Archive for November, 2010

Herve Mons Does It Again

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Remember Thanksgiving 2009, in which I discovered Herve Mons laguiole? I certainly did. So last week on our way to Calistoga, I had John turn off at St. Helena’s Dean & Deluca once again, to see whether I could experience anew what I have come to acknowledge as cheese-based spiritual enlightenment.

I presented myself at the cheese counter with a single request: Herve Mons. There were multiple options, but I went for just the first two. My idea was to: a) put serendipity in charge, and b) save some for next year. Thus, I tasted the goat raclette and the morbier.

And again, a miracle. Or rather, two miracles of lachrymose profundity.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to cry. I figured that my 2009 experience was at least partially a fluke, a dramatic intersection of a vacation-related opening in my body and the wisdom of the cheese. But: no. It’s the cheese.

Herve Mons’ cheeses taste like love. And not like romantic love or fraternal love or parent-child love: like spiritual love. Like there is definitely, absolutely, no-question-at-all a God, and this God is infinite, pure loving, and this loving includes and envelops you, so that you are infinite, pure loving, too. I am love, the cheese says. You are love. Everybody is love.


Tasting notes are sort of beside the point, but here they are:

Goat raclette: How do you make a goat cheese without bitter goaty notes? I don’t know, but Herve Mons does. His raclette has none of the farmy, acidic bite of most goat cheese (which, for the record, I am not against) but is instead both delicately goaty and  powerfully salty and rich. The flavor is bold, but not with goat. And the texture is a lovely, creamy middle ground between rubbery and soft.

Morbier: It’s like an Emmentaler that ate a lot of cupcakes. In other words, it has the dry, salty, bitter notes of an Emmentaler in a soft, luscious pillow of fat and cream. Plus there’s a line of ash running down the middle, which gives it a little grit. I don’t even really like Emmentaler, but I loved this cheese.

Me, to John: “Herve Mons must be totally in love with what he does. He must personally go out and nuzzle the animals in the field and sing arias to the cheese in the caves. Maybe he even dances as he works.”

John: “Either that, or he’s a crazy-obsessive cheesemaker.”

The Horror

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

You guys, Cokey’s dead. I mean, John did the deed, and we drank the juice.

And then I forgot about it.

Until this morning, when I removed something from the middle shelf of the refrigerator and discovered COKEY’S CORPSE on the bottom! With BLACK HOLES where his eyes used to be!

I ran screaming from the room.

High School Weepsical

Monday, November 15th, 2010

For a number of reasons, we had to see High School Musical.

Reason #1: One of our favorite performers has a hilarious story about what happened when he published a blog post called “How Gay is High School Musical“? (Hint: global teen freak-out!)

Reason #2: On our recent trip to Santa Cruz, we took in Santa Cruz High’s fall show, High School Non-Musical—a student-written parody which we had to interpret forensically, since we had only a passing acquaintance with the plot of the original.

Enter Netflix. Last night was the night! And it was pretty much as we’d expected: laughably easy personality transformations enacted via laughably contrived dialogue backed by laughably milquetoast songs. (“Maybe they’re better in stereo,” said  John “Hope-Springs-Eternal” Diller.)

In other words, fun!

I was so busy interjecting “Because I’m gay!” into nearly every other line of dialogue that I almost missed the Big Emotional Moment, when the “jocks” and the “brains” decide to join forces to make sure that Troy and Gabby get to sing.

But I did catch it, and I looked over at John to see how he was taking it.

M: I’m doing a crying check.

J: [Wet eyes.]

M: OH MY GOD! You are crying!

J: I can’t help it!

M: You can’t resist a group effort.

J: I love it when people work together!

M: Even when it’s super-fakey-fake!

J: [Continues to weep.]

Fans, this is why I love him. This, and a million other reasons.

Killing Cokey

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I have a problem. I constantly and unwittingly assign human feelings to animals and inanimate objects. And then I can’t interact with them in normal ways.

I’ve diagnosed myself with Compulsive Anthropomorphization, which is a disease I made up. And it doesn’t sound good, does it?

Here’s an example of how my CA is interfering with my life. I can’t get rid of stuffed animals. Can. Not. I *do* have a few of them stored in the basement, in a plastic bag, and if you remind me about this I will go into a spiral of self-recrimination. GAAAAAAH the suffering! GAAAAAAH the horror!

I’ve referred previously to ways in which my projection of suffering onto animals has gotten me into trouble, particularly when dealing with John, who lives in a world of butterflies and rainbows.

Welp, here’s the latest.

We have a coconut. It’s living in our kitchen. John intends to open it and let the juice out, which we will drink. To do it, he will bore holes into the top of the nut by driving in nails.

I was good with this plan, as a lover of coconut juice, until I noticed that those funny little indentations on the top of the coconut, coupled with the equator-like groove around the middle, make for a very sweet little face. And then I started thinking of our coconut as alive. And THEN I saw some weird red marks on its face.

M: What happened to Cokey?

J: What do you mean?

M: What’s all this red stuff?

J: I don’t know, nothing. It was on there when we got him.

[Five minutes pass.]

J: I didn’t know the coconut had a name.

M: Neither did I. He just told me.

J: Hmm.

