So long, MJ

Michael Jackson is dead.

I’ll admit I was pretty surprised when I heard it on Thursday. In fact, after seeing someone’s Facebook post about it, I frantically searched the Internet for confirmation. At first, it was only TMZ’s gossip site offering any information. With sinking dread, I kept checking the big sites, all the while knowing that those damn gossip sites usually have the right track.

By the time NPR had posted, it was everywhere. The shock was there - for me, for everyone - and it was genuine. I was shocked to be shocked, too, because I’ve never been an enormous MJ fan, and he’d really become something of a circus show freak in recent years. So what was the big deal? How could some distant, bizarre celebrity’s death bring on such emotion?

While scoping the net for further details, I saw report on celebrity Twitters on the subject. John Mayer’s post caught my eye: "I think we'll mourn his loss as well as the loss of ourselves as children listening to Thriller on the record player." (Oh, John, always speaking the thoughts in my mind somehow - but that’s another blog.)

And that’s it - that’s the explanation. Sure, we’ve lost an American icon and incredible musician. But many of us have lost a familiar face...regardless of how unfamiliar it became over the years. Michael Jackson and his music have been a part of my life since birth - or even before it. And I have so many memories...

...dancing in the basement to “ABC” with my little sister and laughing hysterically at the part where Michael yells, “Sit down, girl! I think I love ya!”

...playing the original Thriller record (my favorite song was “The Girl is Mine” because Paul McCartney was in it) and poring over the picture of Michael on the cover. He was cute, yes, but also foreign to an 8-year-old me.

...Being allowed to watch the “Thriller” video (videos/MTV were banned in our house) because my dad, who genuinely appreciated MJ, thought it was amazing.

...Resorting to MJ’s ballads during my earlier experiences with heartache. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” usually did the trick, and helped to form the heal-a-heart-with-music trend that I still maintain today.

...Sneaking a peek at the “Black or White” video when my parents weren’t home. (Again with the no MTV thing.) It was such a wild, creative sight - animals, explosions, and the funny Macaulay Culkin rap, too. Even though MJ had transformed considerably at this point, this time period was when I first found him to be attractive. With the long, curly black hair and tight white v-neck, yes, he was sexy in an inexplicable way.

...Finding new meaning in “Man in the Mirror” as an adult and learning to appreciate MJ on a whole different level. I listened to the Thriller album just yesterday and realized what I couldn’t have known as a child: the immense level of his talent. Each song on that album was fresh, funky, irresistible. It’s still all of those things and more 25+ years later.

Michael’s last 15 years or so were really weird, and I think we all just chalked it up to fame and went along with our MJ-dangling-baby and MJ-freaky-face jokes. Now that he’s dead, I feel this strange pang of pity/sadness for the guy. He must have been so lonely. His entire life had been played out in public...he was famous at 5! No wonder he never knew how to be an adult; he’d been a child without a childhood. I really hope he’s in a better place now.

The Jacksons: An American Dream was on just the other day, and like always, I watched some of it even though I know nearly every line. Kept waiting for my favorite: “They’re gonna break up the band!” - a panicked squeal from a young Michael. My sister and I toss that line back and forth at random times just to get a laugh out of each other. Ah, Michael - thanks for memories tied to your great music, and for being the one freaky Jackson that we could still find endearing. Rest well, dude - miss ya already.


Lazy gnocchi days

One of my favorite things about the summer season is all of the free time to experiment with new recipes and practice various cookery techniques. For example, today's hours were filled almost exclusively with making gnocchi. I've made gnocchi several times before, so this time was merely an attempt for improvement.

I'm a hands-on kind of cook; a messy, squishy, dig-in-and-get-it-under-your-fingernails kind. Naturally, I particularly enjoy working with dough - pasta, bread, danish, pie - whatever. Today's gnocchi fit that bill and I happily spent hours among the potato-y, floury dough. Its silken softness and starchy, eggy scent was a delightful component of my afternoon.

Anyway, I did finally get the hang of forming the gnocchi today as well. I attribute this feat to trading the tines of a fork for the side of a whisk when shaping the gnocchi. Simply flatten the dough against the whisk and roll one end to the other to create a shell-like blob with defined ridges. Beautiful little blobs...I served them with spinach-stuffed chicken and a roasted tomato and pepper sauce. (Great way to use up those aged tomatoes that are too soft/mushy for salad, by-the-by.)

