17 July 2010

My zucchini is gay

First, the plant did produce, early and impressively. Since then? Nothing. Oh yeah, lots of show: big flowers that bloom, fall off, die. And still more blooms that never open, wither, fall off, die. Last night Farmer John explained the magic of pollination and how it ain't happening. It seems that the big showy male blooms are getting no attention, and that perhaps the female blooms are not putting out like they could. Something like that. How did I end up with the big gorgeous zucchini a couple weeks ago? Evidently a hetero worker bee stopped by earlier this summer so that there could be at least one offspring, but I would hazard a guess that it sensed the sexual ambiguity on my porch and told its friends not to bother. To sum up: there has been, lately, no sex on my porch. If I want more zucchini, I am faced with two choices, both fraught with moral and ethical tangles:

  1. Adoption (farmer's market is this Sunday, after all). But I can't know where the vegetables (because make no mistake, that is what we're talking about) came from, how they were raised, or whether they'll be any good as they get older. Sure, it mostly worked for my parents, though Steve works in Hollywood, Jennifer constantly asked strangers for gum, and Gretchen kept several full-sized, fully-dressed mannequins in her room for years. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a risky move.
  2. Artificial insemination. Again, so many unknowns. Legend has it that the turkey baster is the at-home method of choice, but doesn't that seem like wearing a prom dress to a picnic? I suppose I could go out with tweezers and grab some pollen, but let's face it: I don't know what goes where. Never have, don't need to learn now. 
It is possible—though I don't like saying it out loud—that this may be a summer with no more zucchini.

14 July 2010

Those walls won't paint themselves

That's a famous line, right? No? Anyway, here's the thing: they do. Well, kind of. Ferinstance, yesterday I get home from a grueling day at the office [hahahahahahaha] and Foster Dad has just finished rolling the wall of the living room. Big room now 40% complete! And, by the way, what do we call that room which is essentially entryhallkitchenlivingroomdiningroommusicroomreadingnook all in one? I refuse to call it a great room because I do not live in a town ending in Grove. Bedroom is easy. Master bath, got it. Half-bath (which I prefer to the ladies-who-lunch-like powder room). Laundry room, closets, porch. I have no idea why I just gave you a virtual word tour, but there you have it. The bulk of my space is unnameable.

I digress. Good friends (and good doesn't describe it: more like saintly) Muffi and Tim came over late last evening for the umpteenth time and did more of the nasty hard painting, and I did manage to get the third and final coat of paint on the Stunning Backsplash, but then I had to putter around looking useful and busy while they toiled. Seriously, I wiped the counters down about three times. I may be living in piles-of-boxes squalor, but it's c.l.e.a.n.

We are fast approaching the time when I have some critical decorating decisions to make. I will pretend to involve you and then just do what I already have planned in my head (though I will say Foster Mom made such a good suggestion last night that I have completely rethought the half-bath; you'll see the results soon in Dwell, I'm quite certain).

Onward, mostly-agnostic soldiers.

12 July 2010


Andre Previn's Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano reminds me a lot of America at the time it was written in the late twentieth century: full of opposing ideas, unsettled, unable to focus on a common goal, but lurching forward (in a beautiful, well-written way; I meant no disrespect, Mr. Previn) with a semblance of progress. Previn is particularly savvy using American idioms while maintaining his own distinct compositional voice, particularly in the jazz-inspired final movement. But in the midst of the thorny, difficult music, buried in the middle movement is this moment*: nine measures of simple, pure bliss.

You've all had those moments in music. Snippets of a piece, maybe even a whole song, that you want to hear over and over, that somehow transport you. I can think of dozens of them immediately, a few measures of Strauss' Morgen, the soloist's first entrance in Bach's cantata, Ich habe genug, or the climactic moment in Ravel's Sonatine. There are certainly as many such moments in jazz or pop music, too. When Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven was first released (you know, the one about his dead kid)? Couldn't stop playing it. Or even worse (I hate true confessions time): when I was in high school, I had a momentary lapse that resulted in an Amy Grant phase. I honestly don't remember the song, but know only that I played about 45 seconds of it over. and over. and over. I understand now that I was simply discovering the seductive power of suspended fourths, but still. I was smitten.

I thought of those measures in the Previn on my iPodless run early this morning (has anyone seen my earbuds, btw?), as I exited under the little bridge connecting Isles to Calhoun. If I had the little digital recorder I covet, I'd put up a sound file of them right here, and you'd be impressed with the value-added blog you're reading. But anyway, Lake Calhoun comes suddenly into view, and it's not a momentous scene, but it's calm and expansive and inviting, and it reminded me, almost viscerally, of those moments in music that hook us. I actually felt propelled around the lake by that single thought. Total peace. But I also get that my favorite measures, that inspiring moment, might do nothing for you, and that you, strangely, would be stoic and unmoved when faced with my Amy Grant fantasy. And I'd gamely listen to the minute or so of that song by Lady Gaga you love and not get it either (though not if it's Paparazzi because I totally love that). Music is cool that way, no?

