The Pursuit of Non-Tragedy

This week isn’t so much of a blog as it is a call to arms from all you happy people out there. You know who you are. The ones who smile a lot and tend to wear their frowns in the wrong direction.

I’m working on an informal research project about cheerfulness. I don’t believe that cheerfulness is always some kind of cosmic predisposition. I think cheerfulness is an action, a choice, a system of maintaining buoyancy in a tidal wave world. And I’d like to know, from cheerful people, how the heck they do it.

Is it big things, or small ones? Is it puppies? Friends? Family? A job you love? Kitten whiskers, money in pocket, a good book, a sunny day? A vitamin regimen composed of dried and ground unicorn colons? What keeps you going when you’re down?

If you’re cheerful or just good at picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, I want to know how you do it. What makes you cheerful? What keeps you choosing to be optimistic, peppy, whatever-you-call it?

PS, please someone comment on this post, or else I’ll feel completely forlorn and left out in the cold. In other words, I will find it challenging to be cheerful. Which will force me to eat cake. Which will probably make me cheerful again. There, I have my first comment: Cake.

To say thank you, Internet people, here’s one last last-minute Halloween costume idea, plucked from my brain last night mere seconds before the first little munchkin mashed down my bell: Beer-erina. I stepped into an old tutu, slapped on some bunny ears, and answered the door with a beer in hand. Trick or treat!

Posted in buddies, free stuff, the writing life | 9 Comments

More Great Last Minute Halloween Costumes

This year’s Halloween costuming has been a bit of a saga, starting this past summer with a boxed-in promise to deliver a great idea to all you Halloween lovers who are also major planners. Two weeks ago, I cooked up a few more ideas for Halloweenies, including my personal favorite: A Legend of Zelda costume of a Like Like monster consuming the game’s green-hatted hero.

However, not everyone out there is a Martha Stewart style planner, and not everyone has loads of time on their hands to sit down and craft a costume to wow. That’s why today, I’m plotting out a few last minute Halloween costume ideas for those of you who still want to look great without spending much time or a single dime. Thrifty procrastinators, rejoice!

Here are two zombie costumes that you can make in under 10 minutes with stuff you already have:

Idea 1: Business Person Attacked by Zombies (who is gradually mutating into a zombie).

  • Materials needed:
  • Old business clothes you don’t mind cutting up
  • Proper undergarments to preserve modesty (or not)
  • Scissors
  • Dark eye shadow, any color you want
  • The Story: You are a business person at the office when the world’s first massive zombie attack begins; when heading to the parking lot, you were attacked from behind. You look normal from the front, but your back is in tatters. You are gradually becoming a zombie and will mutate over the next several hours.
  • The Costume: Put on your business clothes and have a friend take scissors to the back of them as if you had been clawed from behind. The best way is to cut small holes in the fabric and then rip by hand, which looks more realistic. Start the evening normally, and gradually add increasing degrees of eye shadow under your eyes (you are slowly “becoming a zombie”). As you apply more shadow, try to appear more disoriented and groggy. If you begin to hunger for human flesh, don’t worry—that’s perfectly natural.

Idea 2: Looter Trying to Make Good on Zombie Crisis. A great zombie costume for women.

  • Materials needed:
  • Fancy outfit—a dress or sharp suit, nice shoes or running shoes
  • All the shiny stuff you can find to wear—jewelry, anything treasure-like. Glitzy and sparkly things are best.
  • A rolling pin, baseball bat, or golf club
  • The Story: You are an opportunist who is using the zombie crisis to loot all the treasure you can find. As a gold digger down on your luck, a world of mayhem provides you with dozens of unlocked homes and bank vaults to grab all the glitz you can carry.
  • The Costume: Don your finest finery and go to town. Since you have no home to rest your head, you have to layer up as much jewelry as possible on yourself. You may wear fancy shoes or running shoes since you’re on the lam. You should have a weapon, but since you’re obviously a bit of a dreamer and more focused on shiny things than the reality of danger, it should be something like a rolling pin or golf club that you could get your hands on easily.

There you go, kiddies. Trick or treat!

