Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First World Problems: Cooking on Your Vacation

I have wanted to share these thoughts for a while now because seriously people?  COOKING IN A VACATION HOME BE HARD.  No, not hard like distilling your own water from a dirty puddle or hard like making your own shoes out of tires and your own flesh.  Not hard like trying to feed your family with food stamps or wading through a pile of medical bills because you did something like break your leg whilst being uninsured.  I get that.  In fact, I've had a few sentences of this typed on here since I left for vacation because I thought it was a worthy subject, one that might help one of you guys with a real issue that you may have.  But then I started seeing a lot of comments on other sites from what I like to call, "The PRIVILEGED! Police."  If you haven't seen this, bless your heart.  You've been doing something worthwhile with your life.  Basically, The PP is the most politically correct group of internet commenters ever, like if the ACLU knocked up Jezebel and then Jezebel had the most amazing at home water birth while listening to music purchased from that feminist bookstore from Portlandia.  The Privileged! Police would be the product of that water birth.  And what they do is hang around websites and when someone makes a comment that reflects certain benefits they have received in life and perhaps does not show as much empathy for someone else because of this, (being white or able bodied or with a home are all common signs of "privilege"), they call the person out.  And really, that's a noble pursuit in many ways.  We all do need to be reminded (tactfully) that just being born healthy and in a society or community that values our lives is kind of like hitting the lottery, only you win it everyday, all day.

BUT.  But.  Some people take it a little far.  Not all the people.  Some people.  Just as with everything.  So instead of having a reasonable conversation about  things, you end up with a lot of people just using "PRIVILEGED" as a code word for "JACKASS."  And it gets almost comical.  But still...all I could think about when writing this was "PRIVILEGED." 

And, yes, I am.  I grew up in a white middle class family.  My mom was a wonderful mom who taught me how to cook and to value education above all things.  I had clothes growing up, and I never went hungry.  I went on vacation every year, usually to the mountains with my dad and the beach with my mom.  We were never rich by any stretch of the imagination.  And I DEFINITELY am not wealthy right now (my student loan companies would be happy to tell you that). But I do understand that I have more than others.  And that any personal things that I might have now have come from being born with all the benefits that I laid out above. 

So this is a long way of saying, I get it.  But I'm writing it anyway, because well, there are maybe some other jackholes out there who might want to talk about cooking in a vacation house.

(Which makes me wonder...say Mitt Romney wants to buy a new car elevator for his 15th house in La Jolla.  Where does he go for that information?  Are there car elevator blogs out there?  Do they have "PRIVILEGED!" disclaimers?  God, I hope they do, otherwise commenter FREEGANJILL from Poughkeepsie is going to lay into them SO HARD.) time on my honeymoon, my husband and I decided to stay in and fix dinner together.  We had lived together for a while before that and well, had two kids already (because we'se sinners, y'all), so there was none of this beginners-learning-to-live-alongside-each-other stuff.  We were a finely oiled machine in the kitchen in many ways.  We were at the beach, so we went to the market and bought these lovely shrimp, OMG I still remember how gorgeous those things were.  I decided to whip up some pasta with fresh tomatoes to go along side.  So we're cooking and we're laughing and we're drinking wine and we're sunburnt and it's all sweet, kind of like that scene in Annie Hall with the lobster except the shrimp were most certainly deceased.  And I remember it like it was yesterday:  Matt goes, "Your pasta's done."  And I say something like, "Ok, get the colander."  So he looks around and says, "There is no colander."  And I laugh because GOD WHO DOESN'T HAVE A COLANDER.  That's like not having a toilet paper holder.  Or sheets. It HAS to be there,  I think. MEN.  They just cannot find things, amirite?  I start looking for the colander myself.  And yeah, it's not there. 

And this is how I learned that if you have some boiling pasta and need to drain it, a newlywed (buzzed) husband holding a kitchen towel over the sink is a really sorry way to do it.

