it's oven fresh!
Me: Yes. It comes fresh from your oven. After seventy minutes at 375.
Mum: WHO BUYS FROZEN PIES YOU STILL HAVE TO BAKE?
Me: Well...we do, I guess.
These dogs crack my shit up.

Holstein is going on four years old, and Longhorn is ten months. In times of great strain -- thunderstorms, late night television -- they will admit they like each other and curl up under a blanket together on the sofa. The rest of the time, Longhorn desperately wants to play with his big brother and Holstein wants him to die horribly.

It doesn't help that Holstein is Not A Morning Dog. He hates mornings. When forced to emerge from his crate, he will sit on his fleecy pet pad in the dining room and sulk like the world's most sullen emo teenager, while Longhorn spends the morning unpacking every single toy they own from the toy bin in the corner and barking at imaginary monsters. (He also barks at things that are Not Where They Should Be, like if a trash can outside has been moved. Longhorn has a very firm sense of how the world should be.)

Holstein is especially sullen this morning since Mum is missing. He is curled up in his bed with one of her slippers, and he's not giving it up any time soon. He is tolerating Longhorn's presence and attempts to lure him into playtime, I suspect only because he knows if he kills Longhorn while Mum's not around she'll be mad.

Mum's apparently doing well this morning, which is a relief; we're going over there in a bit to visit. I didn't sleep especially well last night, but at least I got some time unconscious, which after yesterday was a relief.
Mum sent me a package from an online grocery store recently, because she was concerned I didn't have food for the week since I wasn't going to be here originally. I had food, but it was nice to get a treat: I was supposed to get a couple of jams, some crackers and cookies, and a couple of boxes of Jello. The Jello and cookies were in the first box.

But then I opened the second box that came with the first box, to unpack the second half of my order, and I was confused. Because that box contains things like rye bread, gluten-free cereal, and baby formula.

So I emailed Mum to thank her for the snacks and asked, "So...did you order groceries for yourself right after you ordered some for me? And is there, uh, anything you'd like to tell me?"

Turns out no, she didn't order a second box of groceries and nobody, thankfully, is having a baby. When I finally consulted the inventory sheet that came with the box, I discovered that I had been mistakenly shipped a package of food meant for someone I will call AS, in Las Vegas.

AS seems like a decent guy; clearly he's got a family to feed. I think he's the employee of the man who lives at the address the food should have gone to, because the house I looked up on Lexis-Nexis and then on GoogleMaps actually belongs to an anaesthesiologist name Bernie.

I can't help but feel for AS. He's expecting a huge box of staple foods to feed his kids, and instead he's going to get a couple of jars of jam and a box of savoury crackers.

Also he works in one of the more terrifying mansions I've ever seen.



IT SITS UPON A BLASTED HEATH.

ETA: I'm getting slammed with spammers so disabling comments -- I'll re-enable in a day or two.
Mum: I need to find out what's making my car creak when I turn right.
Sam: Could be a cracked axle again?
Lucky: I think it's the half-shaft.
Everyone: *silent*
Mum: That sounds dirty.
Me: It sounds like an insult.
Lucky: No, it's --
Me: GET AWN, YE FECKIN' HALF-SHAFT!

And that's how my family found a new term for assholes, idiots, and annoyances.

We used it all afternoon. I was stuck behind a half-shaft in airport security, and apparently Mum had to deal with a half-shaft getting in her way at the grocery store. I am looking forward to making half-shaft "happen".
Mum: Did you know there's going to be a new Dracula TV show this fall? I can't wait!
Sam: They're doing an Avengers spinoff too, called SHIELD.

In my defense, "avengers spinoff" is the fastest context I could provide texting with my thumbs, and I had to distract her from trying to make me watch Vampire TV.

Mum: Will that be on CBS?
Sam: I think ABC.
Mum: Turn on ABC! They're doing a fall preview show.
Sam: Just tuned in!

Then there were about ten minutes of radio silence while we watched the preview, which is showcasing all their new shows.

Mum: Guessing SHIELD is their show horse this season.
Sam: Next to these, they could run an hour of ads as their show horse.
Mum: WAIT DID YOU SEE THAT
Sam: What I was watching, did something happen?
Mum: AGENT COULSON IS ALIVE I LOVE HIM
Sam: Since when?
Mum: Since always! He's my favorite!

The woman who raised me, kids.
Me: So I just had two Prestigious Institutions ask me for interview appointments within two hours of each other.
Mum: Any preference?
Me: Prestigious East Coast Institution over Prestigious Southern Institution, but mainly because Southern Institution is too far south for my taste.
Mum: Googling -- Prestigious East Coast Institution is Catholic?
Me: Jesuit.
Mum: What differentiates them?
Me: Jesuit is like Extra-Nerdy Catholic.

