My Secret Hair Fantasy

photo by The Webhamster

photo by The Webhamster

I will let you in on a little secret. I sometimes fantasize that someday all human beings will be born bald. Okay, I know, a sizable percentage of humans are currently born bald. But I mean, stay bald. Like, never grow hair. An entire hairless human race. You might think a comment like that would come from someone living in eternal hair hell. Thankfully, I pretty much have okay hair. I have my fair share of bad hair days, but I also have a decent amount of good hair days to hang my hat on. And when those happen, I feel great.

That’s part of my problem with hair. Why do I need a good hair day to feel good about myself? That’s nuts. Hair? It’s an appendage for god sakes. My feet never make me feel any better or worse about myself. (Unless, of course, Lord and Taylor is having a huge shoe sale and my amply-sized feet won’t fit into any of them.) So why is hair so important? Of course there are all sorts of twists and turns of daily life which diminish or pad our happiness levels. Things we can control and things we can’t. So why let something as frivolous as hair impact our mood, our self-esteem, our confidence?

Apart from spending a fortune on hair – to curl or straighten it, dye it, perm it, style it, shine it, wax it, iron, extend, remove, highlight, process, tweeze, thread or weave it, etcetera, think of the hours spent on our hair. And sadly, most of the time after it’s “done,” we will likely say—we hate it.

Certain assumptions are made about people based on their hair. Don’t shake your head, you know it’s true. Sometimes these assumptions turn out to be not so wrong. But most of the time, it’s just another way we judge people.

Although at first glance this may seem like something of a girl problem, men are just as vulnerable in the hair department. Some guys have too much. Some guys have too little. When I was a teen, I knew a couple of guys whose egos took a beating from thick curly hair. In the 70’s there were few flattering options. Cut it short? Grow it long?

What about people who lose their hair after medical interventions? Do they really need to feel any additional hardships? Now they have to worry about how to deal with something as inconsequential as hair! Navigating the challenges of life is hard enough. I believe it would be much better for everyone to never have hair. Do we really need it? You live in Minnesota? Throw on a hat! You’re a Brooklyn Nets cheerleader? Work on choreography! You’re a hair stylist? Sorry.

Let’s admire people for reasons that matter. If we were all bald, it would be easier to look past the outside and regard people because they’re interesting, humorous, ambitious, inventive, kind, resourceful, dynamic, determined, talented, tenacious, inspiring, nurturing. Not because they have the perfect shiny bob.

Beach Buzz

photo by temporalata

photo by temporalata

A sunny day at the beach is a sugar high. A shot of euphoria.

Warm crests of sand meet the underneaths of your knees. It molds to the small of your back and clings to your toes like sugar to a cruller.

A light breeze carries the frothy laughter of others. It lifts the ends of your hair and swirls around your neck. Your shoulders feel the warm tingling love of the sun. The water is crisp and clean and tickles your toes but not your ankles because you’re a camel not a dolphin. Your family teases you for it, and they splash you from afar.

So you read a thoughtful book that has you contemplating what you’ll be when you grow up. What you could be. Most of all, what you want to be.

At the end of the day the beach crashes you like a sugar high. You curl into yourself and draw your towel up toward your chin and sleep a half sleep. Lazy waves succumb, collapse and inch up the shore. The soft pop of clam holes appear magically along wet sand. Metal pulleys clank listlessly against the mast of a sail boat.

You float in and out of your half sleep and its sweet dream, and lucky for you, as good as this dream may be, it’s not nearly as good as your reality.

How I Forgave Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver's Sticky Chicken Thighs

Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Chicken Thighs

If you have the time and the patience, and room in your heart to forgive chef Jamie Oliver for referring to his Crispy and Sticky Chicken Thighs with Squashed New Potatoes and Tomatoes as a “simple pan-baked chicken dish” then I encourage you to try this recipe.

But for God’s sake, know up front that it is not “simple.” Okay perhaps, technically, it is “simple” but “simple” implies “quick.” Doesn’t it? To me it does. And quick it is not. The time alone that it took to de-bone and trim the chicken thighs of the cheesy fat clusters could have driven me to chase Mr. Oliver through his English potato garden with a pair of kitchen scissors. To say nothing of the time-consuming tedious task of individually stabbing, then peeling the skins off all those little cherry tomatoes. Peeling skins!

I typically have a rule in the kitchen never to cook anything that takes longer to prepare than it does to eat.

But alas, if I had stuck to that rule I would not have experienced this glorious masterpiece. Could I have skipped the tomato disrobing? Yes. But then I wouldn’t have tasted how “lovely and sweet” the tomatoes become when cooked stripped to their flesh, and the claim from Mr. Oliver that “their intense flavor will infuse the potatoes.” And after all, “Sometimes in cooking, you know what, it’s not all bish-bash-bosh, you need to put a bit of love in it, a bit of care, and it will taste fantastic.”

