Dickhole, the Santa Gremlin

A couple days after Christmas, my friend Amanda and I were traveling in my car, warm drinks in hand. It was cold and rainy out, so we had bravely ventured out to get Starbucks. And then a thing happened.

As we were driving across the bridge to get home, a truck heading straight toward us suddenly made an illegal U-turn and raced back the way it came.

We had nearly been killed.

santagremmap

Actually, the truck had been pretty far ahead and in no way endangered us, but I became really annoyed at this flagrant disregard of logical bridge rules. It was anti-Christmas-season behavior. I found myself shaking my fist at him and shouting, “SANTA’S WATCHING, YOU IDIOT!”

Accustomed to my outbursts, Amanda hesitated only briefly before adding, “It’s a little late for this year, BUT HE’LL REMEMBER NEXT YEAR!”

It was that moment when we decided there should be some sort of punishment or consequence for people who start misbehaving so soon after Christmas. It just doesn’t make sense for all of us to amp up our kindness and generosity in the last couple months of the year, only to begin acting like total twits as soon as the presents have been opened.

And that’s how we came up with the idea of a Santa “gremlin.”

Let’s face it, there’s no way the real Santa truly watches us all year long. After he finishes delivering all of the presents, he most likely heads for the nearest beach and collapses into a cookies-and-milk coma for awhile. It’s understandable that he needs a little break. And that’s where Santa Gremlin, if he really existed, would come in.

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He’s kinda cute, if you close both eyes when looking at him

For an entire month following Christmas, the gremlin would be the one to watch our words and behaviors. If we follow the rules and treat others with respect for the whole month, then we get to keep all of the video games, sweaters, and fuzzy slippers that we received. But if we turn into jerkfaces and cut in line at the grocery store, Santa Gremlin will hunt you down and take all of your glorious new gifts away.

Brother and sister won’t stop fighting over toys? So long, toys!

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Bratty teenager mean to nice old lady? Sayonara, designer jeans!

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Dude in a new truck makes crappy bridge-driving decision? Adios, truck!

We soon decided that our gremlin deserved his own unique name – something that would truly set him apart from the jolly fat guy. Naturally, we settled on “Dickhole.” A bit vulgar perhaps, but I like that it’s short and to the point. (Cough, cough.) Besides, I think we can all agree that it’s the best and most accurate name for a creature that steals presents.

I haven’t quite worked out the fine details of Dickhole’s “story” yet. Maybe instead of riding in a sleigh pulled by eight magic reindeer, he rides on a trash-can lid dragged by thirteen pissed-off possum. Maybe instead of gliding gracefully down the chimney, Dickhole barges through the front door and tracks mud onto your clean carpet.

However, Dickhole really shouldn’t be thought of as a “bad guy,” per se. After all, he doesn’t take things away from honest, well-mannered people. If you remember anything from your Intro to Psych class in college, you might think of Santa Claus as being a symbol of positive reinforcement, while Dickhole represents negative punishment. In other words, while Santa Claus gives rewards in order to increase good behavior, the gremlin takes away things in order to decrease bad behavior.

Dickhole’s just misunderstood, is all. He really is a stand-up guy. (Ahem.)

But you still better watch out, because:

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He’ll know if you’ve been a big asswipe, and then he’ll take your stuff away.

 

Queso Critique: River City Grille, part 2

River City Grille (Marble Falls)

We heard through the grapevine (or the internet) that the River City Grille was offering a new queso on their menu. We had already tried their  Green Chile Queso a couple months ago and had given it a respectable rating, so we were willing to give the new one a shot – especially since it involved smoked pork. Because Texas.

Amanda and I showed up to the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon, which means that neither of us had on makeup or real pants. But it’s okay, because queso loves you no matter how you look. Queso never judges.

One of the things we had enjoyed about the  Green Chile Queso at our last visit was the creamy texture, though we’d actually found the consistency just a bit too thick. Keeping that in mind, it was surprising to us when the Smoked Pork Queso arrived looking much more…liquidy. And drippy.

Nothing says sophistication like cheese running down your chin.

After several bites of the queso, we realized that neither of us had gotten any pork yet, and we theorized that the meat had fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Amanda also wisely guessed that the juices from the pork might be the culprit of the thin consistency.

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We sent the chips on a diving expedition to get to the meat, and were saddened to discover that there was very little in the dish at all. The few bites of queso we managed to get with pork were delicious, but in agonizingly short supply.

