While Iowa can be beautiful, especially in the late summer when the light makes everything glow with the most stunning golden hue, it can also be straight up hell. Instead of gently flipping between seasons, we go straight from the Arctic of winter and plunge immediately into the sticky mess of summer. There’s really no joyous spring or fall. We don’t slowly and gracefully shift between the seasons like they are so lucky to do in California. Whenever I visit my cousin there, I know that no matter what day of the year it is, I’m going to enjoy it. It’s going to be nice. Well, that guarantee is never assured here. So far this spring there have been some gorgeous days, I’ll not lie about that. But they have not been regular and they have been few and far between. Lately it’s been pissing rain nonstop. But over the weekend we had the weirdest heatwave. It went from the fifties to nearly ninety in one day, and that was a bit too much for me. I like it hot, but like I’ve told you before, I like it hot in the DESERT where there is no ungodly humidity to mess with my hair and my spirit. Iowa never enjoys this perfect type of weather. So it felt more like I was sitting in a swamp in the middle of the Amazon. I didn’t care for this, and I absolutely hate air conditioners, so I wasn’t ready to succumb to that temptation quite yet. I’m sure I will soon enough as I’m staying here this summer for the first time in what feels like the entirety of my life. I couldn’t stand sweating and sitting, so I decided to try out a product that has enchanted me for honestly decades, a little device called an evaporative cooler. This technology goes back to ancient times and there are artifacts from ancient Egypt and Iraq of non-electric evaporative coolers. Basically, they force wind over cool water, which raises the humidity in the room, but the water molecules are able to absorb some of the heat. Theoretically, these machines can reduce the temperature in its zone by ten degrees. So, I went off to Walmart and procured the last one in stock. I was surprised they even sold them. I was dubious about the construction and efficacy, but I was desperate enough to give it ago. And reader, I was shocked. It actually worked pretty well. It wasn’t the icy blast of an air conditioner, which is exactly what I didn’t want! Instead, it was a cool breeze that stopped me sweating and didn’t make me need to bundle up. It won’t work at the height of summer, but it’s going to prolong my eventual installation of that awful air conditioner.
I don’t even know who I am anymore, reader. The most horrifying thing has happened to me, and I have to admit that I enjoy certain foods that I once assured myself were toxic and destined to do me no good. The list of fruits and vegetables is long, but after becoming a vegetarian ages ago, my palate began to change. I’m no longer vegetarian, rather a pescatarian because of my Mediterranean Diet, but this is making me enjoy other foods that I would never attempt to cook, let alone eat. For whatever reason, I’m suddenly utterly and completely obsessed with zucchini. I add it to absolutely everything. I crave it. It reminds me of tofu because it takes on whatever flavor you add to it. Sautéing it with shallots and morel mushrooms is inspired. I put that on top of a frozen pizza last night for dinner and it was the height of a gastronomic triumph. I screeched joyously. I’ve made this three times and now I’m out of morels and I think the season is just about over and I’m absolutely panicked. I love morel mushrooms so much that it’s stupid. I found dried ones yesterday at my favorite spice shop, but it was an unbelievably small bag that was unbelievably expensive. That’s probably another reason it’s best to shop for things that are in season. But morels and zucchinis are different things. For the first time in my life, zucchini is a staple on my shopping list, joining the ranks of cottage cheese, grapefruit, and kettle chips. I’m going to stuff them like Ina Garten did. I’m going to spiral them into noodles. I’m going to roast them in planks. I’m going to add them to risotto. I’m going to put them in everything because they are absolutely amazing. I’m even going to try to do something with them in the air fryer. My life has meaning with zucchini. Old Ben would not be sure how to process this development.
