Monday, April 26, 2010

There is No App For That

It is official. I am a marketing sucker. No better than a kid who sees a commercial for Super Bubble Sugar Bombs Breakfast cereal promising a secret decoder ring in the box, and becomes a single-minded creature wracked by longing, feverish with desire. I love pretty packaging, I am powerless in the face of "coolness" and the right spokesperson can make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

And I really REALLY wanted to not want an IPad. I wanted to acknowledge Apple’s genius, to respect the sleek packaging, and yet, to not have a soul-sucking sense of covetousness every time I see the damn billboards and commercials.

I am not being terribly successful in this endeavor.

The logical, intelligent side of me recognizes that I have talked myself into many small gadgets, a significant percentage of them Apple products, over the years. One of these is myIPod Touch, which I love and adore and which has literally made both air travel and exercise not only tolerable, but often even pleasant and entertaining. And since the IPad is essentially the Honey, I Blew Up The Baby version of my lovely Touch, there really isn’t much need. Or ANY need. The Touch does every single thing that the IPad would do, just smaller. It is not an investment that I have any single reason to make. I have the Kindle App, which allows me to read books. I can watch movies and television easily. I can check the scores of my teams and read the top news stories and play games. And since, despite my rapidly advancing age, my eyesight is still good, there is not one of these things that needs to happen on a larger scale. And then there are all those other delicious Apps. The Moron Test, and the cool travel stuff. I have a dream dictionary which helps me determine the meaning of that weird black and white octupus chasing me in the night (actual meaning, don't eat pizza close to bedtime). I have the Louvre App if I need to see some art RIGHT NOW. I have Apps to find places to eat, and Apps to find taxis, I even have an App solely for the identification of cheese.

My friend Jen Lancaster is part of a new syndicated column called Humor Hotel, and her most recent article is about the Apps she wishes they made. I especially like her idea for a “How Long do I Have to Get Home Before the Pit Bull Whizzes in the Basement” App. Because I hate that Jen has to constantly battle the effluvious emissions of her menagerie, but also because I spend time in that basement, and it is always more enjoyable if it does not smell like pit pee. The article is really funny, you should read it here.

But it got me thinking about my own list of Apps that would be useful….

For example, I am in a constant battle with my digestive system, which alternately works totally fine (and therefore craves things that are not particularly healthy for it, in quantities which contribute to my lifelong struggle with the size of my butt), and then goes all catawampus and makes me bilious and unable to fully enjoy life. As a result, I am beyond diligent about food safety. I throw away anything with an expiration date the second the clock hits midnight on that day, and no amount of smelling it and telling me it is fine can stop me. Leftovers and prepared foods from the store hit the can after two days. I won’t buy meat on sale, even if I plan to cook it that night, because I am sure it is close to being thoroughly toxic. I won’t eat street food, no matter how delicious it smells, no matter how clean the cart and cook looks, not even if Anthony Bourdain himself has touted it as the best damn whatever he has ever put in his gaping maw.

My life as a passionate foodie and cook is also an exercise in “please PLEASE please let me not throw up”. My poor Charming Suitor is bearing the brunt of this mania, since he lives much more on the edge of funky when it comes to foodstuffs, and quite rightly feels that my obsessiveness in this area is a little severe. I am working on trying not to say “you are going to eat those leftovers from FIVE DAYS AGO?!?!” when I am at his house, since his relationship with his tummy is his own business, and to my knowledge, he does not poison himself with any regularity. On the flip side, he also had to spend a truly miserable weekend with me out at the Farm where I managed to give myself water poisoning (algae in the water cooler, who knew?) and had to entertain himself while I spent the better part of the day communing with the toilet instead of taking romantic walks or going exploring. So he does understand and is very tolerant of my need for caution.

So I would dearly love a “Go Ahead and Eat That” App that would tell me yay or nay on whether something I am about to consider eating is going to cause gastric holocaust.

A “World’s Best Boyfriend GPS Locator” App sure would have come in handy during the years I spent endlessly dating badly while Charming Suitor was living only 2.4 miles away from me.

Ditto a “Profile Lie Detector” App for all those online guys and gals who create interesting fictions about themselves and waste the time of those of us who actually like their potential dates single, age appropriate, and honest. A "There Will Not Be Anyone There For You" Event App would also be great for Singles who often feel obliged to get reasonably dolled up and attend things they aren't actually interested in on the off chance their soul mate might be there.