Posted in crafts and being crafty, free stuff, it's okay to heart firearms, makin' cool s*** out of junk | 2 Comments

Turns Out Invasive Species Aren’t That Hard to Kill

Before you jump into this week’s literary hill of beans, make sure you read last week’s post to get caught up on the action.

(Lights come up) So there I was, sitting at my desk, knowing there was a captivating stranger lurking somewhere behind me. I couldn’t say where and I couldn’t say when, but in my gut I knew I’d see the home invader again. I just had to be ready this time.

The gold dust day gecko had a lot going for him that I didn’t have going for me. One, he was Hawaiian, which is cool. Two, he was invasive. Three, he was green. The fact that he chose to hide in the filing cabinet stuffed with the most papers proved that he was a survivor—I’d never find him there. Then again, since he would likely stay trapped forever without any light or food, maybe he wasn’t such a survivor after all.

I looked over my shoulder for days, imagining the lizard sprawled behind me like something out of Kafka, 100 inches longer and ready for retribution for the two hours of hard time I put him through under a bowl. I imagined a litter of eggs growing into a fresh gaggle of baby lizards, all with teeny tiny bottles and bonnets and evil eyes, all out to get me. I imagined lots of things.

Then, a few days later, I spotted the sticky-sticker lacing his way up a stack of Stephen Kings. Ha! Now I had him. It meant taking every book off the shelf one by one, but I eventually plinked a brand new bowl over my captive. Voila! I felt as lucky as the guy who’d found Saddam in that hole.

At long last, I was back in control. Sort of. I had the gecko trapped. Now what?

Stumped, I dialed the Hawaiian Invasive Species Hotline. That’s a real thing, by the way—it’s 808-643-PEST, in case you were wondering. A busy signal answered. I informed the gecko that this did not bode well. I tried again and finally got a live person who just about had sunshine in his voice.

  • Me: “Hi. I just got back from Hawaii and I have a gold dust day gecko in my living room.”
  • Happy Hawaiian gentleman: “Okay.”
  • Me: “… Well, what do I do about it?”
  • Happy Hawaiian gentleman: “Ehm, uhm, er… There’s a humane way to deal with this.”
  • Me: “Do you need me to ship him back or something?”
  • Happy Hawaiian gentleman: “We don’t want him.”
  • Me: “What are you trying to say?”
  • Happy Hawaiian gentleman: “The kindest way to handle him is to put him in the freezer.”
  • Me: “But that’s where my food goes.”
  • (and on and on)

Not ready to stomach the freezer or sacrifice a perfectly good Tupperware container, I was then asked not to release him to the wilds of Georgia. He would die out there, Happy Hawaiian gentleman assured me, because it was too cold. The bottom line was that the freezer would achieve the same result, only faster.

Couldn’t anybody else keep him, I asked? No, said the Happy Hawaiian. But I could call the department of agriculture. I was transferred six times before instructed to find a lizard store who wanted my invader. Curious now to see where this road would take me if I stayed on it, I looked up “lizard stores.” No dice. North Georgia Zoo? Zip. What about Zoo Atlanta? Maybe they’d even give me a pass to visit so I could check in from time to time and reminisce about life under the bowl.

It took ten phone calls, but I finally found and left a message for the people who handle lizards. Problem was, now it was getting late, and I had blown a whole afternoon and a half fiddling with this gecko. Night was coming on fast, and I didn’t like the idea of a sticky green mystery man under my roof in the cloak of darkness. He was too wily.

I set up what I assumed was a sort of makeshift terrarium on the porch, poking generous holes in a lidded plastic cup and filling it with a little water, some vines, and grass. There! The gecko was sure to love that. Everyone passed the night in peace. I wondered if the zoo would call back, and what I was supposed to do with my unwanted pet if they didn’t.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, and the dog and I raced outside to check on our gecko. We rolled the cup around and around to quadruple check, but it was obvious that the genius creature had forged a way out through an air hole. Gulp. Like the idiot farmers who brought kudzu to the south, I had introduced an invasive species to my ecosystem. That poor gecko had travelled 5,000 miles only to commit suicide in an oncoming fall.

The zoo called later that afternoon and enthusiastically declared that they would be happy to make a home for my stowaway. I didn’t have the heart to call them back.

