IS THERE ANYTHING LEFT TO SAY about "Big Brother"? I
actually have nothing to say about "Survivor", since I've barely watched
an episode, but I've seen a few "Big Brother"s, even though the show is
excruciating, and the daily recap on Salon is far more entertaining.
Okay, I have one thing to say about "Survivor": Richard
is an asshole. I'd run a mile over busted crack pipes to get away from
someone like Richard.
Voting off Jordan, the nasty stripper-girl, made one thing
obvious -- "Big Brother"'s viewers are mostly women, and if there's one
thing women can't stand, if my thirty-plus years in the male viewing stands
count for anything, it's a flirty cocktease who thrives under a horny male
gaze. Moreover, I'd bet that college coeds make up a healthy proportion
of the voting viewers, as who else could find the patience to sit through
five minutes of Brittany's squirming, nasal self-regard.
Most episodes are like being in the common room of Thwartmore
Hall on a Friday night, when most of the dating couples are at the pub
and the couches are full of girls in track pants eating microwave popcorn
and watching Say Anything. The estrogen in the air will be thick
as egg whites, but if a stray male, tellingly unattached -- say a bush-league
emotional manipulator trying to cut a few notches on his bedpost, like
Josh -- happens into this environment, the cozy nest of gossip and winsome
self-pity will curdle like month-old skim milk.
The only person on the show who seems to be a card-carrying
adult is Cassandra, and we don't see much of her most days. Cassandra,
I suspect, is mentally living off-campus. George is a townie, while Karen
is the needy mature student who tags along to the pub after class, drinks
a bit too much draft and complains about her husband and kids -- the reasons
why she didn't go to college when she was young.
I actually like shows like "Big Brother", if only because
they remind me why I like to stay at home.
TOO MUCH TIME ALONE AT HOME. Maybe it's becoming something
of a problem, I can't be sure anymore. I've never exactly been a social
butterfly, but I seem to recall a time, not too long ago, when my social
skills seemed more adept.
Evenings out are becoming more work, it seems, as my pool
of small-talk has dried up past negligible levels, and every night out
happens only after months of good intentions and promises to get together.
Half the evening seems to be spent catching up, re-establishing a bond
that might once have been effortless to maintain. It's worse at home, if
a friend drops by, where I've retreated into my shell, and I find myself
standing around nervously, flinching at a goodbye hug or kiss on the cheek,
my eyes wandering to the kitten when I can't think of anything to say.
Our poor friend V. -- over six months pregnant and feeling
a bit at sea with it all -- was over the other day, and I don't think I
said more than ten words to her. I assumed she was here to see K., and
besides I was deep in shut-in autism. "Is Rick mad at me?" V. asked K.
later. I wonder how many of my friends think I'm mad at them, just because
the lines tying me to the dock are getting mighty frayed of late.
I'm a sluggard at answering e-mail and I'm only at ease
on the phone chewing out my ISP or nagging a client for an overdue cheque.
I can only imagine it getting worse when I buckle down to work on the novel.
Time for the cork-lined room, I imagine.
SPEAKING OF PROUST -- as I'm sure you knew I was -- I've
discovered my "madelaine", and it's stewed rhubarb.
The unusually cool, wet summer has knocked the usual crop
schedule out of whack, where it hasn't ruined crops altogether -- berry
farmers are looking at bankruptcy, plums have developed some kind of blight,
and 2000 might be the worst year for wine in decades. On the other hand,
we've had poppies into late June, radishes late in season, and our weekly
organics box, while lacking any apricots or nectarines this year, delivered
a bunch of bright red rhubarb when by all rights rhubarb should have gone
all tough and stringy.
If anyone has ever grown rhubarb, you know it as the broad
with a red stalk, like red chard, that sprouts from the mulchy remains
of last year's plants before the snow is off the ground. Tender yellow-green
leaves grow broad practically before your eyes, and by late April you can
start harvesting the stalks for pies, jams and -- my favorite -- stewed
I was a horrible, picky eater as a child -- my sister
was sure I'd end up with scurvy -- but a few healthy, unprocessed foods
made their way through my diet of Eggo™ waffles and Beef-a-roni™, stewed
rhubarb from the garden prime among them. My mom was getting a bit spotty
in the kitchen by then, and her pie crusts could be anything from flaky
to military-grade, but any way she ended up making stewed rhubarb made
me happy, even when she barely stewed it at all, and left big chunks of
tart, green, fibrous stalk in the stringy, pinkish-red porridge.
I'm sitting here right now with a bowl of stewed rhubarb,
mixed with a dollop of raspberry puree K. made the other day, and I'm in
heaven. It's tart and nearly texture-less, only slightly sweetened when
cooked, so a bit of sugar is necessary, along with a bit of water, when
you stew the chopped stalks down in a saucepan. I've made two more batches
since the bunch that arrived in the organics box, which is the most I've
had in twenty years, probably. Suddenly, I'm back in the kitchen at 41
Gray Avenue, my chin barely above the table, while the dishwasher my brother
bought my mom chunders away next to my chair, slowly leaking steamy hot
water onto the linoleum, the smell of dishwasher detergent filling the