A website that I absolutely adore is called Atlas Obscura. (By the way, if anybody is looking for the perfect last minute gift for me during this celebratory season, there is an Atlas Obscura book that I have been absolutely lusting over. UPDATE: Never mind, I just treated myself to a copy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) I have been thinking of a way to properly explain what this site is to you, and I finally determined that it is basically TripAdvisor for the peculiar. The website is full of locations from all over the world that are off the beaten path. I have used it many times in my travels to find new and delightful locations that I would never have been to otherwise. This summer in Mexico, I discovered a chapel full of mummies because of the site. It was glorious. There is absolutely no way I would have stumbled across that wonderful place without the website’s help.
That was a memorable day. And then it introduced me to a town that I certainly would not have gone to if I hadn’t read about it on their website. It put me on a bus and sent me about two hours away from Mexico City to a gorgeous little village called Tepoztlán to climb a mountain and then climb a pyramid. It was a lackluster pyramid, reader, but the view was absolutely incomparable.
I had the best time eating street food and ice cream and drinking margaritas and hiking and beaming at these magical little wild animals that looked like daytime raccoons. And, much to my delight, Atlas Obscura also has locations nearer to home. Using it, I found the most unexpected little cemetery right next to Jordan Creek Mall. In what used to be the countryside, there was a very small graveyard. As the big city grew, a road was built around it, and now it is in the middle of a busy roundabout. It is the most charming spot.
I visited it the other day when I was in town to get a tan, and I was so delighted. Atlas Obscura is full off odd and intriguing locations such as this. I will use it more and more on all my trips. When I go to Mexico again next summer, I will surely look up as many of the locations as possible. It’s so good to get away from the usual tourist route!
Ramses the Damned, The Passion of Cleopatra:
The very first Anne Rice book that I read was called Ramses the Damned. As a person keenly interested in literature, I have always been conscious of Rice’s work, but I never got around to reading it before late in my adult life. When I finally cracked the spine of this first book, though, I fell completely and utterly and madly in love with the way she writes. Soon, I found myself devouring one title after another. Blissfully, Anne Rice is prolific and there are still a great number of books that I haven’t yet read. I hope that she is as immortal as the many characters she creates so that there will be an endless supply of new stories in my future. Anyway, Ramses the Damned captivated me completely. It was reminiscent of the Victorian novels of beautiful reincarnated mummies that were so popular a century ago. I have a deep and great fondness for these novels because of my all-consuming passion for ancient Egypt. I finished the book in a day or two, if my memory serves me correctly, and then I went and read all of her vampire books. Those books profoundly changed me and my writing. So many writers and editors suggest being spartan and almost terse in writing, but Anne doesn’t follow this advice. Her writing is rich and verbose and she happily spends paragraphs describing rooms and the distinct texture of fabrics. It’s sensuous and I adore it. One summer, I was lounging out in the vineyard, trying to catch a tan whilst reading Blackwood Farm, my very favorite book that she has written, and I nearly gasped at how wonderful it was. That book, the way it is written, the way the bayous of Louisiana are described filled me with something nearing ecstasy. Shortly afterward, I had the unexpected opportunity to meet Anne, and I have rarely been more nervous.
As I approached, I had to thank her for writing Blackwood Farm, for creating this marvelous place that I could repeatedly escape to. I don’t know how often I have read that book now. She seemed surprised but grateful, and I was captivated that this tiny woman, quiet of voice, could write something so bold. It emboldened me, and my writing since our meeting has been so much richer. You may regret that at times. Oh well. Just recently, she announced that she was releasing a sequel to that first book I had read, and I think I lost my mind. In the ensuing hours since the book arrived on my doorstep, I have been rushing through, flipping through the pages at a record pace. It’s just as beautiful as anything else she’s ever written. How marvelous it is to spend time again with this wonderful characters, these reincarnated Egyptian royals, this alternative reality, this fabulous story. I’m so grateful that this book exists, and I do hope that there are more to follow. Order a copy today, reader!