These are the problems one runs into when you attempt to cook a proper meal in a vacation home.  Peeling nonstick pans.  Plastic mixing bowls that were stained with marinara sauce sometime during the late 90's.  The knives that God forgot.  And all this is not to say that the owners of rental homes are some kind of negligent bunch.  I imagine it is crazy hard to keep up with all of your crap because we as humans?  We suck.  We fuck up stuff for the pastime.  Especially when it is technically not ours to start out with. 

Therefore, it is best to come prepared.  And this year, after many years of trying, I think I finally managed that.  And here's what I did. 

First, I got a really, really cheap open top plastic tote thing from the dollar store.  You don't want anything large, but you do want an open top so that you can just throw stuff into it before you leave and when you pack up to go back home--you don't want to have to diligently pack, you want to be able to throw.  And then I made myself a kit.  You'll want to think of a few meals you might cook ahead of time, even if they are easy things like breakfasts and sandwiches.  And obviously, you are only putting in things that are non-perishable.  Here's what I came up with:

1.  Cast iron skillet--large.  This is my kitchen workhorse, so I knew I could make breakfast in it (eggs, bacon, pancakes) and then if, worse comes to worse and we can't use the grill because of rain, I can sear a mean steak in it.  Try to think of a pan like this that you use often and take it.  I can guarantee you right now that the pans the rental has will be absolute shit.  No one puts their All Clad cookware in a vacation rental, you guys.  And no, you do not want to bring your whole set.  You are on vacation.  One pan will work fine.
2.  Microplaner.
3.  Two decent knives wrapped in kitchen towels--one with a serrated edge and one more like a chef's knife.  Most rentals will have steak knives because I guess they assume people eat steak on vacation.  Yummm, steak.
4.  Olive oil.
5.  Salt and pepper.  At the beach that my mom and I go to, we always go to the grocery store first thing after arriving on Saturday, and the S&P section is always raided.  Bring your own.  There is no sense in buying extra.  Save that cash for ice cream.
6.  Lemons.  That's what the microplaner is for, incidentally.  Lemons are multi-purpose--they taste great in a marinaded, can go in your drink, can be zested into pancake mix, put on an apple to preserve it once sliced, or even used to clean up the kitchen and microwave. Plus, they are cheap.  Grab a couple.
7.  Cinnamon.
8.  Homemade spice blends.  This was the real A HA! moment of my packing.  If you want to do "serious" cooking while on vacation, you'll need spices.  But who wants to do serious cooking?  And really, who wants to purchase all the spices you'll need just for a teaspoon of this or that?  We picked out a couple of blends ahead of time, stirred them up and packed them in empty spice jars to take with us.  For our needs, we decided on an espresso steak rub (yummmm, steak), my husband's BBQ rub and a Jamaican spice blend.  And think outside the block with it.  I discovered that the bbq rub was really tasty on very thinly sliced red potatoes that were then coated in cooking spray and then roasted in the oven.  The Jamaican spices added some fun to burgers and grilled pineapple rings.
9.  Cooking spray.
10.  Charcoal and lighter fluid if you intend on grilling, and you know you do.  (We stayed in a cabin once that had a gas grill on a closed in patio next to the hot tub and that was AWESOME, but most places just have the traditional "camp" style grill like you find in a park.  It will definitely get the job done.)

It might seem like a lot, but this was all super easy to round up, and a lot easier and cheaper than shopping for it once on vacation.