Posted in buddies, free stuff, going places, makin' cool s*** out of junk, Southern-isms, taboo-boos | 2 Comments

Concept of Invasive Species Finally Hits Home

Ask any Hawaiian, and they’ll tell you that invasive species are no joke. Seriously.

Before people arrived on that jaw-dropping plot of paradise, a new species was only introduced to the island every 30,000 years. Today, it’s something like six-bajillion new invasive species every six hours.

When I was a college junior trying to survive what haughty biology majors called “baby bio,” I learned all about the cataclysmic environmental dangers of invasive species. A breed is defined as invasive when it Kool-Aid-mans its way into a new environment, wreaking havoc, killing cute white bunnies, eating everything in sight, and basically being naughty.

One example of invasive species on Big Island, Hawaii are mongeese. They’re feisty furbabies brought by a group of enterprising farmers who wanted to give their rat population the boot. Mongeese hunt rats, so it seemed like the perfect idea until it turned out that they’re daytime lovers and rats only party at night. Starving and with no rats around to munch, the Rikki-Tikki-Tavis took to doing what they do best—climbing trees like crazy and eating up teeny tiny baby bird eggs that can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

As a college junior sipping green tea and scribbling notes furiously, I was outraged by invasive species. Tree snakes in Guam. Noxious weeds. Wooly adelgids doing murder to the most beloved hemlock tree on campus, the big fluffy one that only had chunky vintage Christmas lights on it for a single year of my student tenure before it was eaten alive. Invasive species were the worst.

But then I became an adult and graduated, and I forgot all about invasive species. Until one came to live with me.

Two weeks after we came home from a trip to Hawaii, I was passing through my guest room and saw a funny shape beside my semi-unpacked suitcase. It was a miniature goblin about an inch long with limey green skin and orange dots on his back. His eyes were ringed with bluest blue. The brownish pads of his crazy toes stuck to everything. And Brah, dat bugga wus wikiwiki fas.

I froze. He froze. I blinked. He ran for it. I captured the devil underneath a cut crystal bowl salvaged years ago from the Goodwill, sliding a never-cracked copy of “O” magazine underneath for support. I toted the dickens to the office where I could keep an eye on him, wondering about my next move.

When in doubt, I google. Turned out he was a textbook gold dust day gecko, and he had followed me all the way home from Hawaii. Google swore that he could grow up to nine inches long. Something had to be done.

Releasing him to nature might mean certain death, since he didn’t belong in oncoming Georgia winter. I didn’t know how to ship him home, so I resolved to keep him behind me on the floor in his overturned bowl until I could cook up a solution. Because I was concerned about cutting off his air supply, I lifted the bowl an inch every hour to make sure he was still blinking. My Yorkie eyed me with cool sangfroid from his stuffed bed in the corner, utterly useless.

It was during the third round of checks that the lizard and I contemplated one another, blue eye to blue eye, friendly and finally compassionate toward each other’s predicament. My heart warmed to the little guy, and I felt sure we would come up with some reasonable solution for his existence after all.

It was then that he bolted faster than a slithering speed of light into a filing cabinet. The biggest, darkest one stuffed to the gills with the most files.

No amount of screaming, hopping, scolding the dog for not having more of a purpose in life, poking, or peering into files with a flashlight was going to change things. The lizard’s strategic move had locked us into a stalemate, each waiting for the other to die so they could escape. I was determined to win, but I wasn’t feeling confident as I went back to work with a monster hiding somewhere behind me.

I had a bowl and a brain, but he had a filing cabinet. The invasive species and I were tied.

Tune in next week to find out who ends up under a bowl, who ends up dead between old tax returns, and who ends up getting a free flight back to Hawaii.

Posted in buddies, free stuff, going places, it's okay to heart firearms | 5 Comments

Best Homemade Halloween Costume: Phew, I’m Still Original

In my last post, I said that as far as I knew, I was original. Which is true. As far as I knew.

Over the summer, I promised to deliver the planet’s most unique idea for a homemade Halloween costume, and best of all, it could be made by you from a cardboard box. I had everything worked out down to the last detail. Then, former fact checker that I am, I googled it, laughing to myself at the very thought that I might not be the first to cook up this brilliant inkling for a Halloween suit.

