Monday, October 24, 2005

It's A Swedish Thing

This weekend I built a bookcase.

More specifically, my fabulous sister-in-law and I assembled a bookcase purchased from a Swedish furniture wonderland.
IKEA is its name, and assemble-it-at-your-own-peril furniture is its game.

Our bookcase's formal name is EKTORP. We prefer to call it STANLEY.

Last night, as I stood admiring our handiwork by the glow of the Ikea candle (VARDAG) resting atop my Ikea coffee table (LAGFORS), I thought back to the beginnings of my relationship with Ikea.

This is our story.

One wintry New York day I was bemoaning to a friend the fact that after four months in the city I was still using an open suitcase as my primary mode of clothing storage.

"Oooo, we have GOT to go to Ikea!" she exclaimed with feverish intensity.

I could tell that Ikea meant something special to her. And I wanted to find out why.

There was only one problem.

New York's Ikea wasn't actually in New York. It was in New Jersey, which was, conveniently, 20 miles away. But Ikea wasn't going to let a little thing like distance keep us apart. It knew how much I wanted to meet it, and it wanted to meet me, too. And so I was informed that every Saturday, furniture-seekers such as myself could line up at Grand Central Station and pay $10.00 to board the bus Ikea had chartered: a bus bound specifically for that great and spacious warehouse in the Bronx. That very weekend, perched upon my seat and watching the scenery go by, I felt a sense of excitement, of adventure! The journey reminded me of a grade school field trip. Except that there were a lot of gay couples, and I hadn't brought a sack lunch.

Once there, my friends and I gleefully wandered the furniture and accessory maze, availing ourselves of 50 cent hot dogs, dollar frozen yogurts, and large bags of votive candles. All was right with the world, and it seemed Ikea had enough love to go around. Hours later, stomachs and shopping bags full, we boarded the bus home, basking in the glow of the superstore's fading lights.

Once we arrived at the bus station, however, we soon realized that the honeymoon was over. I mean, Ikea was happy we came to visit and everything, and it was fun to hang out and all, but when it came right down to it, Ikea really didn't care how we got our newly-purchased items off the bus, on to the subway, off the subway, up five flights of stairs, and through our narrow doorway (let alone if we could figure out how to put everything together by following its sparse, obtuse instructions). As the bus sped away into the night, I suddenly realized that Ikea had made other plans for the evening, and they were SO not with me.

As time passed, Ikea and I began to develop a more mature relationship. (Having a car helped.) When I moved to San Diego, Ikea provided me with a grad school bed, desk, and dresser, as well as a big pile of nails and dowels whose purpose I never quite figured out. I began to realize that Ikea wasn't perfect, and that other stores had a lot to offer, too. Ultimately, I came to the understanding that my feelings for what Ikea has to offer can be divided into three separate categories, which are:

Things I Need:

Things I Want:

Things I Don't Understand:

Nowadays, as I explore its aisles with my true love (Steve), I am grateful for the things my relationship with Ikea has taught me. And Steve's cool with it, too, because he knows that Ikea and I are just good friends. Also, he likes the 50 cent hot dogs.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Just dial 1-800-STEVEKNOWS

I think my husband might be psychic.

Now I don't want to spook you - this being Halloween season and all - but I really need an objective opinion about his potentially awesome and frightening mind-reading abilities.

Here's the evidence. Consider carefully:

Situation 1:

A few months ago, we received a call from our friend Marva*
(* name changed to protect the caller). Steve answered, and I half listened to the conversation from the other room. I tuned back in when I heard him say:

"Oh, I'm sorry you're not feeling well."


"Surgery, huh."


"Well, what did you do, get breast implants?"



"Oh . . . Uh, well, good on ya, Marva!"

Frightened by my husband's predicting power, it wasn't until later that I thought:

Why was Marva calling to tell us she got breast implants?


Good on ya?

Situation Number 2:

Arriving late to church one Sunday, we passed our friends Sparky* and LaDawn* in the hallway. Sparky was wrestling with their 6-month-old, and LaDawn looked a little under the weather. As we passed, the following conversation transpired:

Me: "How are you doing, LaDawn?"

