Cant do dinner tonite. Cheese poisoning.
That’s all Natasha’s text said, but I completely understood. Thank god, I thought, as I lay back down on the couch and unbuttoned my jeans. I wasn’t familiar with the symptoms of a calcium overdose, but I imagined my bones beginning to petrify into an adamantium-like super skeleton.
It all began with our discussions earlier this year about abandoning city life. First, Nat, Dee-Dee and I started a secret blog in which to document our progress at acquiring all the skills necessary to run a successful farm. We would need to learn to sow and reap, cook and compost, birth and slaughter.
Then, while flipping through an issue of Chicago Magazine, I read an article about a farm in northern Illinois that teaches cheese-making classes. It was clearly a sign from the agricultural gods, so I signed all three of us up for the next available class.
As we drove down the winding gravel road to the farm, we made a few requisite Children of the Corn jokes about how we have your woman, outlanders.
We hoped we’d get to see a lot of goats soon. We did.
The class was small – only six people – and we were informed that we would get to make six different cheeses that morning. I tried to play it cool as I squeezed Dee-Dee’s arm and shout-whispered, “OHMIGOD WE’RE GOING TO MAKE SIX DIFFERENT CHEESES TODAY! THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I WONDER WHAT KIND WE’LL GET TO MAKE!”
I didn’t have to wonder for long.
We each got to make one of the cheeses, and the instructor stopped us at certain points along the way and brought us all around one particular cheese to demonstrate a key step in the process.
Dee-Dee chose mozzarella. Here we all are watching Dee slice into the solidified curds. This is what learning looks like.
This is someone we don’t know making ricotta. She was nice, and put butter and rosemary in the cheese before we ate it.
This is me making feta.
This is what feta would look like if it were made by the residents of a 19th century insane asylum. I need to work on my cheese cloth skills.
While we were waiting for some of the cheeses to drain, we went out to the barn to meet some goats. We learned that certain goats kind of look like greyhounds.
Then we met Cocoa. Cocoa is a big fat goat. She gets to sit around eating goat food while she waits to get milked. BY US!
Our instructor said that they can usually fill a pail of milk in about 3-4 minutes. It took six of us about 20 minutes to get three tablespoons of milk. Did you know that there’s no pulling involved in milking a goat? It’s just squeezing. In the cartoons, it always looks like pulling.
I don’t have a picture of this, but one of the women in the class told a story about how her young daughter accidentally milked a horse once. With her mouth. I just shivered again as I wrote that.
Here’s something I learned about cows. I thought only male cows had horns. WRONG! This is a female cow, and she has horns. She’s shy.
At the end of class, we filled our containers with samples of all the cheeses we had made, bought some local honey and goat milk soap as souvenirs, and said goodbye to Cocoa as we left.
It’s a small step toward our goal of living off the land, but an important one. And I’ve already signed us up for our next class: beekeeping. This could get dangerous…
Cant do dinner tonite. Cheese poisoning.
He was quiet, intelligent and kind-hearted. So handsome, too. But a loner with a dark side, he could never stay in one place long. I felt so sorry for him – it just tore me apart. Every time he opened himself up and made a connection to someone, he would walk away in the end. I would watch him intently, wondering if he would ever find his way to happiness.
David Banner broke my heart.
Every week after school I would go to my neighbor’s house and all of the kids would gather around their giant old console TV to watch the show. Their father, normally a terribly unpleasant man, would see us all in front of the TV, smile and say, “Must be time for the Hulk!” We would nod in unison, passing around a bag of Jay’s Hot Stuff potato chips, never pulling our eyes away from the screen.
The show had everything: tormented scientist who tragically loses the love of his life, relentless journalist trying to uncover a story at any cost, villains destroyed by a monster who just wants to be left alone.
I remember the devastating episode with Mariette Hartley – I think it was a two-parter – where she is a doctor or a scientist with a fatal disease, and she learns about David’s alter ego. She’s not afraid of him. David finally allows himself to feel love again. She thinks she might be able to cure herself with his regenerative powers, but in the end, it’s too late and she dies in the Hulk’s arms. I sobbed.
Still, all my recollections of The Incredible Hulk are good ones.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a station that was playing old Incredible Hulk reruns. It was an episode I didn’t recall – I picked it up in the middle, but caught Lou Ferrigno starring as a deaf bodybuilder who had gotten mixed up with some unscrupulous scam artists who didn’t want him to compete in a Mr. Universe type competition. Toward the end, Lou Ferrigno comes face to face with himself, as the Hulk storms onto the stage carrying the unconscious body of the scammer girl with a heart of gold that Lou’s character has fallen in love with. The crowd screams for the Hulk to flex his muscles, and he does. They all cheer.
It was hackneyed and horrible and made me question whether my memories of the Incredible Hulk were all false. Was there even a Mariette Hartley episode, or did I confuse this with a Polaroid commercial? Was the show as touching as I recalled, or just pure camp? Had I ever even eaten Jay’s Hot Stuff potato chips, or was that just my imagination, too? It’s like my entire youth was now clouded with doubt.