Then, gah! There it was. My precious baby idea, spread across a Google image search like a small-town girl next door turned playboy trickster. My sweet little brain pet was splayed out there for the world to see, and in no way patented by me.

Devastation ensued.

The brainchild was a simple yet intricate creation that could convert any Halloween reveler into a claw machine. I had it all figured out, from the buttons to the stuffed animals to even a way the person inside the machine could pull a string and make the claw go up and down.

Google image shattered my fantasy of a hap-hap-happy Halloween. Without the Internet, I would have gone blissfully on in my costume, never suspecting that a handful of others across the globe had the same spark of holiday ingenuity. I felt just like Torrance Shipman in Bring It On when she found out that creepy traveling dance coach had sold her a bum routine that he was peddling up and down the West Coast.

Since I promised to deliver a great costume idea revolving around a box and I know there’s a wide audience of eager fans reading this with their saved boxes by their sides, I at least did you the favor of presenting a handful of other ideas on a platter. The least I can give you is research. Here goes. With your box, you could be:

  • A lego
  • Life (aka, a box of chocolates)
  • A cereal box
  • Barbie in a box
  • A boom box
  • A lunch box
  • A copy of my wonderful and well-reviewed book, Temp: An Accidental Fairytale, which is available for free Prime and Super-Saver shipping on Amazon.com

With some flesh-colored spray paint and a little creativity, you could also be a Like Like from the Zelda series. You know, they’re the pink fleshy monsters who suck you up and eat your shield, which then costs about 100 rupees to replace. They tend to hide out in fake jars and treasure chests, then spring out and nail ya.

To be a Like Like, punch your cardboard box around until it’s shaped more like a cylinder and decorate accordingly. There! That’s one of a kind! If you want to go the extra mile, you can even dress up like Link (although my preferred code name is Mr. Fox) so it looks like the Like Like ate you. Boom! Original again!

There, order and balance have been restored. Phew. As someone who makes a living off being creative, it’s kind of important that other people not think of things before me. I should probably rush off to the costume patent office before this one gets snapped up, too.

Posted in crafts and being crafty, holiday heaven & holiday hell, makin' cool s*** out of junk, the writing life | 3 Comments

The Most Brilliant Marketing Plan Ever Devised

This particular topic is tagged under “self marketing without being a loser.” Today, that’s debatable. Or is it?

I’m a writer by trade. I work for lots of different kinds of places doing lots of different kinds of writing. I love what I do, and I must be good at it or people wouldn’t keep giving me money to do it. That’s part of why entering the publishing world has been a bit of a puzzle.

I spent more than two years crafting what I think is a pretty great book, but given that I’m used to working under billable hours, it was strange not to get a lump sum at the very end of it. You look at your precious little bundle of book, you swell with pride, and then you think, “Wait a minute. Where’s my damn money?”

As sales have grown since the book’s release, the money has come. That’s grand. But I’m not a patient person, and I’m always pushing myself to be more successful. That’s what got me to thinking more and more about strategic marketing. Marketing is where the money comes from. Right?

Wrong. Marketing is where the money goes to. Since I’m working with a small publisher by choice, I get to have more say about marketing stuff than I would if I was working with the big dogs. It’s one thing to spend gobs of corporate money on non-existant programs that have no real purpose, but it’s another to take the precious pennies and dimes of an itty bitty publisher and blow them all to pieces. I’ve always been a careful budgeter, but suddenly money matters even more. You have to be strategic. Tactical, even.

But if you’ve ever tried your hand at any kind of marketing, you know it can be tricksy. Sometimes you can shovel buckets of cash into a surefire outlet, yet none of that money ever boomerangs back to you. Other times you might throw a pittance at some joke only to have it come knocking at your doorstep overnight holding fistfuls of cash and sales potential. Marketing doesn’t make any sense.

That’s why I’ve decided to come up with a single marketing strategy that is low cost, low risk, fool proof, requires almost no time, and will even support local communities in a way that’s downright charitable.

I’m talking about lottery tickets.

Think about it. They don’t cost much. They’re easy to buy. They’re also colorful, fun to scratch, and have the added benefit of elevating your heart rate on Friday night as you watch the Powerballs pop-pop-pop through the wind machine. You have an equal chance of winning regardless of your height, weight, age, or intellectual ability. Like the publishing world, winning the lottery isn’t even based on whether you’re a great writer or not. The lottery is a totally level playing field.