While mine is pretty finely tuned, I have plenty of pals who could really use a “Gaydar” App, so that they can stop inventing romances with guys they “have such a strong chemistry with” but who are not actually on their team.

A “How Long Before I Kill This Plant” App would come in handy for people like me who have black thumbs, since plunking down $20 on a Home Depot potted orchid is only cost effective if I can get at least a month out of it before it is terminal.

Or a “Your Friend Will Get Three of Those” present detector App, to eliminate embarrassment at birthday parties, weddings and baby showers.

I would dearly love a “Safe to Leave the Bathroom” App that would warn me if my skirt was tucked into the back of my tights or if I had a toilet paper runner attached to my shoe. Order now and it comes with a trial version of a “You Have Something Stuck in Your Teeth” App.

And a "There is a Mindless Marathon of Some Stupidly Enjoyable Guilty Pleasure Show That You Are Too Embarassed to Tivo On This Weekend" App would really assist in creating the need to be at home of a Sunday.

For now, I am still enjoying the heck out of my IPod Touch, and the Apps that do exist. And I’m working on my knee-jerk “I WANT” reaction to the IPad.

If only a “You Don’t Really Need That” App was on the market to talk me off the ledge.

What Apps do you need in your life?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Urine Always On My Mind

This past Saturday night Charming Suitor and I co-hosted our first dinner party. A blending of two couples that are good friends of his (and quickly becoming some of my favorite people) and one couple from my gang. All foodies and wine lovers, including one fine-dining chef and one owner of amazing wine store, who tucked happily and enthusiastically into a feast prepared by me and CS, and some truly special bottles from CS’s cellar…including a 1959 Anjou which was about one of the best things I have ever drunk in my entire life.

It was amazing to plan and execute a party with a partner who is both interested in the proceedings and a really skilled compatriot in the kitchen, and every part of it was enormous fun, from deciding the menu to washing the dishes.

SIDENOTE: Can I just say, cheese course is always a good idea, especially if you are smart enough to find one nibble that will change the lives of your guests, which for us was the ridiculously creamy and fantastic Lake’s Edge…a mold-ripened goat cheese with a line of vegetable ash running down the center, from Blue Ledge Farms in Vermont. Sweet fancy Moses that is ridiculously good cheese. Order. Now. We tasted it for the first time at my cousin’s restaurant Applewood in Brooklyn, and had to have it shipped in for the party. So very very delish.

Charming Suitor and I agreed that nothing says “perfect dinner party” more than when a group of people, some of whom have only known each other for a couple of hours, can laugh so hard together that they are all wiping tears and clutching sides. For me, it is the moment when someone says, “Stop, I’m going to pee.” Because laughing till you almost pee is the best laughter there is.

It definitely beats laughing till you actually pee.

Peeing on oneself once you have achieved an age of double digits is just, um, problematic. On many levels. And yet, I have recently discovered that many many people have really great stories about that very thing. And in a bit of irony, they are mostly so funny that they will indeed make you laugh hard enough that you just might, well, pee.

I will suggest you might want to take a short bathroom break right about now.

La di da. Dum da dum. Done? Good.

For me, urine has often been a source of stress. I was a bed-wetter till I was about nine or so, making childhood sleepovers an exercise in restraint, not drinking anything for hours before bed, no matter how thirsty I got, and waking paranoid every couple of hours or so to sneak off to the bathroom, squeezing as hard as I could just to be sure any stray drops didn’t betray me later. I think I was the only nine-year old who did Kegels without even knowing it.

My first trip to the lady-parts doc involved a small accident with a full- to-the-brim urine sample, and a small lump in the doctor’s office carpet. When I tripped, my arm made a wide sweeping arc forward and over my head, sending a truly spectacular flourish of still-warm specimen all over the walls and ceiling. It was much like a Vegas hotel fountain show, I only lacked lighting and dramatic music. Hilarious to those present in the waiting room, and to me now, but at the time, well, you can imagine how mortifying. All I remember is thinking “Great. And now, I still have to let some strange adult person look at my crotch up close.” That, and we had to stick around the office long enough for me to muster up another sample, since apparently, scraping it off the wall wasn’t a viable option.

