Letters to Holly

Thursday, July 19

A Dream Fulfilled

After driving around the block twice to get in the right lane for Marrimon Avenue, I noticed the Exxon sign at the 240 off-ramp: "30 Flavors of Ben & Jerry Pints."

I've looked for the Steven Colbert's Americone Dream for months now, stretching back to winter. I remember the timespan only because Colbert gave up sugar for Lent and couldn't eat the brand-new product. It's not available in Mayberry. We check every Sunday when we get groceries. Nothing. Your Sister finally found a pint when she attended the AP workshop and emailed me a photo of her find. Rightfully, she gobbled it all up before she could return home. She said she liked it fine, but come on, it's Ben & Jerry's. Only the rare Roof Shingles & Raspberry could be turned down.

The Exxon sign gave me hope. I parked next to a beater with a dead-flat tire and found the ice cream cooler wedged between the fridges for beer and wine. And there they were. Two pints. I snatched them, paid, and put them in my lunchbox cooler to stay intact until I got home after feeding the pets. Yes, I could have bought them on the way home, but that would mean turning left just before the offramp intersection, and that seems impossible.

I got home and showed them to Your Sis, who finds herself craving chocolate as only a 30ish woman with an active reproductive system can. We stashed them in the freezer to enjoy after supper. After waiting a half hour following my standard stir-fry, we indulged. And now we are down to a half-pint (cue Little House music). We ate it while watching the last half-hour of X-Men 2, a film that holds up remarkably well compared to a slew of subsequent comic films.

It tastes very good. It's an outstanding vanilla with pieces of chocolate-dipped waffle cones and caramel swirls. I normally hate vanilla, but Your Sis has exposed me to it over these past seven six years, and I appreciate it more. This isn't my new favorite flavor, however. It's no Brownie Batter. But it is a good alternative that I wish we had more access to.

Speaking of Your Parents' house, I'm checking their mail for a UNC notice. Nothing is there yet, but you did get something from Edward Jones. I shook it, and it sounded like doubloons.

We watched the final round of VH1's World Series of Pop Culture, and it was shockingly easy. The first category involved naming Simpsons's characters. Major supporting guys like Milhouse and Otto too, not the Nutty Professor Guy or Lionel Hutz. The final question asked for the cast of Little Miss Sunshine, and it's an easy question as well except for that one teenage kid no one knows. And that's what eliminated the losing team. But, otherwise, I think I could win this with two planks of wood as my team members. You, Your Sis, and me? We'd clobber them all. Total victory.

We did not eat any potatoes, but we did sprinkle fresh garlic on the salads. It's very mild fresh from the garden. We're going to dry the rest in the attic.

I pack tonight for the Tampa wedding. I fly down Saturday morning and fly back Sunday morning. I don't think I'll have much chance to whoop it up before waking up early for the ride home.

Wednesday, July 18

The Potato Fairy

A road crew is working in front of Your Parents' house, and I arrived there to find Kempas asleep in her house. That never happens. I think the construction noise kept her awake. She still doesn't seem to understand that she has a longer leash now.

I got home to find Your Sis sporting a new shorter haircut and plucking garlic bulbs. We discovered some plants had taken root all on their lonesome early this year. A recent newspaper article prompted her to harvest them this week. I had wanted to check on some potatoes, and so I went to yanking.

Harvesting potatoes is pretty easy: You grab the stalks and gently tug the plants free. Then you shake the dirt off the taters and pluck the edible ones. Then you gently dig into the surrounding ground to find any taters that may have snapped off during extraction. Some stalks still had the original seed potatoes attached and intact. Some seed quarters had decomposed to jelly, and I suspect they were eaten by grubs. I pulled up less than half of the garden because these stalks had the least amount of support and had fallen over. They were snapping and yellowing, and I feared the stalks wouldn't feed the potatoes anymore. So up they came. I finished with about five pounds of potatoes. A lot of the plants yielded tiny potatoes that might work as salad crutons. We'll allow the rest to grow a bit longer, and we might eat some of these tonight. Some of the ones I plucked were split, suggesting the soil was missing some nutrients. I suspect I didn't plant the seeds far enough from each other.

It's the first thing I've planted and grown. It was like Christmas. "What did I get? Did I do this right?" I made potatoes!

Tuesday, July 17

Wayward Box of Books

By now you know about the failed box shipment that seems to have gone to Switzerland instead of Snazziland. We received the shipment Monday but were confused by the packaging. Your Sis discovered she recycled it when we put books in the M-bags. I had to correct folks at the post offices in Mayberry and Asheville when they think I said "Switzerland." I'm not surprised that the local office bungled this; they're unreliable, and I've sent items from Asheville to increase my chances. I recall the woman who helped us prepare the M-bags. She was not a joy to work with.

We finished Return of the Jedi last night, and man, does it collapse into a pile of failure when the Ewoks show up. It's a Wrong Turn from which the film never recovers. The film does have a great space sequence as the ships buzz about the Death Star, and the Darth/Luke confrontation makes for some nice moments.

Picture of the Day
This is what the package looked like when it arrived.

In the News
I put off a news update for a while now, but a blog about things you already know about is a flimsy offering.

The all-night Senate debate IS political theatre, as the Republicans claim, but theatre is an essential part of politics. The Democrats can't get a successful withdrawal vote before the September report by the general overseeing the occupation. But recent testimony by the former surgeon general about the administration editing Cabinet reports casts doubt as to the credibility of what the general might say. The administration will play this one of two ways: either things are so good, that we can't stop now or things are so bad that we can't stop now. There will be no withdrawal of troops before the 2008 election. It will benefit none of the presidential candidates, and the administration doesn't seem to care about the success of the party once it leaves the White House. The recently leaked intelligence report on Al Qaeda is a double-edged sword for the people in charge too. It say that after everything we've done in Afghanistan and Iraq, the group solely responsible for hitting us in 2001 is virtually unchanged in strength or resolve. It allows the administration to say their efforts must continue unabated, but it throws into further doubt the efficacy of anything they choose to do.