And, should you win, you get to waltz around with a giant check on television wearing a shit-eating grin that tells everyone who ever assured you that you weren’t going to make it, “Nana na boo boo, stick your head in doo doo.” I don’t know about you good people, but a giant check sounds like a heck of a lot of fun to me.

Lottery tickets: The marketing wave of the future. You heard it here first! Although I haven’t googled it, so it’s possible that someone else has actually thought of it as well. But, as far as I know, I’m original. In this and in most things.

Posted in self marketing without being a loser, the writing life | Leave a comment

Free, Free, Free at Last (But Just For Today)

I love contests. The rattle of plastic balls in the bingo tumbler at the old folks home, the glint of a golden ticket peeking out of a chocolate bar, and best of all, the shuffling whisper of names in a hat for free e-books.

As this morning dawned bright and clear with weather that was a blessed break from our recent 90’s spell, I sprang out of bed like Julia Child used to on her way to the Cordon Bleu and thought, “Today is the day! Today, we give away books to fans!”

Please imagine me now in a velvet circus ringleader’s jacket to the tune of a grand drum roll, preferably on either a timpani or a bongo. I am happy to announce the 10 winners of the 10 free e-copies of Temp: An Accidental Fairytale! Hurrah! Woohoo! Ole!

  • Kalindy Skittles from Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Alexia Smit from Cape Town, South Africa
  • Misty Taylor from Sidney, Ohio
  • Margaret of Goodreads and Fraser Valley, Canada
  • Scott Harding from Anchorage, Alaska
  • Denise Zaky from Medford, Oregon
  • Amanda Hughes Kiser from Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Jacob Bardak from Buffalo, New York (Woot! Yea, BUF!)
  • Kevin Remington from Lexington, Virginia
  • Sara Youngblood Hampton from Paragould, Arkansas

I’m glad that my sorting hat chose such cool winners from across the country. Actually, my winners span three countries. Ain’t globalization great? Thank you, social media.

Thanks to everyone for liking my page on facebook and entering the free e-book contest! I hope you know how much I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you. Stay posted on the blog for more funny business and giveaways.

Cheers, y’all!

Posted in buddies | 6 Comments

Support Your Local Elmwood

First things first, have you clicked the “like” button on the right side of the page? I’m giving away 10 free e-copies of Temp on Sept. 30 to my likers, so click away! Now, on to the blog.

I’m from Atlanta, but I go to Buffalo a lot. If you’ve ever lived in Buffalo, you know that it’s not always a peppy place. And don’t get all offended that I’m saying that—if you’ve actually lived there, then I can guarantee that you’ve spent a considerable amount of time complaining about it. The weather is cold. It’s gray. Hot wings are unhealthy in the long term. And your football team is a heartbreaker. I’m not making this stuff up; Buffalo natives inform me of it all the time.

If you’re like me, when you visit Buffalo to see someone who is elderly and spends a lot of time napping, you find yourself looking for new things to do on your own. Drinking beer in a dive bar is all well and good, but sometimes you feel feisty. You want to get out and see some stuff. So you start driving around. And around, and around.

That was how I found a magical place called Elmwood Village. I spotted a few gorgeous old American style houses downtown one day and just kept following the trail. The front-porch style of classic post-war architecture was like a yellow brick road that led me to a street called Elmwood, which it turns out is also the name of the village (Buffalo likes “villages”). It’s a neat-o little place tucked into the heart of what has sometimes been called a downtrodden town, and it never fails to pick me up and make me feel like just about anything is possible.

Elmwood is like a grown-up version of Sesame Street, where lots of different folks and locally owned businesses conglomerate into a mix that ranges from smooth Kate Spade bags to rainbow dreads and labs on leads. Here you can have sea salt and caramel gelato, get a yoga fix, drink from a long chalkboard list of beers, and uncover some new organic produce mystery, all while walking off the gelato.

Elmwood is a treasure trove, but for the sake of being picky, the following are my favorite three spots to visit.