Lucky for me, and my girlfriends, I outgrew the bedwetting, and went on to a long career of totally fun slumber parties. I learned the important lesson of watching your feet when carrying things you don’t want to spill. I also became something of a camel, and to this day can, if I choose, go hours and hours without needing to hit the ladies, making me excellent on road trips.

When I was fifteen or so, the family was gathered in the living room to watch the Grammy’s or some other musical event. Crystal Gayle was doing a performance on the show. Remember Crystal Gayle? She was the bewitching songstress popular in the mid-seventies thru early eighties who was famous not only for her song stylings, but for the mane of glossy brunette hair that swept literally around her ankles. For this performance she was wearing a spangly mini dress and strode around the stage, her flowing locks cascading behind her as she moved. When she finally stopped center stage for the final powerful note, she stood strong, legs planted apart, arms over her head, the note going on forever. Her hair made a long graduated V nearly to the floor. And mid-belt, my dad, almost offhand said softly:

“She really should trim those pubes.”

And I laughed, you guessed it, TILL I PEED. Mere months away from being a licensed driver, halfway through high school, and I laughed so hard that I just did not make it to the bathroom, and I peed in my pants, doubled over, trying to stop the flow, all the way from the living room to the bathroom.

Recently I was sharing this story with a girlfriend, who lives in a large highrise, on a top floor, at the end of a long hallway. She confessed that a few months ago she was in her car on the way home and realized she had to pee. By the time she got to her building and parked, it was really bad. We talked about the weird phenomenon where you might just have to pee a little, but somehow when you get home it gets ridiculously urgent, so bad that you can barely get the key in the door before feeling like you might not make it. For me, this has meant more than a few quick staggers from the front door to the bathroom, coat and purse flung behind me as I go, but I live on the first floor. For my girlfriend, by the time the elevator got to her floor, it was too late.

She peed.

All the way down the hallway, leaving a steady little trickle mark on the carpet from the elevator till about halfway to her apartment. She lives in a dog friendly building, so she figured it would be blamed on the elderly cocker spaniels from 1704.

I mentioned this story at lunch with another friend who said that was nothing. She had to have an ultrasound a couple of years ago, and for that you have to have a full bladder. She drank and drank water from the moment she woke up in preparation. Her appointment was scheduled for twelve-thirty, which she thought would be fine. Until she got in a cab to head to the doctor’s office. And hit traffic. She sat in the back of the cab with her legs crossed, cramping and sweating, until finally she couldn’t take it anymore. She told the cab to pull over in front of a restaurant up the block and asked the driver to wait for her. She got inside, a large open room with a central staircase of floating glass stairs winding up to the second level. She asked the hostess for the bathroom, and the girl pointed up the stairs. My friend hit the first step and her bladder just let go. She thought briefly about trying to run up the stairs and then thought better of it, and instead strode calmly upwards, as if nothing in the world was amiss, with what she described as an inhuman amount of pee running down the staircase.

In the middle of the lunch rush.

Yesterday morning, in the glorious balmy spring weather, Charming Suitor and I took his dog The Amazing Wonder Boy for a long walk around my neighborhood. Up the block is a lovely little church, and on the sidewalk they had placed a sandwich board announcing Easter Mass and inviting everyone to come attend.

Wonder Boy strode up to it, looked at it with his little head tilted as if reading the invitation, then lifted his leg and peed on it.

When you gotta go, you just gotta go.

Meanwhile, it has been a while since I posted a recipe, and this is one you gotta try…
Adapted from the recipe for the unctuous filling of the Edamame Dumplings at Buddakan in NYC, named by Charming Suitor as the sexiest food in the world, to become the best dip ever. It was thoroughly praised Saturday night, and I give it to you to try at your next event…

Edamame Dip
Serves 8-12 as an appetizer

3 c Edamame (I buy these frozen and already out of the pod, or you will be shelling them forever)
½ c good quality unsalted butter, at room temp
½ c heavy cream
½ c white truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion Sprouts or chopped chives

Boil Edamame until tender in well-salted water, about 6-8 minutes. Puree in food processor with rest of ingredients until very smooth, and season to taste. Serve room temperature or slightly warmed sprinkled with onion sprouts or chopped chives.

I served it with carrots, radishes, cucumber, jicama and sesame crackers for dipping.