+ + +

The Harry Potter spoilers are apparently up on Yahoo!'s front page. I'm not looking, but I'm resigned to the truth that I will know what happens in the book before I read it. The entire book is reportedly online in a few formats; one is a batch of photographs of each page. I'm online virtually all day; it's impossible for me to remain ignorant of the events for a month or so. Your Sis gave me Watership Down to read, and I should finish that before picking up another book. I also don't have much interest in the new film. This is the first to be released after I read the source book, and I admit that the absence of certain material discourages me from watching. So I've achieved that level of fandom for the books.

Kempas and Leia Are Leashed

I found Kempas chained but stuck behind her house. I rescued her right after she peed on the chain in what I assume is an accidental statement of her confinement. I added the new length of chain and tied her to the fence running along the back of the yard. She can still get in her house and get her food, but she can't reach the plywood or the wooden fence.

It appears the weekend petsitter only took care of them on Saturday. Kempas had almost no food, and she never eats that much when Your Parents are away. The cats also had no food, and their litter boxes were piled with remnants. I can tell she was there at least one day because she used a pill cutter for the dog drugs. I'm not tempted to take care of the pets during the weekend, but I wonder what the effect of missing one day's drug treatment will do to Kempas.

Regular night otherwise. We had wings and fries but abandoned wrestling for the commentary track on Return of the Jedi. I clearly remember how affected all we young male fans were by the metal bikini. But watching last night, I realized that it's not only quaint but wildly incongruous to the entire franchise. It doesn't belong. I didn't notice until Fisher said it, but Leia says almost nothing while she's wearing the thing. And that kills the original charm of the character: She was a smartass tomboy, and as soon as the writers steer her toward sisterhood/romantic interest, she becomes another boring film heroine while the boys fight the larger battles. Shame. In addition, because Lucas had no idea how to yet present a young jedi, Luke has all the appeal of a mop. He has one moment of life: when R2 shoots him the lightsaber on the Jabba skiff, Luke catches it, ignites, it and his eyes come alive, like he just found his favorite toy. Otherwise, Luke is a dud. If there were no Han or effects, this film would be unbearable.

Picture of the Day
Never know what you'll find in the grocery store. To be fair, the package says it's fake animal placenta. A placebo-enta?

Monday, July 16

Robot Sentinels of DIY Justice

Another outdoor dinner on Friday. We're making Jason's our regular pre-weekend haunt while the weather holds out. We get rain just about every day even though we're in a technical drought. The potatoes are gonna get yanked up within the week, maybe the day I come back from the Tampa wedding.

I ran Saturday, completing three miles for the first time since July 4. A lunch at Pescado Burrito followed. It was good; I chose the beef over the fish. Your Sis wants to take you there the next time you visit. We drove down to Target for more school clothes for her, a new running top for me, and more closet organization materials for her office. I stopped by Lowe's to buy more chain for Kempas. The weekend caretaker didn't call, so the dog must still be chained and OK.

We attended a cookout held by some new friends, and we met a slew of new people. The host is trying to get me to run with them along the Davidson River. I dunno about this; these are big guys, muscular and former military. I am an illustrator with a well-worn PS2. This has slapstick written all over it. The cookout was fun, and Your Sis estimated that I drank a half-gallon of beer. We had to leave when the sight of the firepit flames made me dizzy.

Sunday was a zombie day of staggering as my body tried to process the beer. The weekly frappuccino was a bad idea. Your Sis continues her office reformation, and I took it easy. We cooked leftovers from our own cookout and watched the commentary track for Empire Strikes Back. I noticed a few things:

1) There's no reason to show the Emperor in this film. He should have remained a mystery. I also prefer the Alec Guiness performance in the Vader chamber over that of McDiarmid, even thought the latter matches the third film's Emperor.

2) After watching the prequels, one might assume that Yoda and Ben don't care about helping Luke reach his potential so much as taking down Vader in ice-cold revenge. The training scenes on Dagobah now feel like Yoda is sharpening a blade more than helping Luke evolve. And now that I think of it, The Matrix has the same feel. Morpheus only cares about Neo because the latter's success would validate his faith in the Oracle. Neo himself means nothing to Morpheus, and all the training bits are really Morpheus's way of kicking the tires.

3) The film moves quick. So much happens, and it moves well. That's a good editor and director combo. You can definitely see how well Ford and Fisher get along. She especially adds a lot of nice touches as Solo outsmarts Leia at every turn. I love it when she talks to herself when he leaves the cockpit after saying "I ain't got time for anything else."

4) Great lighting. There's a red undertone subtext throughout to suggest the danger that always surrounds the heroes.

5) When the admiral's body is dragged off by a bridge crew, you can clearly see him stand up on his feet even thought he's supposed to be dead. Vader should reel around, bark out the order to stop, and force choke the guy just to make sure. "OK, he's done. On your way. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. You're in charge, Admiral Bullsye. Best of luck. Update your will."

6) Luke is a cypher; the film gives no reason to invest in him. You have to remember what he went through in the first film to care about him.

7) Helluva movie.

Picture of the Day
On the way home Friday, we noticed that someone had pimped out one of the walk-sign control boxes to look like a robot. I advocated raising money by auctioning off the rights to each box to a local artist so they can decorate them. I wonder how many people will notice this and how long the robot can stay together. I also like the idea of a robot crossing guard at each intersection.