Gnocchi recipe (courtesy of Michael Chiarello) can be found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-chiarello/potato-gnocchi-recipe/index.html


Cat cure-all

It's been one of THOSE days.

For a creature of habit and careful planning, today did not go well. I awoke feeling crummy - in a mental/emotional sense - and therefore in no mood to follow my regimented summer schedule. (Consider "regimented" lightly - it's not exactly been boot camp over here or anything!)

Anyway, my morning of "I-can't-deal-so-I'll-just-watch-a-movie" turned into an afternoon of obsessing over my blog background, which swiftly took over my evening as well. Workout? Nope. (Not that it was really an option, anyway - yesterday's yoga/Jillian combo left me crippled.) Cleaning? Organizing? General productivity? Nope. Nope. Nope.

So here I've managed to squander 14 hours of my day (mostly) on the computer. The horror of this realization put me in a mood even more terrible than the one I awoke with. Did I seriously just spend an entire day on the Internet? Even a phone call from Mom, even popcorn for dinner, even a delightful evening thunderstorm didn't cheer me up - so it had to be bad. True, there are deeper reasons to my moodiness above just a worthless day, but still.

Just as I began to slip into that unrecoverable hole of despair, Edith hopped up onto the couch and snuggled up against the side of my thigh. She fidgeted, then purred. Twisted sideways and now snoring slightly, she was like a furry little bear.

And in two minutes flat, that cat just made my (wasted) day.


Redeeming qualities of summertime (perhaps a lesser season, but not without virtues)

1. The sweet, honeyed scent of Russian Olive trees blooming in June

2. Watching an afternoon movie in my quiet living room, darkened by a reliable thunderstorm

3. Cool evening breeze wafting through an open window

4. Fresh mixed berries over vanilla bean ice cream

5. Chirpy mornings on my sunny patio - the perfect time/place for reading a great book

6. Spying on my kitchen herbs as they sprout and grow

7. Staying up late to catch up on an HBO series

8. Browsing fragrant, colorful fruit & vegetable stands at the local farmer's market

9. - Cold cucumber soup topped with fresh dill, tomato, and a luxurious drizzle of olive oil
- Salty corn chips paired with creamy, citrusy guacamole
- Tangy-sweet cherry tomatoes, fragrant basil, and pungent goat cheese

10. Pale purply-pink sunsets over the mountains, viewed best from a rooftop patio

11. The whir of lawnmowers and sharp smokiness of a charcoal grill, the jangling tune from an ice cream truck, laughter from children as they play in the street at twilight


Blogger - what?

I'm a born blogger.

A blog is essentially a journal, right? Or thoughts and feelings pinned down onto paper? Is the only prerequisite for owning a blog simply to think, write and share? If so, then this blogging business isn't news at all to me.

I've kept a journal since the 8th grade - though that first one consisted of one-liner details, like, "Mike caught my eye in the lunchroom today" and "School dance - ugh!" By high school, I had two journals going at once - one of my own, filled with all sorts of secrets kept from my parents, and one shared with my best friend, Traci. This journal was a fabulous idea - we kept it in a plain notebook and passed it back and forth between classes. It allowed us to write notes to each other without getting caught by a teacher. Our journal was creative, filled with poetry and art (not just doodling, mind you - Traci was/is an amazing artist). I still remember writing poems in that journal during 9th grade English, scribbling away while Mr. McCloskey babbled about the importance of "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." in A Tale of Two Cities.  We'd comment on Senora Cable's boring Destinos tapes, and wrote page after page (after page) about boys and heartache. 

Ahh...boys and heartache. Clearly correlated, and seemingly, a never-ending issue. While adulthood has shown me that there indeed are much larger life struggles - career choices, financial woes, death - to this day, boys and heartache continue to be topics most violently felt, most continuously processed. Rooted in my soul, boys and heartache are easiest for me to write about, too...no matter the form they've taken on life's road.

But this blog won't be just about broken hearts or musings on men; it won't have that one specific goal. I've begun it simply for myself, truly, in an attempt to maintain a sanity that may be threatened by inevitable changes in my future. And don't we all wish for that - a lifeline when life itself becomes unbearable?