LD: "Oh, not so great, actually. I'm feeling a little sick."

Me: "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."

Steve: "What is it, morning sickness?"



LD: "Well, yeah, actually, it is."

You guys, I am seriously spooked. Am I the only woman with a psychic spouse? Will his powers become so strong that he'll be able to sense that I don' t really like watching the SPEED channel? Should I continue to take him out in public? Does he know what I'm thinking about right now? (Answer: Tacos)

Please tell me I'm not alone. Or did you already know I was going to ask that?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Palm Trees and Traffic and Bunnies, Oh My!

We have wild bunnies living in our apartment complex. And no, I'm not referring to those of the Playboy variety, but rather silicone-free, hoppy, bewhiskered little bunnies. The manager was going to get rid of them at one point, but the tenants staged a
"Save the Bunnies" campaign, and now they are here to stay.

They like to hang out by the pool.
Sometimes when I swim at night,
this one chills poolside.

What should I name them?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Don't Be Ridiculous

When I was in grad school, Bronson Pinchot came to the Globe to do a show. About a week after his arrival, a stage manager pulled a group of us aside. His voice got very quiet and deadly serious as he said:

"You guys, do NOT call him Balki."

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Staff of Life

Wheat has always been a very important part of my life. The delicious smell of my mother's homemade, honey-wheat bread is one of my earliest and most comforting childhood memories, and to this day whenever I smell bread baking I feel warm, cozy and safe. Growing up, I found favor with my brothers by making quadruple batches of cookies for them and their numerous, perpetually ravenous friends. I munched on baguettes at tube stops in London, baked brownies after particularly fruitless days of street contacting in Montreal, and chewed on bagels as I fought my way through crowded downtown Manhattan. Chocolate cake could always make me feel better.

And then one inevitable day, a culinary tragedy occurred: I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy.

Wheat allergies, I learned to my dismay, can develop spontaneously in anyone, at anytime. (Something to look forward to, dear readers!) Thrust into the lone and dreary gluten-free world, I bid a tearful farewell to my close friend Wheat, and began a long, bleak journey to find new gastronomical meaning. As time passed I met some new friends: Spelt and Soy. Our relationship seemed promising at first as we began spending time together. But then I broke up with them, 'cause they were gross.

As my journey progressed, I encountered another unforseen difficulty in the form of trying to order at restaurants. Allow me to illustrate:

Me: (Pointing at item on menu) Does this have wheat in it?
(Looking confused) Uh, no, no, it doesn't have wheat in it.
(Knowing it's too good to be true) Okay . . . does it have flour in it?
(Looking at me like I have two heads) Well, yeah, it has flour in it!

And sadly, my friends, that flour is rarely soy or spelt derived.

After experiencing this scenario 562 times (approx.), I've come to the conclusion that when I say this:
"Does this have wheat in it?"

Waiters hear this:
"Does this have actual wheat stalks sticking out of it?"

Not that I blame them - I was amazed to find out all the sneaky places where wheat lurks, just waiting to entice me into eating it, and then making my life miserable for doing so. Soup, yogurt, tacos, ice cream, Rice-a-Roni (oh no, not you too, the San Francisco Treat!). Wheat is clever, people. Very clever.

Steve is unfailingly supportive of my wheat-free state, and often insists on eating my inferior rice-based products with me. On occasion, he's even been known to bend the truth for my benefit:

Steve: (Biting into a soy flour cookie) "These are really good!"
(Shaking my head in sorrow) "No they aren't, honey. They're gross."
(Staying upbeat) "Well, they do have a weird aftertaste, but if you just keep eating them one right after the other, you hardly even notice it!"

Is it any wonder I love the boy?

I once had a woman tell me that, because of my wheat allergy, I wasn't obeying the Word of Wisdom. She said I should have more faith. She was serious. I wanted to throw a rice cracker at her head. Instead, I asked: "When was the last time you ate meat in the summer?"

Okay, so I didn't ask her that, but I wanted to. Instead I just smiled as I thought of what my doctor told me several years ago on that life-changing day: Anyone can develop a wheat allergy.