Now, once you are there, you really don't want to spend your entire vacation cooking.  And you really shouldn't.  Steaks and burgers are great choices because they don't require a lot of clean up or ingredients and taste really, really good.  In the past, I have even brought a couple of things to get my mind, and my shortcuts, working.  Homemade cinnamon bread (my Sam's favorite) is a tasty snack to have on hand, but makes really good french toast for Sunday morning.  Also, bringing a BIG premade sandwich is a great thing to have on hand:  you can bring it with you and then once you arrive, you don't have to worry about going back out to dinner or to the store and can step it up with the relaxing already.  My mom makes a great one on a big Italian bread that has ham, turkey, veggies, Italian dressing and marinated artichoke hearts.  You make it the night before you leave, wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and then tote it in a cooler the next day.  It just gets better as it sits.  Gabby's favorite is this blend:  roast beef, sliced sharp cheddar, tomatoes and thin red onion slices on a hard French baguette with a sauce made from mayo and Dijon mustard.  Same general idea on that one.  Once you arrive, you just slice everyone off a hunk, serve it up with chips, and VOILA.  Dinner is served.

Now some will read this and say that this defeats the purpose of vacation, that a vacation is about relaxation and eating out.  And I get that.  My mom and I have a TYPED LIST of the restaurants we HAVE to hit next week while we are at the beach.  But here's the thing:  some nights you just don't feel like getting dressed to go out for dinner.  And your kids don't either. And the big difference between you and them is that if you feel a little sluggish during dinner, you'll be fine.  Your child, however, will morph into Charlie Sheen on a three day coke bender.  So staying in and fixing something simple is INFINITELY better than that scenario.  And this is even discounting the ever popular financial motive to cook-in.  For my family of 5 to eat in a full-service restaurant, we're looking at dropping at least $75.  To eat burgers off the grill at the cabin:  considerably less. 

And I reinterate:  you don't have to make it fancy.  Full confession:  I used packaged pancake mix on our trip, the kind you only have to add water to.  I don't think I've EVER done that.  And while I made considerable jokes about our chemical laden breakfast, it was really good.  Everything tastes good when you're on vacation!

Also?  Check for a colander before you make pasta.  Third degree burns are forever.

(No, Matt did not get a third degree burn.  He did get splashed a little, but that was nothing compared to the sunburn he got from laying on the beach like a slug and reading Harry Potter.  Ah, young love!) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Shorts Story

I have written about shorts before and I guess I should just a post a link to that and call it a day, but I have a whole lot more to say on this subject.  Mostly because of an unfortunate video.

My husband, you guys, is Clark Griswold.  Vacations and Christmases are things that he takes very, very seriously.  He plans our family vacations according to this "Five Year Plan" that culminates with us taking our lovely brood to Europe (I'm thinking this may be more like a seven year plan or a ten year plan).  He plans and he plans and he plans and we always have a lovely time, no matter where we go.  This year, as I mentioned earlier, we went to a cabin in Gatlinburg, if for no other reason than to recover from the last two years where we have done massive, walking-intensive, historically themed vacations.  Our biggest goal was to relax...and rest...and relax some more.  I wanted a hot tub, and my husband wanted a theater room.  And that was what we got.  Matt planned even more stuff for the cabin--renting 90's comedies to introduce to the kids, buying a vast array of popcorn.  And he made a fun DVD of our past vacation exploits to show the kids when we arrived--basically just photo stills set to music.

So we got there and while the kids were running about, getting excited about the wonders of our home for the next week (we live in a single level house--the fact that our vacation cabin was 3 floors was all the excitement they needed), we loaded the homemade DVD into the theater room's player.  I popped some popcorn and we pulled them away from the pool table and video consoles and had a family viewing of vacations past.  It was really fun--seeing how much the kids had grown and reliving lots of fun memories.  Matt had interspersed lots of funny comments, so we laughed like fiends at inside jokes.  When the video was done, the kids were playing around with the little menu thingie and we found some assorted actual videos we had taken.  And there was a lovely video from two years ago that featured us playing putt-putt.

I was wearing a dress.

A dress that I thought looked really adorable on me and was super comfortable and cool.

And although I didn't do it, somehow someway, I came really, really close to flashing my underwear at my husband when I was leaning down to get my ball (REPEATEDLY).  Which means that there was almost video taken of my fluffy white ass. 

Moral of this story:  sometimes, although dresses are divine in the summer, you really just should wear a pair of shorts.