We settled on a score of 6.5 (Revised score: 2.3) for the Smoked Pork Queso, which is actually a little lower than the rating we gave to the Green Chile Queso. This new one had good flavor, but an extreme lack of meat and a too-thin consistency unfortunately brought the score down.

River City Grille’s website

Queso criteria

In-Laws and Mace

As an unmarried person, I’m lucky to be spared the horror of in-laws visiting my cozy little home and making life uncomfortable.

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However, one of my friends recently faced this unfortunate circumstance. I watched her stress about getting her house cleaned, cooking meals her in-laws would like, and holding her tongue during controversial conversations.

As an attempt to cheer her – and the rest of you married folk – up, I wrote (and semi-plagiarized) this little ditty.

Sing to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”

First I was afraid,
I was petrified.
About my in-laws coming to stay for four long nights.
But then I spent so many hours
Knocking back bottles of booze,
I put down my noose.
‘Cause I had nothing left to lose!

And so I schmoozed
With my in-laws.
We talked religion and politics,
And I had to hold back my claws.
I had to set a good example,
So I kept a smile on my face.
But what I really wanted to do
Was spray everyone with mace!

“Go on now, go – walk out the door!
Just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore!”
Oh, how I’d love to say these things to them,
But I’ll keep them to myself,
…and have another glass of gin!

Somehow I will,
I will survive.
If I have to hide in the bathroom,
At least I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got no fucks left to give
I will survive!
I will survive!

‘Twas the Best of Lies, ‘Twas the Worst of Lies

When I was little, Christmas Day usually involved opening presents with my parents and brother at home, before making the long journey to my grandparents’ house. And by long journey, I mean two streets over from my house.

Every year, my family followed roughly the same routine. My cousin Lauren and I were elected to pass out everyone’s gifts like little servants elves, and then we all opened them at the same time. After presents, we’d eat a tasty lunch of warm ham, soft rolls, and Grandma’s baked “cheese and macaroni” (as she calls it.)

As respectable as lunch was, my true interest lied with the desserts. Each Christmas, Grandma’s laundry room would turn into a veritable museum of sweets, with her washer and dryer serving as a display table of brownies and candies and pies. (Oh, my!)

It was every kid’s dream.

desserts

Unfortunately, the adults limited us poor, inferior children to two desserts apiece. As an adult, I now understand why people might want to avoid herds of sugar-crazed, chocolate-covered children climbing the walls and swinging from the ceiling fans; as a little kid, a limit of two desserts was akin to cruel and unusual punishment.

And I was not going to stand for that kind of treatment any longer.

One year, after lunch, Lauren and I headed to one of the extra bedrooms to play. Once we were alone, we paced the floors, thinking. We wanted more dessert. We needed more dessert. We just weren’t sure how to get our hands on it.

We brainstormed our options.

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And then inspiration struck.

Lauren and I both had play strollers for our baby dolls, and we worked quickly to buckle our babies into their seats, even lovingly placing blankets over their laps. Then, we casually sauntered into the living room, meeting the glances of our family members as they paused in their conversations to admire us. We smiled sweetly, fully playing up the part of two cute little girls with their dolls.

“Just on a walk with our dollies!” we sang, oh-so-innocently.

We continued to stroll through the kitchen until we arrived safely, and unquestioned, in the laundry room. Like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory, we frantically grabbed at fudge and cookies and candy, stuffing them in the strollers, under baby dolls, probably even in our pockets – anywhere that they wouldn’t be seen.

Lucy-Chocolate-Factory

Then, just as nonchalantly as before, we wandered back through the living room, forcing ourselves to walk slowly. We smiled pleasantly, but not too excitedly, so as to not arouse suspicion. Soon, we were back in the bedroom. Our plan had worked. We were alone with the desserts.

And we scarfed it down like deranged animals. Or just deranged human children.

girlcake

Not satisfied by the first round (or pound) of chocolate, we repeated this process a few times. Each time, our “casual” behavior grew more and more erratic.

“Just on a walk with our dollies!” we screeched, our eyes wide-open and unblinking from a sugar rush. If an adult looked at us oddly, we grinned in a psychotic manner and gestured clumsily at our dolls. Nothing to see here, folks. Just some children taking their dolls on a walk!