I got seduced into preparing this dish after seeing an episode of Jamie at Home. He looked tenderly at his ingredients, calling his potatoes “darlings” and “underground jewels.” Everything was “lovely,” from straining veggies to surgically removing the bones from chicken thighs. He even urged viewers to plant potatoes in their own backyard, claiming they’re super easy to grow and there’s nothing quite like using “freshly dug” potatoes. I’m sure he’s probably right about that. Though I have some pretty solid experience using potatoes which are weeks old−in fact, they’re one of the only vegetables that will last and last, even after they’ve practically grown a clone of themselves right there from their own skin. But maybe I should keep that to myself.

There was something charming about Jamie Oliver serving messy portions of his meals into chipped plates and pottery. And the sight of his charming country kitchen, a busy affair with brick walls and jelly jars cluttering counter tops and stacks of dishes and terra cotta, shelves practically leaning to one side. No granite or marble in sight. Not a stand mixer or cappuccino maker to be found. This cozy setting shouted “You can do this too! You American Food Network viewer, sitting on your overstuffed couch in the suburbs!”

Yes, he was talking to me. Thank God I was listening.

He told me to take the fresh oregano and “bash it up a little. Smash the oregano for butt-kicking flavored oil. You can’t chop it up and be nice about it.” It felt so comfortable, the spills and the clutter, the ruffled shirt. It was like I was cooking in the kitchen with my younger brother, if my younger brother could cook. (Of course you can cook, dear! That was just a little joke!) Did I mention the adorable English accent? Who can resist someone who pronounces oregano with the emphasis on the third syllable? Certainly not me.

I can’t explain to you why or how it happens that a mere six ingredients can produce an aroma transcendent. It leaks from your oven door when you least expect it. When you’re not even in the kitchen! You’re upstairs folding the laundry and bam! It finds you. And you go a little weak in the knees. Oh my gosh, you think to yourself, is that coming from my kitchen, from my oven?

Yes it is.

Thank you, Jamie Oliver. I forgive you.

The Cicadas are Here! (Now leave.)

4690180459_bf82999089_ophoto by David Hill

Seventeen years ago−the last time the Periodical Cicadas reared their creepy, red-eyed heads−I was living in New York City. I’ve existed, my entire life, unaware of this species of critter. All that has changed. Now I live in New Jersey, and when I heard that the “cicadas were coming,” I had mixed emotions.

First, to be honest, being the true skeptic that I am, I didn’t believe anyone’s cicada stories. Most people are inclined to exaggerate. (In fact, no one’s more inclined than I am!) All this talk about “millions of them” “swarming in massive cyclones before your eyes” having “cacophonous” mating calls.  (Well, cacophonous was my word, actually.)

Puhleeze. Calm down folks! We’re talking about a bug here!

Others warned that I’d need to “bob and weave” them while walking down the street, that the “crunch underfoot” was impossible to avoid, and sweeping sidewalks would be a nightly chore, creating “snow drifts of carcasses” left to die and stench.

I’ve learned two things thus far: exaggeration is annoying, and I only have tolerance for my own. And, as it happens, no one was exaggerating.

Once I was assured of their arrival, because I began to see them with my own eyes, I became mildly excited. I’m typically curious about nature. The hows and the whys of evolution and the survival of the fittest and all that jazz. I was prepared to be fascinated. They come every seventeen years and produce high decibel mating calls from on high in trees, and suck the moisture from plants and pee like rain and have five eyes and shed their skins and leave their little jackets all over the place like my kids! Heck, they sound like performance artists! I was practically tingling with anticipation! Then they mate and produce scads of holes that blanket the lawn to return to their burrows for seventeen years, yards below the ground. If that’s not sci-fi enough for you, I don’t know what is. Hmm, that had me wondering, could they be a life form from another planet here to enlighten us? Just as my curiosity was peaking, my cicada-savvy friends were in a tizzy. I giggled at their hysteria and silently scoffed at “They’re here!!!” announcements of panic.

It’s a bug, people. What the heck?

It’s been approximately four weeks since they’ve arrived and−I’ve had it!

Their deafening serenade is not enchanting. It wakes me on a daily basis just after midnight. And annoys throughout the day until dusk. Contrary to my initial impression, having five eyes is not cool. Especially since they’re not used effectively to avoid flying into my face, my eyes, my hair, my mouth, my house. There is no allure to the hundreds that are covering my yard furniture. The stench coming from heaps of dead carcasses is not stirring any sense of wonder and I no longer think it’s amusing to get urinated on by cicadas overhead in tree branches. If they do in fact turn out to be an alien life form, keep it to yourself−I don’t give a crap.  

Today, as I stood at the top of a ladder, clipping a holly in front of my house with electric hedge trimmers, I almost pruned my head off my shoulders. A bat flew out of the shrub and got tangled in my hair! Okay, it wasn’t a bat, it was a cicada. But the shadow it cast on the side of my house was ginormous. And when I tried to flick it from my hair, the zizzing blades of the hedge trimmer came dangerously close to my neck! I nearly fell off the ladder! And plunged to my death! (Okay, I’m exaggerating.)

I’ve had it with these stupid bugs.  

Leave town, cicada! You don’t live here! I do, and you’re bugging me! Go home!

And by home I mean six feet under.

Which I’d be happy to arrange.