Sunday, December 07, 2014

Oh what did Della wear, boy? Advil Calendar Year IV -- The bitter and the sweet

I can't find my orange comb. Where is my orange comb? Such a ridiculous thing to find yourself asking. Ou et la plume de ma tante? Donde esta mi peine naranjo?

It's been missing off and on all year - I'll find it and be like, "God dammit, HERE's my orange comb!" In the toiletry bag I use for travel, in my summer pocketbook, laying mysteriously on my dresser. But this has stopped, and I feel like I might have left it somewhere...far away. Like Belgium. Or my niece's boyfriend's bathroom. Chris, did I leave my orange comb at your house?


I own three combs, but my orange comb is the best. I have long straight hair that will tangle like the Devil's pubies unless I comb it right out of the shower. So - you know how it is - something that you use every day, your specifications for it are ridiculous. It must have wide teeth that are slightly rounded on the end. It must be easy to grip. I used to have a fake-aluminum comb that my sister-in-law gave me that was perfect. It said "CONAIR" on it but it had nothing to do with Nicolas Cage. I think it came with a hair dryer. When it broke I had to totally go on a search for an appropriate replacement. Don't you kind of hate yourself in those moments? How spoiled am I that I look at 47 combs on the Ricky's website and purse my lips and say, "No."

Get a brain scan and experiment
with highlights at the same time.

On the other hand, I approve of my unwillingness to spend money on a comb that is not going to cut it. Comb it. Whatever. I hate having a basket full of implements that somebody spent money on that will only ever gather dust and eventually take up landfill space. Thank Jesus I never had a daughter: it is developmentally appropriate to fuck with your hair throughout the teenage years, I think it's been proven using new fMRI scans, so of course you have to close your eyes before you roll them at her.

And therefore you can no more deny your daughter curling irons, gel, bendy foam curlers, and whatnot than you could deny her black-and-white-printed fabric-covered foam blocks when she was an infant and still developing visual acuity. But I think if I walked in the bathroom and saw all that crap littering the vanity I would pop every blood vessel north of my sternum.

I should totally try eyeliner on Milo though. Have you seen the L'Oreal Makeup app? It uses the camera on your phone to show you what you'd look like if you were a particularly terrifying female impersonator, clown, or Robert Palmer girl. I generally have no qualms about posting embarrassing pictures of my sons, but I have to draw the line at sharing the pictures that came out of the L'Oreal Makeup Whatever app. However, I don't mind revealing my own secret identity as that lady you see muttering at the scented candles in Target, chewing on her Thorazine.

That was a sidebar. I am still thinking about combs, and materialism, and accumulation of crap. I am wondering: how many combs do most people own? Worldwide? It seems like one of those small personal items that everyone must own one of. Combs are just combs. Like pens. Sometimes you have to buy one, but really if you need a comb, you must have a comb somewhere in the house, right?

But my 4 combs are probably the only combs in our house, so that means an average of 1 comb per person. Could we say that, worldwide, there is an average of one comb for ever person? Factoring that they are small and cheap and so plenty of people must own like 5 combs, but bald people don't have any, and people who wear their hair super-short don't, and people who don't give a crap about their appearance.

Bill the Barber (not one of the 85 richest
people in the world) owns more combs than
anyone I know. Sometimes uses them to
goof around with my boys' heads.
Or is that just my privileged assumption, born and raised and living in a climate of plenty, that anyone who wants a comb probably has a comb? The 85 richest people in the world "share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population" according to a recent Oxfam report that - maybe you could tell - has been on my mind lately.

If that abbreviation "tn" throws you, it's a British abbreviation for TRILLION. 85 people control 1.56 TRILLION dollars.

Do 85 people also own the same number of combs as the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet combined? No, that's ridiculous. Even if only one in every three people owned a comb, each of those 85 people would in that case own over a hundred million combs. Warehouses full of combs. Shipping containers packed with combs that shuttle around the world, following them from mountain cabin to beachside villa.