It wasn’t until our fourth or fifth trip through the living room that our parents finally narrowed their eyes at us. “What are you girls up to?” they asked, their voices full of suspicion. “You’re not going in there to get sweets, are you?”

“Noooo!” we replied in fake, squeaky voices, because kids are terrible liars. With demented smiles still plastered on our faces, we made panicky U-turns with our strollers and veered back to the bedroom. Obviously, the grown-ups were on to us. Even in our chocolate-induced delirium, we knew better than to press our luck.

For our parents’ sakes, I’d like to say they figured us out and prevented us from doing this at future holiday gatherings. But that’d be a lie. We repeated this devious and greedy plot for a few years without ever being caught in the act.

Unfortunately, our grandparents did figure out our secret when they eventually rearranged the furniture in that bedroom and discovered a massive pile of empty candy wrappers under the bed. Basically, we were clever enough to secretly steal large amounts of food, but not smart enough to get rid of the evidence.

Dreamers and Dictators

Every once in a while, I like to pull out the giant, overstuffed container that holds all of my school papers from elementary to high school. I think of it as taking a journey back to my childhood – one writing assignment or incomprehensive doodle at a time.

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Sifting through the stuff brings up all sorts of feelings for me. Nostalgia over the drawings of horses and dolphins. Pride over the honor roll certificates. Amusement over the childish handwriting and nonsensical sentences.

…And utter confusion about the thoughts I held as a kid.

My elementary school had its own little magazine/booklet that came out a few times a year. They listed helpful information for parents, advertised upcoming school events, and included little brags and cute stories about the students.

The magazine had a paw print on the cover, and also happened to be called Paw Prints. Clever stuff.

Not long ago, I picked up one of the Paw Prints from my first year of elementary school and started thumbing through it, delighted to discover that the kindergarteners that year had been asked what they’d do if they were president. I grinned and settled in on the sofa, happy to begin what I assumed would be a fun and interesting read.

I wasn’t expecting to be completely dumbfounded.

Most of the kids’ responses fell in one of two camps: some (including my best friend) expressed sweet desires to help the less fortunate or make the world a safer place. Others got a little dictator-y and described plans for world domination.

It was a very cute microcosm of modern politics:

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Actual excerpt from Paw Prints

And which category did my response fall in, you ask?

Well, neither. My answer deserves a category of its very own. Because it’s just THAT strange.

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Umm…what?

I have so many questions for six-year-old me about that statement. Why did I think there was more than one President of the United States? Did I picture a herd of presidents all working together toward one common goal, or did we all have different tasks? Why did I assume that none of us would know each other’s names?

And why, at 6-years-old, was I thinking about nameplates?!

6yrlist

I find it fascinating that while my classmates were worried about poverty and drugs at the tender age of six, I was preoccupied by pieces of wood with names engraved on them. Serious stuff right there.

Perhaps my answer for my hypothetical presidency was based on a feeling of sympathy for people who have trouble learning names. Maybe I imagined that one of the presidents (because apparently that’s plural) might be new to the job, and feeling a little unsure of himself. Maybe he’d be running down the hallway of the White House with urgent information for me, and suddenly realize that he couldn’t remember my name. He’d pause outside my doorway, feeling insecure and upset with himself.  Finally, he’d work up the nerve to open my door, only to discover that my name was prominently displayed on my desk for all to see.

Crisis averted, new guy.

Although I hope that the reasoning for my answer was compassionate, I’m guessing that the truth is, some twerp probably called me by the wrong name right before I was asked the question, and it really pissed me off.

angrygirl
I’m gonna get a nameplate so you have NO CHOICE but to learn my name, you bastard!

I’ll probably never know what I was thinking when I gave that answer. Either way, I’m inclined to blame my parents for this one. Clearly, this would have been a good life lesson to impart early on.

  • “This is how you use a fork.”
  • “This is how you tie your shoes.”
  • “By the way, there’s only ONE president. And he probably already has a nameplate.”

 

Queso Critique: Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy’s Tacos (Austin)

‘Twas two days before Thanksgiving, and the Amandas were experiencing cheese withdrawals.

Torchy’s, an institution known for unique and delicious tacos, was the next logical destination. The chain started as a food truck in south Austin, but has spread like wildfire to different cities throughout Texas, and I can see why – any place that puts fried chicken in a flour tortilla gets a thumbs-up in my book. Amanda’s children and her father, who was in town for the holidays, joined us for the serious business of cheese judging.