Last weekend, I flipped past the Spanish channel, when I saw that it was also airing The Incredible Hulk. I may not speak Spanish, but yo hablo Bill Bixby, and I needed to cleanse my brain of this recent negative experience. It started out with a David Banner walking into town. Tan pants, plaid button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up, thick wind-blown hair. He hears a scream, then turns to see a young woman on roller skates who has just been hit by a car. The flyers she was handing out are all still dramatically descending from the sky.
He runs to her aid, and from what I could tell, two men argue with the driver of the car as the young woman says that her leg is broken. The driver pays the woman some money – maybe so she won’t report the accident – and then the woman hobbles off with her roller skates over her shoulder. David follows her to make sure she’s okay, only to see her running down the street, giggling and counting her money. Cut to a scene of Venice Beach and Lou Ferrigno working out.
Oh god. Roller skater girl is the con artist with the heart of gold! This is the same horrible episode!
I flipped the TV off and went for a walk. Part of me wants to rent Season 1 of The Incredible Hulk just to reassure myself that I didn’t imagine everything. That my years spent glued in front of the television, fascinated by this tragic hero weren’t all a lie. But the rest of me is terrified to discover that there was no Mariette Hartley. That like so many other things, time and distance has reinvented reality and painted it with a beautiful green hue.
Lou Ferrigno broke my heart.
::Sit up straight out of bed like a bolt of lightning hit me::
“OMG – I didn’t miss it, did I?”
“What day is it? Did you hear me? What day is it today? Dammit Miso, tell me what day it is!!!”
::Toss worthless cat back on bed and look at cell phone::
“Oh phew… it’s still the 9th. I didn’t miss it.”
“Happy Birthday Vahid!!!”
Now be a pal and go wish him a happy birthday before you start doing your laundry. I mean really… look at this face – the eyes, the dimples, the curls, the martini… you know you can’t resist:
I honestly had sort of decided not to go. All my co-workers told me I was crazy. It would be a zoo. I would be trampled. But then I kept checking in throughout the day and you were all telling me to go. So I did, because when the internet tells you to do something, dammit, you do it.
And even though I left a couple hours before Barack Obama would take the stage, the energy there was just incredible. Everyone was helpful and friendly and no one shoved or trampled. The crowd roared every time election results came in from CNN. At one point, while we were all sitting on the damp grass watching giant heads talk to us from the jumbotron and as newcomers looked for any spare patch of grass to sit on, the entire group of thousands of people scooted up in unison to make room for more people to sit down in the back. I don’t know why exactly that struck me as such a remarkable act, but it really did.
Another thing I noticed was the number of different languages I heard as I walked through the crowds. I was flanked by a German family on my right and a French couple on my left. I heard them talking about how much they wished they could have voted. And in front of them was a group of kids who looked to be about 15. But whether or not they could participate in this election, people wanted to be a part of the experience.
As I headed back to the train station, I underestimated the number of times I would need to stop to take photos of cops on Segways and people carrying giant plastic goats, so I ended up missing my train and decided to just hail a cab.
The cab driver asked me about the rally, and I told him it was really exciting and uplifting. He told me he has never been political – politics and drugs and crime, he said, they’re all tangled up together. But despite that, he wished he could have gone to the rally, just to see it.
Has it been hard, working today, I asked. He told me he preferred working, because his wife and two children just left for India for five months. Her brother is getting married, and his children have never been to India. How old are they, I asked. Two years old and nine months old, he said. He told me he misses them most when he goes home at night, so it’s better if he keeps working. I could see in the rear view mirror that his eyes were welling up a bit.
I suppose it’s good that they’ll avoid the cold winter, I said. Yes, he said, my baby was a preemie and he gets a lot of colds in the winter and that makes me sad. Definitely, I agreed, there is nothing more heartbreaking than a sick baby.
He lost his job in IT, and now drives a cab full time. He’d like to buy a house, but can’t afford it. His landlord was shady and now their building is in foreclosure so he has to move out of his apartment by December, while his family is still in India. We complained about the cost of apartments in Chicago, and wondered when this real estate crisis would start to make housing more affordable here.
After he got to my corner, he turned off the meter and we chatted for another five minutes or so. We smiled and thanked each other for the conversation, and I told him to hang in there while his family was away. They would be back before he knew it.
I came home and drank some wine while I watched the final results roll in. I was a little envious as the TV cameras flashed back to the crowds at Grant Park when Obama stepped onto the stage.
But right now, I am filled with hope. Not because I was swept away by the clever campaigns and media hype, and certainly not because I think a new leader will fix everything. I’m filled with hope because a conversation with a stranger reminded me that whether our candidate wins or loses, whether we believe in the same things or not, we still get to live in a country where people willingly make sacrifices and leave loved ones and cross oceans all based on the dream of greater opportunities and brighter futures.
So thank you, internets, for convincing me that I needed to be a part of this moment. You’re all my favorites.
My dilemma: 75% of me wants to go down to the Obama rally in Grant Park after work on Tuesday to take photos and absorb that insane energy, but the other 25% of me fears being trampled by the expected one million attendees. Like, a lot.
So what, pray tell, do I do? Go down there, take some photos of the crowds and then sneak off into the night like a ninja? Just go straight home, get some take and bake pizza and drink wine while the election results roll in? What to do, what to do…
Let’s look to the calming effect of an old typewriter for guidance.