To detox from a long morning at the assisted care facility, first hit up the Blue Monk on 727 Elmwood Ave. Though it takes a little finding because it blends so well, once inside you’re rewarded with a gleaming wood haven of beer, beer, beer. Hipster folk flock here, but so do average peeps who just love their brew. A massive framed chalkboard on the wall updated as regularly as stats for the Derby illustrates the day’s availability with prices and alcoholic percentages. If I ever had a mind to overthrow a Stamp Act or some similar governmental tyranny, I’d start at the Blue Monk.

If you have a furry friend in your life, next head to Elmwood Pet Supplies, a haven for critters ranging from the aquatic to the gynormous. The space is tight, but it’s crammed with all the right food, toys, and gear for your buddy. The staff are unwavering friendly (if they had tails, they’d always be wagging), and they know their Kongs from their Greenies. I have never once asked a question they didn’t have a great answer to, and prices are spot on.

Since you have to be back at the retirement home by 4:30 on the nose or Granny will be upset, finish your walk with a breeze through the Lexington Co-Op, a 40-year old charmer of a market that never ceases to please. Here you can get a hot plate, snag some Vegan baked goods that don’t taste the least bit Vegan, and paw through feel-good foods and other items ranging from henna hair dye to fair trade shea butter organic bubble bath. Make sure you buy a branded canvas tote; they’re dirt cheep at just $3.99 and will last forever.

This little blip of a blog in no way does Elmwood justice. There are lots of things to see, sample, and do, and you should definitely try it for yourself.

But Elmwood goes beyond that. I believe that every city has an Elmwood tucked away somewhere, a magical block or two where you always feel safe and cheery, the food and wares are fresh and creative, and you can’t help but feel like you’re a guest (or an insider) in a tried and true neighborhood.

Whether the people there have blue hair, pink poodles, or yellow feathers, everyone can feel they belong in their local Elmwoods. I may not call it home, but I feel at home whenever I’m there.

Posted in buddies, going places, snacks and sustenance | Leave a comment

Indie Author Guest Spotlight: Suzy Turner

Today, I’m talking in italics. I know—fun, right? Why, you ask, am I wearing italics today? Aside from the fact that italics are hot for fall, I’m not the chief blogger this week. My fellow-author friend, Suzy Turner, is guest starring today. Suzy and I met on Twitter of all places, and we’ve become buddies because we’re both indie authors. She has spunk as well as a bag full of tricks when it comes to playing indie, and today she’s my guest. So scootch over and make room for her, and let’s put the spotlight on Suzy.

PS, did you remember to click “like” on the right so you can enter to win one of 10 free e-book copies of Temp? The drawing is Sept. 30, so go ahead and click!

There’s something about the world of witchcraft that has always intrigued me. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved reading about witches as well as watching them on television and in movies. Whether they were of the evil, green-skinned variety with huge boils on the end of their noses, or the pretty kind who wore long floaty white gowns, I was hooked.

One of the earliest films that I remember watching and one that I just adored at the time was Witches of Eastwick. Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher played the roles of the three witches beautifully, and Jack Nicholson was perfect as the devil incarnate. It was humorous, frightening (for a girl of my age!) and gripping. I’ve seen it since and it didn’t quite have the same effect on me but it was still fun.

Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimi, is about three nasty evil witches who are inadvertently resurrected. Its hilarious and one I can easily watch over and over… regardless of the fact that it’s meant for kids.

But my all time favourite witch movie has got to be Practical Magic. Everything about it appeals to me. I’m a huge fan of Sandra Bullock and Aidan Quinn, which obviously helps. But the underlying story is so dark and mysterious and the music has been used to full effect. I just adore it and have watched it so many times, its ridiculous. I think I will always watch it… I can’t imagine anyone being able to beat this marvellous film that is, to me, practically magical.

Perhaps when December Moon is made into a movie (you might notice that I say when… not if, I am the eternal optimist!), it will come close.

Follow the rest of my virtual book tour to find out more about my dream movie cast for December Moon. For more information about December Moon and The Raven Saga, visit http://suzyturner.com or http://suzyturner.blogspot.com

I encourage everyone to support Suzy (and my book, Temp, while you’re at it!) as she continues paving her way through publishing. Writing a book is no easy feat, and anyone who gets to the finish line deserves a major pat on the back. 