You guys, I love dresses.  I do!  If I had my druthers, I would have done little over the last month but sit at my work computer and order dresses.  It is truly all I want to wear in the summer because most are work appropriate (especially in the summer months when I [and everyone else] can really get away with more) and weekend appropriate and NEARLY everything else appropriate.  But there are times that you just need a good pair of shorts.  I KNOW.  It's screwed up.  It is a fact that I ignored for nearly 10 years.  But shorts serve their purpose so well.

This year, I ponied up for two pairs because there are two weekend days and I really only wear shorts on the weekend.  I am open to another pair--I really wanted a sailor-type style J.Crew Factory was selling, but  I didn't order online while I could and then the B&M Factory store didn't have them, and then, well, I'm always partial to a pair of crisp white shorts at the beach (where I'm going next week!).  But two pairs pretty much serves my needs very well, especially considering I still wear dresses and skirts, even on the weekends.  I always buy a pair of J.Crew 5" chinos, so this year I decided to get them in neon pink.  And guys?  So much fun.  I love those things.  I've been wearing them with a chambray shirt, but they are also really cute with simple v-neck tees.  And I also got these, because why the hell not?  Printed shorts are cool.  I pretty much told myself I was keeping them even if they made me look like I weighed 800 lbs because I liked them that much.  Luckily, they do not. 

Now, if you really need a shorts primer, you can go back to that link above and read all about it because I wrote it last year, and well, there ya go.  Here is the corollary to all that:

1.  Don't overspend on white shorts.  I mentioned above that I love the look of white shorts in the summer time, and I really do.  BUT.  White shorts are....white.  White like the snow, white like Connecticut, white like a virgin.  And, like all of the things above, they are easy to taint.  I find that I have never been able to wear a pair of white shorts longer than one summer.  They just get too stained.  And I have thought about this a lot, because I have had my white jeans definitely longer than one season and they show no stains of any consequence and really, what I think is that when you wear shorts, you are doing more things that invite dirt.  Things like meandering along trails and eating barbecue and chasing kids and eating drippy ice cream cones on the boardwalk.  Darker hues hide the evidence of all this in a way that white just can't do.  So get some fo' cheap.  My pairs the last two years have been from Old Navy, and they usually work out just fine--no see-through, decent material, a quality purchase for the 15 or so smackers you'll pay for them.  You might also find a good pair at Target.  A couple of years ago, their Merona brand shorts were made of really nice material and my mom and I happened upon them when they were on sale for $10.  And there are always 4th of July sales to think about if you don't want to go too cheap.

2.   Don't go too big on top.  I love the look of a pair of shorter shorts (4 in. or shorter) and a blousy, flowy top of some sort.  It seems like a good balance, you know, and I see it in fashion magazines all the time.  It is also something that looks horrible on me.  It makes me look big all over, like I might be an offensive lineman stuffed into a pair of chinos and stranded at a barbecue.  And I don't think it is just me.  This is a really hard proportion to get right.  I see a lot of people who look lost in swaths of fabric up top, which makes them look bigger and well, hotter.  And not hot in a good way.  Hot in a "HAND ME MY CHURCH FAN, BERTHA." way.  Although peasant tops are great on some folks, we just all ain't Marianne Faithfull, if you know what I'm a-sayin.  When all else fails, girls, shorts and a fitted, quality t-shirt is not a bad combo.  It usually hides that which you would like to hide, flatters assets like boobs and shoulders AND has the added benefit of being cool.  Even a nice ribbed tank top in a pretty color can compliment your shorts well.  Basically, what I'm saying is that less is more and simple is better and blah blah blah, I'm boring myself.