*At rehearsal last night we joked that after those nine measures, which happily belong to the piano alone, the oboe and bassoon join me and we proceed to immediately ruin it. And it's true: it's almost as if Previn is embarrassed that he wrote such a simple, unadulerated lick. To rehearse the thorny stuff, we always had me start with the magic measures, just so we could indulge in them.

P.S. The Poulenc Trio's excellent recording includes the Previn, and some other great pieces my trio is also rehearsing.

10 July 2010

A good week for some favorite things

It's been awhile, no? We'll avoid the Big Favorites: family, friends, my home (I swear I'm in danger of losing my cynical chops—this simply can't continue). But, this adventure of a week has provided more than a few moments of pleasure in small, even mundane things; some old, some new, some rediscovered. And my new home is, going. to. be. awesome. You'll see, because you'll come to the housewarming party later this summer.

Anyway, this week I loved (and make your own list, and post it because then we can all copy each other and have tons of favorite things and then there can be world peace because we're all so busy loving favorite things that we'll forget that people can suck):

1. Murphy's Oil Soap
2. Black v-neck t-shirts
3. Brown rice
4. The last half of a run (conversely, the first half of most runs this week made me want to just give up and be that guy that Oprah has to cut the wall out to move on to a flatbed truck to be on the show)
5. Maple ice cream (even after all that)
6. 600-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets (I am a pampered gay. And a thrifty one, as they were ridiculously discounted at The Rack, so don't give me grief.)
7. Orange Marimekko
8. Model L, Serial # 376263, still and always (and because my biographers will need the information, the first hours back at my beloved piano I played Bach's second Partita, Andre Previn's Trio (because I have trio rehearsal Sunday night and yikes), and David Evan Thomas' "Heard on the Lake" from his Summer Night suite)
9. Basil still warm from the sun
10. Sherwin-Williams' Gray Clouds (in an eggshell finish, looks like hand-rubbed wax)


I'm practicing typing on an iPad. I have the original iPhone (iPhone Classic is what we prefer), and am trying to decide if I want to upgrade to the 4g iPhone or keep my museum-quality phone and get an iPad instead. I can't afford both (actually I can afford neither), but when I do decide to upgrade, it is only the comfort and convenience of you, my loyal readers, that matters most to me. Thoughts? Opinions? Preferences? Typing this only took a couple minutes. Certainly faster than on my phone, but slower than my MacBook.

06 July 2010

Domestic disturbance

It's not as though I can't cook. People generally like the food I prepare. More importantly, I feel comfortable in the kitchen: I can improvise, my technique is such that I rarely panic, I don't need to follow a recipe slavishly, and preparing good food well is enjoyable to me. Until tonight.

If you'd like to play along, prepare thusly: leave your house right now (seriously, get up and transfer to your mobile device); you can grab some clean underwear but that's about it. Next, have a toddler go into the kitchen and really mess stuff up. Switch the recipe drawer for the liquor cabinet. Put the plastic wrap where the refrigerator warranty stuff used to be, and throw out the wooden spoons altogether. Also, randomly pack up and haul away about half the kitchen equipment. Seriously: random. No rhyme nor reason to it—just get rid of some shit. If you want to simulate a few months away from cooking in your own kitchen (or at all), take a swig of liquid Vicodin. What, you don't have any? I have a big bottle left over from surgery, and I'm officially house-poor. Anyhoo.

Now you're ready to play. Let's make ice cream, shall we? We've had a hankering for frozen maple custard all day (even though we've never really heard of it and just picked it out of the ether). Besides, we got the Krups ice cream maker in the Settlement of the Unpleasantness, so best use it. Because we can't seem to remember how to operate this stove, let's just start right in. The maple syrup scorches very quickly, as we learn with about .000003 seconds to spare. We're also reminded—again in the nick of time—that when we pour the heavy cream into the syrup pan, chemistry happens. Those two are having what Foster Mom romantically calls redhotmonkeylovesex. We also note (this time too late) that we don't seem to have an oven mitt anymore, the handle of the pan is sehr hot, and the kitchen towel on the counter is Brawny.

A good step to do ahead of time would have been to whisk the eggs so that we're ready to pour the hot maple cream over them in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly. WE DON'T HAVE A WHISK??? We use a plastic fork, and get decent results. The custard is smooth and ready to pass through a strainer into a large bowl. You think we don't have a strainer? Wrong; we totally have one, and it's right there. We just don't have a large bowl. Except the one the the hot custard is already in. So we'll pour custard back in the pan and wash the one bowl we seem to have (and can I just say that I have, or have had, every piece of kitchen equipment known to humankind? I've got egg cups shaped like chickens for pete's sake). The custard is actually quite velvety and beautiful and smells like French toast.