Posted in buddies, self marketing without being a loser, the writing life | 2 Comments

Murder in the Name of Fine Dining

Before we get to the lobster goodies, have you clicked the “like” button for my page over here on the right? On September 30, I’m drawing 10 liker names out of a hat. The winners get a free e-copy of my book, Temp: An Accidental Fairytale. So like away, fellow lobster lovers!

Now, here’s the skinny on my fatty lobster experience. Yesterday morning, the hubs and I plotted out our grocery trip. I always feel slightly Napoleonic when deciding what to eat during the week and charting out how the ingredients should be listed by aisle for dry goods with vegetables, deli, meat, dairy, and frozen foods going last (in that order). I know that by telling you this useless tidbit about how I shop equates to me stalling the story, which is exactly what I was doing yesterday as I danced around writing the word “lobster” on the list. I was starting to get squeamish.

Driving to the market, I wondered why killing a lobster was such a big deal. I mean, I buy meat all the time, I just don’t do the killing. It’s strange that if I had been born not too long ago, having my hands in pig guts or twisting a chicken’s neck might be no biggie. Chucking a crustacean into a pot isn’t even a very direct way to murder somebody, but here I was fretting over it.

At the store, we looked over the lobster lineup and singled out our two boys. We said we’d pick them up when we were done shopping so the butcher would have time to wrangle them out of the tank. I took my time around the store, not ready to feel the wriggle of chitin in my hands. That’s why my jaw just about dropped when we came for our little men and were handed two tidy paper boxes. No freaky, serial-killer plastic bags here, no sir. Just cute lunch boxes with handles and well behaved boys inside. They looked like they were ready to go to school or something, not like paper houses for barbarians of the wild and deep.

Then it finally dawned on me why I was so afraid to pick the little goons up at the store, and why lobsters scare the bejeezus out of me even though they’re my favorite meat. When I was about four, my mom took me to a farmer’s market and bought a few lobsters. I was perched in that little metallic child canister in the front of the cart, legs dangling out the holes, minding my own business, when one of the little demons came after me. The vicious, slimy, twenty pound phoenix wrenched itself out of its plastic bag and leapt right into my hair, clipping and clicking with its antennas brushing my ears. Naturally, I screamed bloody murder.

… Okay, so that’s not what actually happened. Really, one of the critters wiggled a tad inside its bag, and I guess I didn’t realize it was still supposed to be alive. The screaming part, on the other hand, is absolutely accurate. But I guess something about that mystic blue bugger stuck with me, and that’s part of why offing one was such a biggie.

As five o’clock rolled around, I prepared our monster pot, tossing in a handful of sea salt just like Julia Child instructed. The water boiled. The kitchen grew quiet. I removed the creatures of the deep from the fridge.

Somehow, even though I knew I was scared of lobsters, I didn’t think chucking them into a vat of water would be that hard. After all, aside from the gastronomic benefits, directing the lobsters out of this life was partially an exercise in bravery. If I could touch a sea spider and fling it into the never-never, then I could do just about anything. Right?

Except that, when it came time to get cooking, I couldn’t seem to get up the nerve to pick them up. I may love Julia, but I’m not her. The woman had nerves of titanium. It took a few minutes and there was some screaming and shrieking and talking to myself that really unnerved the dog, but in the end they went in, the lid went on, and there was no wriggling or hissing from inside.

I thought the hardest part would be slicing them between the eyes so they could drain, but it actually wasn’t so bad… Okay, it was. I realized it was all about the eyes, sad, staring, empty eyes, so I de-eyed them. Unfortunately, their peepers plopped down into the sink and stared at me like something from a comical monster flick. They’re in the disposal now. In other words, I win.

The good news is that it was the best dadgum lobster we’d ever had. I disassembled the shell and parts just like Julia taught me, even feeling like a tried and true New Englander when I ripped off the scale tails and poked the meat out with my finger. I was no debutante, but I suspect poking lobster meat out of the animal’s butt isn’t something they teach in cotillion. Then again, maybe it is. Rich people can be funny like that.

So, to summarize, buying a lobster isn’t hard, killing it is, and the eyes are the worst part. But the end result? Dee-lish. And now I have loads of stock to use for a bisque later. Yummers.

Posted in snacks and sustenance, Southern-isms | 4 Comments