It's been an intense day. There's *points up* of course, and today's been scheduletastic; I've fallen into Outlook Calendars and may never claw my way out. Also, somehow, I ended up getting linked to three different versions of Imagine Dragons's "Radioactive" within thirty minutes this morning. And don't get me wrong, it's a great song and the two vids and 8-bit game boy dub of it were all very enjoyable, but it feels like some kind of omen.

AM I RADIOACTIVE? *pats down self*
My mum has a book of inspirational readings, one a day so that you can read one every morning and live a positive life. I don't question.

This morning, though, I glanced over while she was reading and saw a large quote on a blank page -- Neil Degrasse Tyson: "I love the smell of the universe in the morning" superimposed over grass wet with dew.

Me: I'm pretty sure that's not quite as serenity-inducing as they think it is.
Mum: How so?
Me: I believe he's intentionally misquoting Apocalypse Now. The original word for "universe" is "napalm".
Mum: that would be pretty inspirational too, I suppose, just not quite in the same direction.

My family got a second dog, Longhorn, another chihuahua. I never really got on with our first chihuahua, Holstein, in part because his opening salvo in our relationship was to sneak into my room, steal a pair of underwear from my suitcase, and parade it around the living room. But I'm beginning to think Holstein's just an asshole, because Longhorn is charming. He's the only dog I've ever met who will do the "makin biscuits" thing cats do, kneading you with their paws, and if you blow in his face he'll put a paw on your mouth to stop you.

He will actually fetch, rather than glare at you like "I was playing with that toy, dickhead" the way Holstein will. Also he adores me and wants to spend all his time sitting next to me or climbing on my shoulders. Cowboy spends most of his time sleeping and glaring, like the sullen emo teenager he is.

MEANWHILE: FANFIC.

Title: Hawkeye and Anklebiter
Rating: PG
Summary: Clint wants to give his kid the world. Isobel's not complicated; she'll settle for a couple of superheroes and a train set.
Notes: Dr Kara requested "Single-dad Clint/Coulson" and while I'd seen Coulson as a dad in fanfic, I'd never seen Clint, so.
Warnings: Very brief mentions of PTSD and child abuse. Less brief mentions of grief and mourning.

Here at AO3.

This fanfic is currently only available at AO3, as Dreamwidth refuses to post it.
Emmy: They're doing the 1812 Overture with cannons!
Me: I've seen that live.
Emmy: How was it?
Me: Well, it's kind of hard to actually get the cannons to go off exactly when they're supposed to.
Mum: It does sound a little off.
Me: Yeah, it's basically "orchestra goes bananas" with occasional cannon.

"Bananas" is a technical term.
Mum and I spent the day nurturing the economy, in the form of shopping.

Mum is fascinated by Chicago's Merchandise Mart, which is mainly a cluster of showrooms that ordinary people can't access without an escort by a professional interior designer. There are two floors that are accessible, however, so we did our level best with what we had. This included buying a set of ceramic knives, some various gifts to take home to Lucky and Emmy, and a soda in the food court, where I then freaked out the entire Merchandise Mart's staff by forgetting my bag and walking off. I came back to find two janitors standing guard over it and a security officer on the way to investigate it as a possible bomb. Well done, young Sam.

Incidentally, hey Boston-Cambridge-And-Suburbs, I hear you're off house-arrest. Everyone be safe, ok?

Today's definitely been an adventur, including the mandatory injury when I conked my head on an over-window handle in a taxicab, hard enough to bleed briefly. I am all class, you guys. On the other hand, neither of us have fallen over, which given the weird sleety-hail mix of weather downtown today is actually pretty impressive.

Mum continues to advance her diplomatic mission of world peace through Operation Talk In Elevators. She has made it a deliberate act to speak to everyone we share an elevator with, which is admittedly kind of hilarious. Mainly because either they treat her like a total weirdo and it's funny to watch them try to figure her out, or they are even crazier than she is and use her verbal form of eye contact as an excuse to POUR OUT that crazy in our direction.

If nothing else, it's an education. And I did get two spectacular ceramic knives out of it...
Mum and I were discussing mobile gaming over breakfast this morning, like you do, and I took out my phone to show her Katamari Damacy, which she boggled at. In return she showed me her skills at Fruit Ninja, which are considerable.

Me: It's an interesting game. It must be cathartic.
Mum: I do find it soothing.
Me: Really?
Mum: I like the bird noises in the background. That's really why I play.

You can't argue with her logic.

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