Because we must chill the custard before freezing in the machine, we'll create an ice bath in the sink. We'd love just to fill the sink with cold water, but our sink only produces hot water (and someone else was supposed to get that fixed. Love you!). Instead we go fill a plastic tub (okay, the garbage can from the half bath) with cold water from the bathtub. We add ice, throw the bowl in, and make ourselves a gin and tonic (in that we wave the tonic bottle over the tumbler as a thurifer might cense the high altar).

All that remains is to freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Super easy, until we realize that in the past, someone else always did this step, and we have no idea how the three pieces of the ice cream maker fit onto the base. We, of course, have no idea where the manual for this machine might be, and we don't have that kind of time anyway. If nothing else, this affords us the opportunity to spill some custard on the counter and wipe it up with our tongue. Dang it's good. Really good. It's possible I can still cook, even while insane.

P.S. Am I aware that this photo is ridiculous? Yes, I am, and actually have another that's quite lovely. But how often do we get to combine halogen bulbs and carnival glass to look like some kind of dessert-oriented spaceship?

05 July 2010

Initial observations

Independent living is hard!

Because I can't imagine what it must be like for those of you who must suffer on the sidelines without knowing every detail of my life, a review of Day One of the Independent Living Experiment:

The day dawned hot and humid (I'm still gunning for the Bulwer-Lytton Hall of Fame); I got up at about 5:30am, showered, loaded the car, stopped at Jackson's for coffee, and got HOME at about 7am. It was a soft landing, no outrageous emotion, and the place was clean and bright and ready (which made for a really gratifying homecoming). A friend showed up a few minutes later with McDonald's breakfast, Chicago mix popcorn (a vat of it), and 3 packs of Kowalski's iced ginger cookies (it was not a healthy eating day), and he started in washing windows because he wanted to. I mostly puttered from project to project not getting huge amounts of anything done. Another friend came over with an armful of bright orange Gerbera daisies, scrubbed the top of the kitchen cupboards (for hours, literally), changed my HVAC filter, and scrubbed down the laundry room. Yet another friend (sense a theme?) showed up with lunch, and proceeded to spend about six hours painting all the trim in both bathrooms. McDonald's Breakfast Friend (he will love his new nickname) painted two coats on the kitchen backsplash and it is so fricking stunning (you will need to come see it for yourself; I am the king of clever). I cleaned the closet really well and started organizing and unpacking it. I have so much room to put everything just so: a drawer for lightweight dress socks, a drawer for athletic socks, a drawer for wool socks. That sort of thing. When everyone left at about 6pm (which made me wonder if they were all gathering for cocktail hour offsite, to debrief and pat each other on the back for getting away from the headache that is me), it was very. quiet. I freaked out for a few minutes, not sure what to do. Dead silent. Freaky silent, actually. So I ate the dinner brought to me, and went for a nice walk around Lake of the Isles. When I got home later that evening, a good friend was sitting on my porch. We poured some champagne, and he talked and asked questions in a gentle way to get me crying a bit, and then we had a very helpful (I'm not kidding) ceremony. He had brought over sandalwood incense, and we walked around each room, smudging all the corners, and he had me state what I was grateful for, and what my intentions were, and we both recognized the complete hocus-pocus absurdity of it at the same time recognizing the very real help symbolic gestures are in mimicking the work and intent behind what we want our lives to be. It was the best hour of the week. We sat out on the porch until late, and I showered, went to bed and slept like a baby. Days 2-4 have proven to be less eventful, but productive and healthy and good. I'm glad to be home.

01 July 2010

Habitat for Humanity


Habitat = Midtown Lofts


Humanity = Me

The migration begins Friday morning, at the start of a holiday weekend, when everyone either has plans, is out of town, or blowing off their hands with firecrackers. I will be more than content to spend the weekend on my much-anticipated projects: cleaning, painting (every. square. inch), rearranging. If, in the spirit of service (and really, the spirit of America), you have an hour or two to paint a small square, wipe down a counter, or sit and talk to me while I do that, consider yourself invited. Just think, if all my loyal blog readers lent a hand, how long would it take me to paint the entire space? Yeah, a long time.

But seriously, so many of you have asked what you can do to help; here it is. If you'd like to hang out for a bit, and help with a project or three, I'd love to see you. I can promise only this: you won't have to lug boxes, and that when the place is all put together, we'll have a hell of a housewarming party. Shoot me an email (scott.rohr@gmail.com) if you'd like to come by, but know that you are welcome anytime over the coming weeks, and not just to work. I can't wait to welcome you to my home.

They shall be called my disciples.