What the fuck do I know? Maybe they do. "I think I'll spend Christmas at the Lake Como house, Penelope. See to it that the combs arrive shortly before I do."

This time of year, everyone's thinking about giving. We buy gifts for our loved ones. We donate old towels to the animal shelter, toys to the toy drive at work, we tack ten bucks onto our grocery receipt to pay for food for the homeless. I send a blob of money to First Book and notify our extended family that we have used our love for them as an excuse to do a little bit of good.

But, jeeze.

It's a little bit depressing. 85 people on one side of the scale, 3.5 BILLION people on the other side. 3.5 billion is a little less than half the people on the planet.

Makes my little gestures seem so futile. Like Della selling her hair to buy Jim a chain for his pocketwatch, while he sold his watch to buy her a set of tortoiseshell combs. WHERE is my fucking orange comb?

Maybe this is why I can't get into my usual holiday mood this year. I mean, my "usual holiday mood" is already not, like, 'let's decorate the tree while carols play on the radio,' but most years I have at least settled into a state of genial humbuggery by now. I buy my kids ironic t-shirts, I lovingly unwrap my transvestite Ken doll tree topper and place him tenderly atop the tree I resent having to have in my living room. I write the Advil Calendar.

But I'm just not up for it. Ezra and I were out doing errands yesterday and stopped at a pho place to eat. TV's littered the joint, as they do, and the 6 o'clock news was on. We don't watch the news at home. Hell, we barely listen to the radio. We get the newspaper and so we keep semi informed, but man, there is nothing like the TV news. Awful. They led with that poor guy in Yemen and closed with 650,000 Filipinos evacuating their homes. All I could hear was Eric Garner, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe." More chili stuff in my soup so Ez thinks that's why my eyes are watering.

On the way home I stopped at a second liquor store and bought a fourth bottle of Everclear. Just for good measure.

So. It's Advent, here's my contribution. Liquor. Last year's batch of viryta turned out so well, I knew I had to make it again. With minor alterations because I never make the same thing twice the same way. To wit:

VIRYTA 2014: Orange you glad it's Advent edition
6 lbs honey
4 750-ml bottles of Everclear (available once again in Baltimore, but at 151-proof rather than 190)
8 cinnamon sticks
30 allspice berries
1 1/2 whole nutmegs, broken with a cleaver
3 T caraway seeds
30 whole cloves
30 cardamom pods, cracked
3 vanilla beans
one 3" piece of ginger, sliced thinly lengthwise
peel of one whole lemon
peel of one whole orange
two whole oranges, sliced into half wheels
one whole lemon, sliced into half wheels
Warm the whole spices up in the bottom of a stock pot until they are fragrant. Dump in 6 cups of water and add the peels, ginger and the vanilla beans. Bring to a simmer. Add another 6 cups of water, one of the sliced oranges and the sliced lemon.
In another pot, heat the honey slowly with the other orange. If you have any ginger left over, slice it into rounds and add it. Skim off the thick foam that rises.
Once the spice mixture is reduced by half, remove from heat and let cool.
Once the honey mixture stops throwing up foam, remove from heat.
When the spice water is cool enough to mess with, strain it into the honey. Do yourself a favor and line the strainer with a paper towel. Any fine particulates you eliminate now will not have to be filtered out of the finished product.
Mix the water and the honey, and slowly add the booze. Cover tightly, heat gently for 15 minutes. Cool overnight in the tightly covered pot. Funnel into bottles.

Hey, look at that! You have orange and possibly ginger slices that have been hanging out in your honey and booze. What should you do with them?

You MIGHT put them in a clean jar. You MIGHT put the leftover viryta that didn't fill a bottle and heat it on the stove until it is a dark amber syrup, and pour it over your orange and possibly ginger slices, and keep that jar in the fridge for when you run out of those incredible Luxardo Maraschino cherries and you need something to garnish your Manhattan or Old-Fashioned.

Or you might just sit feeling futile and frustrated about our fucked-up world and eat 'em sticky right out of the jar. They're kind of the same color as that damn comb.