I think I talked about this before, but I can’t for the life of me remember. The first time I watched Jackie’s Back was on a plane flying over the Atlantic when I ran away to France a few summers ago. That was delightful, and I surely annoyed the people next me as I cackled when they tried to get some rest. Ever since, I have probably watched it a dozen times, something I absolutely never do. It is a rare film that inspires me to start it more than once. The other week, the guest on Ru Paul’s podcast was the star of Jackie’s Back, Jenifer Lewis, and I fell absolutely in love with her. Mandatory listening:
In reality, Jenifer is larger than life, just like the character she played in Jackie’s Back. She’s beyond interesting and confident and more than that, she is wise and endlessly funny. I giggled hysterically during the episode and I had to watch the film once again. Luckily, this rather obscure cult film is on YouTube for viewing whenever the need comes. The premise of the film is a documentary about a concert put on by a one-time star who thought she was comparable in talent to all the greats. And she is, but her personal life consumed her and she made a string of bad decisions that led to her downfall. The story is presented as a documentary hosted, fabulously, by Tim Curry, who doesn’t know the first thing about his subject matter. That only adds to the hilarity. There are cameos from everybody from Whoopi Goldberg, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler, and more! Every line in the film is a joke and it is endlessly quotable. I’m putting it here, just watch:
Jenifer, on the podcast, said that the entire film was based on one joke, a pun about her daughter’s name on the film, Entendre. Jackie says, and I’m paraphrasing, “Momma needs a drink, Entendre. Oh, and Entendre, make it a double!” That is the height of comedy. That’s the funniest joke of all time. This movie is incredible and we are so lucky to have this in our lives. Watch it this weekend, reader!
Egg Salad Tacos:
It came to me in a dream, a gastronomic fever dream. In my mind, whilst dying of what could have been the most severe headache in human history, I saw toasted corn tortillas stuffed with curried egg salad. Upon awakening and rejoining the living, my stomach lurched, and my legs propelled me into the kitchen. After downing about four liters of espresso, I began concocting my divinely inspired culinary creation. Slowly, I cooked red onion in olive oil and butter until they were perfectly caramelized and utterly soft. Once cooled, I tossed them into a big bowl with the usual egg salad ingredients (mayonnaise, salt, pepper, boiled eggs, parsley) and then I added spices to make it curried. I have been told that curried egg salad used to be a huge trend in the 70s, and I think that has to be true. I stumbled upon it by chance, but I can’t be the first person in culinary history to come up with this. Then, with a bold stroke of inventiveness, I took out some corn tortillas that I recently picked up at the Mexican grocery store. I charred them on the range and then stuffed them with my concoction. Then I topped it with some cheddar-parmesan cheese and plated them beautifully. Then, I looked at them. I looked a little bit more. And then I took a bite. READER! They were insanely good. I must admit that they don’t look like the most beautiful meal in the world — far too many pale colors — and that I will use blue corn tortillas the next time. BUT! This was a great achievement. This might be my legacy. I need to open a restaurant just to have brunch so that I can serve egg salad tacos with champagne and a side of churros and let everybody live their best lives and pay me $30 a seat. I AM SO ECSTATIC. Make them reader. There’s no real recipe. When you’ve been professionally trained at one of the most legendary culinary schools in the world and in human history (AKA Le Cordon Bleu Paris) you don’t really need recipes. *flips hair* I need to make more. IT IS GOING IN THE COOKBOOK I ALWAYS SAID I WAS GOING TO WRITE!
So-Called “Unlimited” Data:
Reader, something absolutely awful happened to me recently. My phone suddenly got slow and I can barely use it to look anything up! Has anything so awful ever happened to anybody on the face of the planet in all of our civilization’s history? The answer is…maybe? I know it is a first world problem to the extreme, but I’m still devastated. When I finally had my shiny new iPhone X, I got to setting it up just like my previous phone. As mentioned in last week’s posting, this was the very height of simplicity. Magically, the settings, apps, and data transferred over the air and mirrored my old layout identically. I could have cried. I didn’t, though, because I was too busy being excited to care. One of the phones, apparently, was not connected to a WiFi network, and so the entire transfer was done using my cellular data. I really don’t know how this mistake occurred since setting up WiFi is one of the very first things you do when you start a new iPhone. Whatever.
A few days later, when I tried streaming my beloved Rachel Maddow to listen to on my lengthy drive home from school, it slowed and slowed and then ground to a halt. I at first hoped and assumed it was some kind of network issue, but when my phone person finally got back to me, he had the nerve to tell me that my data connection was being throttled. I screamed. Did they not know who I was??? So, reader. Apparently, when cellular companies tell you that you have unlimited data, this is just a fancy name for a concept veiled in lies. At the beginning of the month, you are allotted a certain number of gigabytes of high speed data. Turns out that I have six gigabytes of speedy data. Once that limit is reached, the connection slows down until only basic services are available. When I’m out of range of WiFi, the only things that I am capable of doing are sending messages and maybe doing limited Google searches. It is the height of infuriating. I am livid. I can’t stand living like I’m in the Stone Age. It’s 2017! This kind of thing should not be happening to me! I have things to do and Instagram pictures to like and songs to download and Kardashians to keep up with. I am so upset. Pray for me until the weekend. UPDATE: IT’S BACK! I’M LIVING!