3.  Don't try to make them more than they are.  I was very tempted to type here that you really shouldn't try to formalize your shorts in any way because that is a skill best left to the true fashionistas among us, but then I remembered seeing someone pull it off.  For my mom's graduation, a friend of my mom's attended in white city shorts with a really pretty floral print Ann Taylor cardigan and a fitted empire waist camisole underneath.  She wore sparkly flat sandals and nice jewelery and pinned her hair up.  The look was classy, appropriate, and much, much nicer than 90% of what I saw other people wearing to the event.  That is an example of someone making their shorts work in a totally different place--she could have just as well worn the same shorts to a barbecue or over her bathing suit. In some ways, the key to this is to treat your shorts like they are a nice skirt and accessorizing in the same ways.  But like I said.  This is tricky.  Unless you have just the right pair of shorts, you're going to look like an idiot.  I feel like if you are doing anything where you would need to worry about all this, you could just wear a dress.  And you were going to do that anyway, right?

And let's remember the principal rule from my original shorts post:  NO1CURR.  Of course, I am paraphrasing, and maybe it's a bit harsh, but well, everyone else is so caught up in their own body flaws during the summer, that it is helpful to remember that no one else is worried that you didn't lose that last 5 lbs. and no one can tell that your legs have caused you more sleepless nights in your 29 years than you ever would admit to publicly.  To them, you just look like a happy person enjoying her summer.  And if they are the type to notice that you are perhaps not as thin as, say, Gisele Bundchen, well, you don't need them as a friend anyway.  Come sit with me, dear.  I'm sure if I know that meanie I can think of someone mildly related to them that once gave someone a blow job in a funeral parlor (TRUE FACT:  I do know of someone who did this, and now you all want to know who, don't you???), and if I don't, I can just make something up.

As an addendum, if you are truly shorts phobic, and really, you shouldn't be, but if you are, I will let you in on my favorite new secret purchase.  This charming skirt from Old Navy, currently $15 in store.  I'm wearing this sucker RIGHT NOW, you guys.  I had wanted a chevron dress for a while but couldn't find one that I really liked that wasn't full out maxi, so when I saw the skirt this past weekend, I knew I must try it.  And I really, really like it.  These type of cheap, flowy skirts usually put me on the one-way express train to Frumpsylvania, but this one has the nice print which brings the eye inward, and yes, does make you look thinner.  And the top is a roll-down style waist which means you can tinker a bit with the length AND the waistband is big enough to sort of "control" your tummy.  I'm not kidding!  It totally does.  And it is super comfortable.  I originally thought I might just wear it over my bathing suit, but guys, this thing looks really cute on, and yes, I am wearing it right now in the office, albeit with a jacket and my "dressy" sandals.  And like I said, you can get away with a lot in the summer, at least in my office, where, because of vacation schedules and such, I go whole days without seeing anyone of any consequence. 

I just won't be wearing it to play putt-putt.

Which I am exceedingly good at.

Anyone wanna play?  I'll wear the shorts this time!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Uncle Tony

*I was on vacation last week, and I have some happy, vacation-y posts that I plan to write because who doesn't love hearing about someone else's trip??? (Answer:  EVERYONE.)  I haven't had time, however, to get all of my vacation photos on the computer yet, and what's a vacation post without photos?  (Answer:  Mercifully brief.)  Stay tuned.

This morning, I read an article about xoJane staff member, Cat Marnell, leaving her position at the online magazine.  If you follow anything from the xo community, you know Cat.  She's the drug addicted one, the girl who writes about beauty products while high on angel dust.  It makes for some interesting, if not voyeuristic, reading.  I actually discovered  xoJane through Cat's article about the death of Whitney Houston, an article I found to be interesting, well-written and thought provoking.  Now, granted, I find it interesting because I'm the same girl who has a TiVo season pass to Intervention.  Something about addiction and the troubles related to it just "gets" me.  My husband says it is because I'm a masochist.  And maybe I am.  I like seeing people in turmoil, maybe because it validates feelings of hopelessness, loss, etc. that I also feel.  BIG ENGLISH MAJOR FEELINGS.