M: You’re still going to kill him, aren’t you? You’re going to gouge his eyes out.

J: Yes.

M: Yes? YES?

J: Yes.

M: You’re going to GOUGE his EYES out?

J: I’m not going to gouge his eyes out. I’m just going to clean some of the gunk—

M: Oh, STOP!  I can never win this game with you!*

*I’m referring to the fact that whenever John plays along with the anthropomorphization, it makes it worse for me, because it makes the object even more alive.

[Howling laughter.]

J: Sweetie, what we have in the kitchen is not a person or an animal. It’s a coconut—

M: Don’t dehumanize Cokey! You’re dehumanizing him so you can kill him!

[Wheezing, tears.]

M: It’s a classic technique, you know. Dehumanization. Torturers use it.

J: You’re really making it hard on yourself, Sweetie.

M: It’s my CA. I might need a program.

J: Or maybe we can teach you to sew, and you can start making your own stuffed animals, and then you’ll see that they’re not real.

M: I don’t think so.

J: Why not?

M: Because then they’ll be my BABIES.

Yeah. So that went well.

80’s Movie Week

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Baseball? Elections? Who?

Here at The Lonesome Quill, we’re delving into matters of true importance—i.e., 80’s Movie Week.

It began with Better Off Dead. Which, who told me that was a good movie? Well, never mind, because John was on board, too. He had fond memories from high school and was prepared to relive them. And . . . he sort of did. At about five minutes in, when I began to glean that the film was not so much a classic 80’s romcom as groan-worthy slapstick with a dose of the surreal, John was matching my eye rolls with chuckles.

“Oh, no,” I said. “This could be a guy movie.”

“It could be,” he agreed.

It was.

A teenage guy movie.

Last night I watched The Pick-Up Artist, sans John, and . . . what do you say about a movie that makes no emotional sense and whose only quasi-meaningful dialogue is almost poetic in its repetition:

Robert Downey,  Jr.: It’ll never work. We’re both risk-takers. We’ll destroy each other.

Molly Ringwald: So you’re saying it’ll never work! Because we’re both too risky. We take too many risks. That’s not a good combination!

RD: Yeah, I’m saying we’re too risky. You and me equals risk. Lots of risk! Too much risk!

MR: We’ll destroy each other! Bad things will happen! With all that risk! Risk, risk, risk!

Also, is there a role less suited to Molly Ringwald? She plays the plucky, steely daughter of a falling-down drunk (Dennis Hopper!) in debt to the mob, when the porcelain-skinned Ringwald reads as protected and privileged. Her character’s plan: Keep the mobsters (Harvey Keitel!) at bay with a frowny face, and then make $25k in a single night by hitting the blackjack tables at Atlantic City. Among her barbed zingers: “For me, sex and money don’t mix.” Yeah, that’ll keep the baseball bats away.

It’s a shame, because Ringwald is such an appealing performer, and I wish her star hadn’t fallen so quickly. In junior high, I worshiped her in Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. I think I even saw (the utterly forgettable) Fresh Horses, just to get more of her. And Robert Downey, Jr. . . . I’ve never understood his reputation as a capital-A Actor, but there is something about him here that is easy and fluid.

In other news, holy cameo appearances! Denis Hopper and Harvey Keitel, as mentioned, but also Victoria Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Christine Baranski, Danny Aiello, Robert Towne, Polly Draper, and Lorraine Bracco—many of them pre-fame. FUN.

Next up: Working Girl. Today or tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

In the past month I’ve read two good books with “sleepwalk” in the title, Sleepwalk with Me and Sleepwalker.

The first, by comedian and This American Life alum Mike Birbiglia, has lately been overhyped on NPR and affiliates, as Birbiglia made the publicity rounds. But, hyped or not, the book is hilarious. It includes the famous sleepwalking-in-Walla-Walla-Washington incident (performed in his one-man show and on TAL), the first-kiss story, and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” plus a bunch of new stuff that’s equally entertaining. I’m surprised that Birbiglia is not a great interview—he seemed phlegmatic and guarded—but maybe it was fatigue.

The second, by Irish writer John Toomey, isn’t on any radar I’m aware of—except, I guess, that of Bookshop Santa Cruz, where I found it on a table of literary paperbacks. (I love Bookshop Santa Cruz. I’ve discovered a host of new authors there, merely by relying on the taste of whoever stocks the tables.) Toomey is great: adept with words, crafting sharp little sentences that carry a surprising amount of emotional heft. His protagonist, Stuart, would be an oaf to know, but on the page he’s compelling and appealing. And Toomey plays a neat little trick of writing an intimate book about someone who can’t handle intimacy.

There’s one oddity, which is that Toomey has chosen a first-person narrator who isn’t Stuart to tell Stuart’s tale. And I don’t know why. It’s not a Nick-v.-Gatsby situation, because this narrator takes no part in the action; he merely hears about it later. It’s certainly true that Stuart couldn’t tell his own story, since he lacks the awareness, but that’s where the third person becomes useful. And since the novel is essentially told in the third person, with the narrator speaking about other people, nothing seems to have been gained. In fact, in the few moments when the narrator steps in to opine, his voice falls flat.

I’m not quite finished—50 or so pages to go—so perhaps it’ll all become clear.