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama:
I haven’t finished Michelle Obama’s autobiography, yet, but I’m halfway through and I can’t get over it. To me, there is nothing quite as delicious as a well-written autobiography. If they’re done right, they are absolutely the best type of literature. Gloria Swanson’s autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, has long been the gold standard in my mind. It’s written sumptuously and you really get a well-rounded view of who she was. Now that I think back on it, though, my reverie might have more to do with the balmy Mediterranean sun or the fact that I was lounging on a balcony in Villefranche-Sur-Mer with an unbelievably stunning view of the bay or the fact that I was thin and life was so much simpler back then in 2009. But that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that I’m going to write about. You don’t need reminded that the Obamas are important to me. I miss them. I miss Barack being president and I miss seeing Michelle in the gardens at the White House. I miss their gentility and the way they reflected the best parts of America. I adored Michelle, but I really didn’t know much about her, so I didn’t run to the bookstore to get a copy of Becoming when it was released. With incredible foolishness, I didn’t try to go on the book tour where she spoke at packed stadiums. I was too busy being sad that Obama wasn’t President. But when I finally grabbed a copy of the book and started, I really have not been able to put it down. Michelle writes in a brilliantly lucid manner with rich, descriptive language that doesn’t come across as contrived. As a person who loves writing, let me assure you that this is nothing is easy to accomplish. She writes as she speaks and her voice resonates on every page. That’s truly a gift that few writers manage. And as I tear through the book, the more I learn about her, and the more I admire her, and the more that I wish I could get to know her better. She’s said she’s not running for President, and I can’t blame her at all, but it would be so wonderful to have her helming the nation. That’s irrelevant to what I’m writing, though. In the book, she talks so candidly about the things she’s done that it’s impossible not to feel like you’re reading a letter from a friend. That sounds cloying, I know, but I mean it. Her mother is a fascinating creature, intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded, and generous. She studied to be teacher, but dropped out before graduating, deciding she would rather be a secretary. I felt that in my soul. Her father’s life was absolutely unknown to me and I found it a revelation. I had no idea that her father had Multiple Sclerosis, that horrible disease that I also have. Reading Becoming reminds me how lucky I am with my condition. I was diagnosed early, there was hope, and I was given amazing medication that keeps me from developing new symptoms. (And thanks in no small part to the Obamas, the medication is available to me.) Michelle’s father was not so lucky. He had a slow, long decline to immobility and it filled me with dread and horror. He was a strong character and didn’t let his disease define him. Everything in the book has thrilled me and fascinated me and left me wanting to know more about Michelle. The writing, beloved reader, is the definition of delicious to me. For example, when writing about the differences between her and Barack, she says, “He’d had hills, beaches, and his own mind to keep him company.” In the context of the book, you have to stop and moan with satisfaction over the arrangement of these words. It’s eloquent and gorgeous and rich with the literary details that I do strongly admire. Michelle is an amazing writer. This book is a masterpiece. This book is a triumph. This book is the definition of America. I can’t get over it. You simply have to read Becoming. Get a copy right now. Get on Amazon. Now. It’s your duty as an American.
I can’t even begin to pretend I’m ashamed of my undying love and passion for McDonald’s. It’s not right. I know that. The place is about as healthy as a heart attack, and yet, I can’t help daydreaming about the fries and the pillowy soft buns on the Filet-o-Fish. I recently discovered that you can order one of these wonderful sandwiches with two fish fillets and well…that changed my life in a way that I worry about. Will I ever start restraining myself? Lord knows that I won’t. And it has come to my attention that I can get my beloved salads and fries with even less work. McDonald’s has an app that you can place an order on, customize it, find deals, and pay for your meal. All you have to do is drive there and pull into a selected spot. Then a staff member comes to your window, hands you your food, and you’re on your way. It’s genius. When I went the other day, there was a line in the drive through that was unbelievably long. I bypassed it completely and smugly sat in the curbside pickup zone while checking my Instagram. Seconds later, a friendly face brought me a massive Diet Coke and my favorite lunch, and I was back at work before I ever dreamed I could be. It was absolutely amazing, reader. I don’t really have much more to say about the app. Get it. Love it. Live in the future with me.
Holmes & Watson:
Y’all, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, actually, but I refuse to consider that possibility. It seems that whenever a movie gets rave reviews, I can’t stand it. Take for example La La Land and The Artist. Both of these films managed to garner wild acclaim, so I went to them with great expectations. But they were both absolute garbage. It’s not the moment to get into why right now but they were awful, dreadful, and a drag of two hours that I’m never going to get back. The films that inevitably fill me with joy, though, are those that get the tragically bad reviews. I don’t know if I’m just a sucker for a loser or if I’m really just low brow in my tastes, but there is a movie that was allegedly so bad that people couldn’t finish it. I, on the other hand, found it to be insanely wonderful and one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in the entirety of my life.
Jessica and I watched Holmes & Watson over the weekend and were literally screaming with laughter. The next day our throats were sore from cackling in hysterics and I can’t believe how horribly this masterpiece was treated. And by masterpiece, I really mean a disaster, but it was such a fun one that I can’t get over it. It’s a retelling of Sherlock Holmes, with tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor relating to the modern era. Will Ferrell stars as the infamous detective and plays the part with aplomb. He’s an idiot, but an idiot savant, which is why the jokes work so well. It’s hard for me to really explain how wonderful this movie was, but there were hilarious references to those old prime time magic shows where magicians would make buildings disappear. There was a fantastic musical number. The costumes and set design were flawless. The casting was inspired. There was a woman who pretended to be a cat. There was insanity left and right. It was insane. I can’t get over it. I need to buy a copy to watch every weekend. It could restore my faith in humanity. Get over yourselves and watch Holmes & Watson. It will be some of the best ninety minutes of your whole damn life.