Wednesday, July 09, 2008

They Shoot Refrigerators, Don't They?

It had to happen sometime. Our workhorse of a refrigerator, which we've had since we first bought our house, was breaking down. The freezer was leaking, which left puddles of water in the produce bins, forcing us to locate strategic Tupperware containers to catch the steady stream. Then these would freeze, and they would require regular emptying. Also, anything that got pushed too far back froze, no matter where we set the adjustments. This led to disappointments (or happy accidents, if you're a terminal optimist) like frozen lettuce, frozen yogurt (and not the kind that's meant to be frozen), frozen and exploded eggs, and frozen and ruined fake butter spread.

We thought about fixing it, as it seemed ridiculous that a refrigerator would only last nine years, thought like everybody seems to be saying, that they don't make things like they used to. Also, an examination by a neighbor's handyman revealed the appliances death knell -- it would cost hundreds of dollars to fix, and doing the cost/benefit analysis simply didn't make repair worthwhile.

You may be thinking that there's an easy solution to this problem -- just go out and buy a new refrigerator. Well, you're half right. We never really liked the refrigerator -- because of the bizarre way that the people who built our house put together the kitchen, we were forced to buy a refrigerator that fit the space. And that didn't leave us with too many alternatives. Plus, we always wanted a refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom to make it easier to get into the produce bins since I'm eating like a rat that these days.

The good news is that after husband hunted down a new refrigerator, he found one that not only had the freezer on the bottom, fit into our space, but was on sale.

The bad news is what I will have to do in preparation for our bundle of joy's arrival on Saturday. No, not simply cleaning it all out, which is daunting enough, given our tendency to leave vegetables languishing in the back of the refrigerator until they become gazpacho.

It's in the dismantling of the outside of the refrigerator, which over the years has become many things to us: museum of kids' drawings, our magnet collection, our little slips of paper that we didn't want to lose, and especially one of my major forms of creative expression.

After I hurt my back, and then the cascade of other health problems that followed, I found myself unable to write, either sitting in front of the computer or with my journal. So with fond thanks mostly to my stepmother and friend, I began letting my feelings out with magnetic letters, rolls of white paper, and brightly colored markers. Another good friend also found for me a package of white magnetic sheets that let me simply stick them up and scribble whatever I wanted to. And although my health has improved greatly, I still occasionally find myself in front of my "Wailing Wall" when I have bad days and want to get the feelings out.

Now, with only a few more days to go until our lovely new refrigerator arrives, I'm facing the realization that by breaking down the past, I'm taking a few more baby steps toward my future. I started working on it this morning, finding an empty organic lettuce container to be the most handy thing to hold the magnets. In the beginning it was easy -- I often approach new tasks this way, by thinking about them for a while, then plunging in. Then I hit that wall. The one that tells me that this is not going to be as easy as I thought it was. As the magnets began piling up in the plastic container, and I began tossing out the ones that had no meaning (after all, how many magnets do I need that advertise one takeout place, and how many 2007 calendars do I need?), I found myself choking up with tears. Knowing full in my heart that I am letting go of a piece of my past, but not quite knowing yet if this was a good thing or not.

After many lessons, I finally learned that when I get like this sometimes it's good to just walk away for a while. And know that I don't have to complete it all at once, but I could come back tomorrow and finish, or the next day, or the next. Or, I could just let the guys take the damn thing away all covered with magnets.

It's good to have options.

I'll try to get back to it tomorrow, and do a little bit at a time, stopping if it gets to be too much.

But in the back of my head, I know that even though we've selected a refrigerator with one of those fancy new stainless steel type coatings, you can still stick magnets to it. And I can start fresh, mapping out my future with rolls of white paper, and brightly colored markers, and all the magnetic letters that I please.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

This Is Why the Terrorists Hate Us

Some people have picnics, some invite the neighbors over for a backyard barbecue, some go to parades, some shoot their fingers off with fireworks. Other people celebrate the Fourth of July by trying to stuff as many hot dogs as they can down their gullets in 10 minutes.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence must be spinning like rotisserie chickens in their graves.

Yet this tradition goes on, sponsored by Nathan's, and held at New York's Coney Island and -- this is my favorite part -- shown on ESPN as if it were an actual sporting event.

Something is wrong with this country, or we have just way too much time on our hands.

But that's not all of it. It doesn't stop with hot dogs. Many of the competitors in the 10 minute glutton-fest also participate in "competitive eating" events featuring other types of foods. According to the caption underneath one competitor, he was once able to eat 77 pickled jalapenos in 10 minutes. As one of my neighbors so poetically put it, "I'd hate to be the one using the bathroom after him."

This year's winner was Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, a young American lad who retains the coveted golden yellow mustard belt for the second year running. He accomplished this feat by downing 59 dogs in 10 minutes, tying his arch rival Takeru Kobayashi and leading to a 5-hot dog "eat off" to determine the winner.

Both of their mothers must be so very proud.

Later on that day, I happen to be watching the news, and saw an interview with a doctor on what it actually takes to compete in one of these events, and the effects it can have on your body long term. Contrary to what you might think, competitors are mainly of normal weight, but they spend months before each competition eating large amounts of foods at once or drinking a lot of water in an attempt to stretch their stomachs. Normal stomachs can hold about a gallon of food or liquid, but these fanatics can get theirs to hold up to a gallon and a half. Long-term, they can be looking at all sorts of gastrointestinal problems, the worst of which can be stomach rupturing, which can cause life-threatening infection in the entire abdominal cavity.

Yet these yahoos don't seem to care. They go on eating their hot dogs, jalapenos, pickled eggs, lumberjack breakfast, pies of all types, and God knows what else, (now here's the buzz kill part) while people are starving all over the world and even in her own backyards.

It's funny on the surface, but ridiculous and even cruel underneath.

They could've at least eaten turkey hot dogs, for Christ's sake. Or those awful tofu things, which would rid the world of them and leave all the good hot dogs for us.

Happy Fourth, everybody.