Torchy’s was packed when we arrived, but we were lucky enough to find an empty table on the patio. Typical of a Texas November, the weather was cool, but very pleasant: perfect for the sweaty work of eating Mexican food.

Immediately upon ordering, we were given our vessel of Green Chile Queso, accompanied by the restaurant’s homemade tortilla chips. The five of us wasted no time digging in. The texture of the queso was deliciously smooth and thick, desperately clinging to the chips like a lifesaver, which was a little ironic, considering the chips were merely the automobile to get the queso in our mouths.


We gave Torchy’s a solid 8.5 rating (revised: 3.5), mainly for the clever and tasty add-ons they drop into the dish – green chilies, guacamole, and cilantro gave the cheesiness an extra kick of flavor. It was also very spicy, thanks to a healthy amount of hot sauce. I’d been battling a cold, and the heat of this queso actually helped – which is just further proof that cheese can be medicinal.

Unfortunately, we were too busy stuffing our faces to remember to take a picture of the queso. Instead, you can admire this mug that a coworker gave me. She understands me.
mug1   mug2

Torchy’s website

Queso criteria

Ode to Dolphins

I’m a tad fond of dolphins.

That may be a bit of an understatement, given that this entire post is about my affection for them. I think they’re amazing animals, and if I could ethically (and financially and realistically) keep one as a pet in my apartment, I would jump on that opportunity.

 

dolphin-r

What’s not to like? They’re friendly, they save stupid drowning humans, and they’re incredibly intelligent. They’re also very loyal to their friends, and happen to be a bit slutty. Based on these facts, I’m pretty certain that dolphins would do really well in college. (Who wouldn’t want to be sitting next to a dolphin in their quantum physics class? It’s such a shame that universities discriminate against animals.)

dolphinclass

Anyway, this totally normal obsession of mine goes way back. When I was a kid, I had a Barbie that could kick her legs and swim in the bathtub; she was pretty awesome all on her own, but the best part was that she was accompanied by a special plastic friend – a dolphin. He had a little switch on his belly, and when you pushed it down, he emitted a high-pitched dolphiny whistle. He was fabulous, and I loved him.

dolphintoy
So handsome, so lifelike.

Interestingly, I can do a pretty good impression of a dolphin, and I’m sure I owe this talent to that toy.

In elementary school, I had Lisa Frank lunchboxes and folders depicting hot pink and purple dolphins majestically jumping into the air (ahhh, the 90s). I daydreamed about being a marine biologist or dolphin trainer and getting to play with them every day.

Sadly, I didn’t end up becoming a dolphin trainer, but it’s still one of my goals in life to swim with dolphins, even though I’m pretty certain I will cry the entire time. With joy, that is.

Shortly after graduating from high school, I took a trip to Sea World in San Diego, and got to touch a dolphin’s face for the first time. It felt rubbery and wonderful. She smiled. I smiled. We had a connection.

dolphinpet
Photo from my trip – my hand is the less-fancy one.

While vacationing in Gulf Shores, Alabama last summer, I managed to (accidentally) catch a live starfish with my bare hands. It was truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and I have to say – other people on the beach were totally jealous. When I later recounted the story to my father (and labeled it as the Coolest Thing Ever), he thoughtfully stroked his beard, and then asked, “but what if you’d caught a baby dolphin?”

We both agreed that I probably would have suffered a stroke from the sheer amazingness of it all.

 

And now, a little poem about those rubbery, slutty creatures:

Oh dolphin, my dolphin
You are so very cute
From the tip of your nose
To the ends of your fluke

You can swim really fast
You can jump pretty high
You can live to be 50,
(And that’s not a lie).

Half of your brain stays up
While the rest is asleep,
So you can get some air
And watch for threats that creep.

You’re a lot like humans:
You like to tease and play
You tend to be slutty
And some of you are gay.

Lots of you have best friends,
Some of you care for your sick,
And just like we humans,
Some of you can be di- …uh, jerks.

Dolphins, you’re amazing
I want one as a pet
The only problem is,
You would have to stay wet.

Queso Critique: Angel’s Icehouse

Angel’s Icehouse (Spicewood)

On a Friday night after work, we made the drive to Angel’s Icehouse in Spicewood. Angel’s is mostly set outdoors, with picnic-style tables scattered around on the deck and grounds. The place appeared to be very popular with families – kids climbed all over a playground while the adults kicked back with drinks. There were even a couple of dogs lazily hanging out with their owners. It was very central Texas.