So I watched Cat tumble.  I follow her on Twitter, and I clicked on all the articles and read all the stories and watched them make less and less sense.  I watched her get a second chance in a line of second chances, I watched people crop up in comments, saying things that were adoring, praising her and her exploits in ways that were just plain worrisome.  And I thought about her, and wished her the best.  But most of all, I thought about my Uncle Tony.

No one ever gave my Uncle Tony a second chance.

When I was a kid, I was scared to death of my Uncle Tony.  He was tall and he laughed all the time.  LOUDLY.  He was much younger than my dad, so he came unencumbered with a wife or with kids for me to play with.  He was just him.  And whenever he walked in my grandmom's front door, I hid behind her recliner.  She even served me a couple of meals back there.

Uncle Tony was just a string of things really--a string of failed jobs that never materialized, a string of women who came around for a Christmas or a birthday and were never seen again.  A few had kids--one had a daughter, exactly my age, who was of mixed race.  She was the first even vaguely black person I had ever talked to or spent time with.  I remember praying at night that he would marry that woman because I was entranced with her daughter's hair.  He moved around a lot.  I don't think I ever visited his house or knew exactly where he lived.  My dad never talked about him that much and he never came to family cook-outs or anything.  As a young child, I never realized this was odd.  Uncle Tony was just different.

As I got older though, I realized just how much fun Uncle Tony actually was.  He was the master of the prank gift.  My grandmother subscribed to the National Enquirer, a fact that my grandfather LOATHED and constantly made deprecating comments about.  One year, Uncle Tony purchased every single National Enquirer when it hit the newstands and then wrapped them all up in a big box with a bow on Christmas.  He gave the box to my grandfather, who opened it up to great conster--hmm, no.  Basically just a whole lot of cussing.  Merry Christmas 11 year old Morgan!  It's no wonder I never met a fucking swear word I didn't fucking like.  Under the big pile of newsprint, however, lied my Uncle's real present to my grandfather--a bottle of Jim Beam.  And that tells you a little something more now than it did when I was 11.  At any rate, far from being the kid cowering behind the LaZBoy, I grew to love any moment when my dad and his two brothers were together.  The jokes were insane.  Every Christmas Eve, I got tucked into my bed with my sides literally aching from all the laughter.

But the thing is, I grew up.  My grandfather died, I graduated from high school and moved away.  I called my grandmother, like clockwork, every Sunday.  She would give me little news bits about Uncle Tony every time I called.  He didn't grow up.  He continued to bounce from place to place and job to job.  He came to live at a house my grandparents owned, where an old aunt had once lived and died.  He went on disability.  He totaled his car.  He lost his license.  And then, well after I moved to California, he moved back in with my grandmother.  She was happy with this arrangement, as she made no bones about the fact that he was her baby and had always been her favorite.  I don't know how he felt.  How would you have felt?  I can't imagine it was good.

One Sunday I called my grandmother.  It was a great sunny Northern California day.  I had tutored that morning, teaching some kid whose parents made more money in a year than my grandfather ever saw in his life about World History for $195 a pop.  Being footloose and fancy free after my 9:00 lesson, I had driven around the coast a little before coming home as kind of a "You're awesome for being out of bed on a Sunday" present to myself.  I picked up some deli salads at the store and then headed home.  It was early Fall, and we sat on the couch and ate and were getting ready to watch the baseball game when I made the call.  I chatted with my grandmother for a while and she told me about her assorted health problems, which was always the basis of these Sunday conversations.  Then she said, "Hold on.  Tony wants the phone."

I don't think I had ever talked to my Uncle Tony on the phone before.  I thought she must be joking.  But sure enough, he came on the line.  He quickly told me that he had watched a Cal football game on TV the day before as it has been broadcast nationally.  We had watched the same one--my husband was, and is, a huge Cal football fan.  He then asked "Do you live in those hills?"  I answered that I did.  He asked if I could see the water.  I answered that I could.  He sighed loudly and said, "I do believe that is the most beautiful place I've ever seen."

This really affected me, so much so that I remember all the peculiarities of that day, of the conversation.  I lived a life, one that while I enjoyed, I did not appreciate.  I focused on my own worries, about the bills, about if my shoes were ok, if I had budgeted enough in gas money this week.  At that point in my life, my Uncle Tony literally had nothing.  His voice carried that across the 3000 plus miles that separated us.  I felt guilty about what I had and took for granted, and I felt his monumental sense of loss and what he could have had and did not.

Ten months later I was packing up my life in CA, preparing to move back to the East Coast.  I was sweeping up the bamboo floor in my daughter's room when the phone rang.  It was my stepmother.  I immediately thought that my grandmother had passed, but it wasn't that.  It was Uncle Tony.  He had died, in my grandmother's carport.  She said heart attack, but she knew better and I knew too.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up that he was a drug addict.  No one ever told me, but I saw.  A slurred word here and there.  A rolled eye.  An Oxycontin bottle in my grandmother's kitchen.  So I knew.  He wasn't even 50 yet.  And he was dead, in a car, on a hot summer day.

I want to give you a big poignant thing about my Uncle's life, about how he helped someone or impacted a life in some amazing way.  But I can't.  Here's the truth:  he was a drug addict.  His whole life.  He was a faceless, sad Appalachian statistic, one of the many, many people who struggle with drugs in my corner of the world.  He lived and he died as a drug addict.  He was not glamorous; he was the opposite.  He was not a parent, he was never married.  He did not know the joy of rolling around in bed and sticking your ass out and knowing that someone on the other side would wrap their arms around you subconsciously.  He left behind a TV set, and that was it.

I read about Cat and her world in New York with clubs and friends and all night parties.  It is a world that I cannot even pretend to know anything about.  I think I enjoyed reading her stuff because it taunted me with that life--a life that I, shackled to responsibility at such a young age, never even got a glimpse of.  And while I want her to get better, it smacks me coldly to think of all the people on Twitter, telling Cat that she is a "rock star" and pledging their adulation.  She is not a rock star.  She is a drug addict.  Like my Uncle Tony who most people would have been happy to ignore had he walked up the same aisle as them at the grocery store.

Addiction is something I live in fear of, if I am completely honest.  I know that it is in me, somewhere, to have addiction issues.  Sometimes I think I watch Intervention and its ilk just to give me enough of a jolt to where I will not go down that road.  When my cousin moved into my grandmother's house after my grandmother left for the nursing home, she found countless liquor bottles my grandfather stowed in the wall and that, presumably, my grandmother never found.  Behind the old washing machine was a veritable wall of flat vodka bottles.  There was one particular bottle of Jim Beam she found that was almost shoulder height on her 8 year old.  Yeah, addiction issues:  we haz em.  I keep an old picture of my grandfather that I found during one of these clean outs on my bedside table.  The inscription on the back reads "Old Drunk Jack at the Scott County Fair."

(Of note:  We also found a certificate given to my Uncle Tony when he graduated high school, congratulating him on never having missed a day of school, from first grade on.  He never even missed a minute of school--no early check outs, no tardiness, no nothing.  Mull that one.  It's a sad thing to mull.)

So here I sit, writing this, about a girl I will never know and a man I barely knew.  I feel sad.  Maybe that is why I am writing this.  There is certainly a rather D.A.R.E. undertone to this article, and maybe I mean that, and maybe I don't.  I literally do not give a fuck what consenting adults do in their spare time--if you like drugs, fine.  Your thing.  Do I want my kids to use drugs?  HELL NO.  I guess I implore you to try to keep that which will destroy you in check.  And no matter who we are, we all have something like that.  I dare you to say you do not.

And I write for Uncle Tony because he can't tell his story.  He doesn't have thousands of captivated tweeps, waiting to RT with glee.  But his is a story that is repeated millions of times over this country, and it is no less tragic because he is not thin and blonde.