With a live band performing, this place had a fun and casual atmosphere. And most importantly, the restaurant served queso.

We were once again pleased to discover that the menu offered not one, not two, but THREE different types of queso. Seriously, all these places that offer more than one option of queso just make my cheese-loving heart so happy. It wasn’t hard for us to agree on the Supreme Queso, which came with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, and taco meat.

Be still, my heart.

Given that it was past seven and neither of us had eaten lunch, we basically devoured the queso as it soon it was set in front of us. For a long time, there was a lot of dipping and chewing, and very little talking. It wasn’t pretty. When we slowed down enough to speak, we gave thumbs up for the queso’s deliciously cheesy and spicy flavors. The texture was also quite creamy, and didn’t harden as it cooled.

It was a bit tougher than usual for us to come to an agreed-upon score; one of us was leaning toward a 9, while the other was thinking more of an 8.5. It may sound silly that we felt hung up on half a point, but cheese judging has become a pretty solemn affair for us.

Finally, we decided on an 8.5 (revised: 3.5). The Supreme Queso earned bonus points for the extra ingredients, but we agreed that the use of taco meat, while tasty, was just not as satisfying as something like chorizo might have been. Still, a job well done, Angel’s!

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Deliciousness in a bowl

Angel’s website

I Amygdala You

I’ve found a great way to aggravate people.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go around irritating others. I’m usually not the kind of person who enjoys doing things like that, though I know those people exist – usually in the form of older brothers. But if you ever find yourself needing some sort of revenge against someone (and slashing their tires seems a bit harsh), this idea would probably be effective.

Here’s what you do:

  • Step 1: Earn someone’s trust and friendship. This may take awhile, depending on the quality of your social skills.

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  • Step 2: Once you’ve earned this person’s trust, prepare yourself to become a sounding board for his or her feelings. This is an unpleasant but necessary part of friendship.

 

    • sharing1

 

  • Step 2a: When the person finally starts talking about feelings, relationships, or other sentimental crap  things, he or she will likely say something along the lines of, “It’s like my heart is saying one thing, and my brain is saying another.”
  • sharing2

This is where you attack.

  • Step 3: Grin maniacally and pipe up with, “Actually, the heart is an organ that pumps blood throughout the body! It has no thoughts or feelings!”
    • Bonus points if you appear overly excited when explaining this to them.

The person will very quickly get annoyed, because they were trying to have a heartfelt conversation, and you clearly ruined that. They may even try to argue by saying, “Yeah, I know that the heart technically doesn’t have thoughts. I just meant that I’m thinking with my emotions.”

…Which, of course, you can energetically respond with, “The emotions don’t come from the heart, silly! They come from a little structure in the brain called the amygdala!” (Show them this diagram, if necessary.)

amygdala

Your friend will be super grateful for the anatomy lesson, and not at all peeved that you were an insensitive jerk. Or, they’ll hate you, and you’ll have gotten revenge for whatever minor crime they committed against you. Either way, it’s useful.

This technique works in other kinds of situations as well:

  • The next time your partner looks at you fondly and proclaims that they “heart you,” smile back and sweetly say, “And I amygdala you too, muffin.” SO romantic.
  • If you’re at a funeral or some other solemn event, and the person in charge invites people from the audience to come to the front and “speak from the heart,” stand up and loudly declare, “My heart does NOT speak! But I’ll talk from the emotion center of my brain – it has lots to say!”
  • When singing along to any song that includes the word “heart,” replace that word with “amygdala.” The number of syllables won’t match up, and the rhyming will be ruined, but damn it – you’ll be anatomically accurate! And that’s worth … I don’t know, something.
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Believe it or not, there are also situations where this technique may actually backfire. Weird, I know.

  • If a person is clutching her chest and saying she’s having a heart attack, it’s unlikely that her amygdala is acting up. (Not impossible, but unlikely.)
  • On the other hand, if someone simply complains about a “hurting heart,” they could technically be referring to either their chest heart or their brain heart. In order to clear up any confusion, if you ever see someone making this complaint, it’d be best to lunge at them and scream, “What do you mean?!? Is it your LITERAL heart or your FIGURATIVE heart?? What is the geographical location of your pain?! Help me to help you!!!”

The above situations are the only times that this technique would be a bad idea. Otherwise, it’s perfect.