All posts by Quinnland23

Robert delights in being a struggling writer and artist. He’s illustrated the children’s book “A Different Kind of Day” and worked as staff cartoonist at the Sacramento State Hornet. When he’s not struggling creatively he works as a code monkey specializing in education and user experience. Robert lives in Rocklin, California where he also struggles with writing short author bios.

Mean Cuisine

I would like to propose a new show for the Food Network; “Kitchen Swap – Iron Chef Edition” where top professional chefs and their picturesque TV kitchens trade places with random normal folks and their overused overpopulated suburban kitchens; Watch as Bobby Flay spends 25 minutes trying to find which drawer someone has hidden the good spatula in. Watch as he struggles to navigate the kitchen tripping over dogs and dodging Nerf bullets. Meanwhile watch as I casually prepare a full weekend brunch sipping a cocktail in the fully stocked kitchen with not a single interruption or distraction to be had. Ok perhaps more of a personal fantasy then a show pitch but it might help me to appreciate cooking again.

It had actually crossed my mind (albeit a quick sprint across the mostly vacant frontal cortex) to make this a cooking blog instead of a,… whatever this is. I could have been the next Pioneer Woman, minus the ranch, cattle and womanhood. I could have posted pretty pictures of culinary creations if I were actually capable of taking pictures half as good as the Pioneer Woman and if said creations weren’t just modified versions of stuff the Pioneer Woman has already posted.   “Ranch House Chili” lacks a certain credibility when coming from a computer programmer living in the suburbs. In all honestly I actually love to cook and have made a few recipes my own over the years or at least have waited out the fame of the original chefs enough to make my claims uncontested. The real problem comes in the form of 6 painfully picky eaters. I mean to the extent that 90% of their diet can be defined as ‘carbs and cheese’ with the remaining 10% being pure sugar. I can spend 3 hours preparing a delicious Coq au Vin only to have the kids push it aside in disgust and ask for seconds of the butter noodles I made as the side,… and then proceed to inform me, butter dripping from their chins, that the noodles would go great with frozen chicken nuggets, which in turn gets a boisterous roar of approval from the others, the very same boisterous roar of approval that my deluded mind somehow thought I’d hear for making the savory homemade chicken with a sauce reduction. “They’re both chicken for god’s sake!! Quit your bitchin and eat!” screams my inside voice, while my outside voice says with just a dash of bitterness “Fine! Eat your butter noodles, but don’t expect the Ranch House Chili tomorrow!” To which they respond with another boisterous roar of approval.

Share

Dog Gone

Along with the four kids our combined family also came bundled with two canine additions; a brilliantly high-strung Border Collie, Meg and a dumber than a doorstop Siberian Husky, Maya. While Meg has her own assortment of doggie quirks (number one of which is her singular devotion to Nicole to the extent that she will pine miserably by the front door until her raison d’être returns), the many annoyances of Maya are much more difficult to catalog. We could talk about the “husky tumble weeds” that drift freely about the house requiring us to strap on a vacuum cleaner like the Ghostbusters and chase down the offending hairballs, or perhaps the way she sleeps on her back until roused by a convulsive burst of gagging snorts followed by a long series of sneezes.   But by far her single biggest doggie quirk is the fact that she’s not much of a dog at all; she doesn’t come when you call her, has not an ounce of loyalty and is driven solely by self-interest; basically, she’s a large, dumb cat. She is not a member of the family sharing our home, she is a ward of the state imprisoned within our house.   Given the choice she’d run wild without a backwards glance. She plots constantly for her escape and has succeeded on multiple occasions. We’ve met more neighbors through prisoner exchange then we have from PTA, and block parties combined. Unfortunately Maya comes equipped with both the old school dog tags and a sub-dermal GPS tracker that both direct the little convict back to our front door.   During one such prison break she was taken in by a nice family of dog lovers including one little girl that was hoping and praying that Maya’s owners would never find her. How many times since then have I regretted picking her up or thought about going back to make a little girls dreams come true. I thought about it when Maya peed all over the entryway the morning I was rushing out the door for a business trip. I thought about it when Maya started treating bathroom garbage cans as her own person smorgasbord.   I thought about it when Maya got sick repeatedly all over the house, 90% of which landed predictably on carpet.

Now this last one brings us to the other joy that is Maya; the expense. Being a husky she is already predisposed to have certain joint conditions, specifically in her hips, that require some additional expenses; supplements, medicine, therapeutic beds, a doggie walker with little tennis balls on the feet,… you get the idea. And I get it too. I’m a dog lover, and dogs can be an important part of the family. But an animal that runs past your outstretched arms choosing the open road over your loving embrace does not embody the spirit of Ohana. I start to ask myself “how much money do I want to invest in an apathetic animal”. This was the dilemma, when Maya started to have difficulty standing, then walking, and then the next day became a fountain of bile. Luckily our local vet is gracious enough to be open on Sundays so the first thing in the morning we brought Maya in for a checkup knowing full well the potential money pit we were leaping into. Our worse fears were confirmed on both fronts and after a $1000 visit the radiologist suspected a possible tumor in the stomach and throughout the intestines. Now I wouldn’t be telling this story if it actually ended that horribly, I may not be organizing a Maya fan club but I’m not completely heartless,… penniless perhaps, but not heartless. So when the vet suggested we follow up with an ultra-sound we reluctantly agreed. I figured that since the diagnosis had no real treatment options we at least owed it to her to get solid confirmation of her condition. In my mind though it was merely a formality. For a fleeting moment my mind danced with the freedom of having a single dog. A loyal dog. An intelligent dog. Not a chain sneezing flight risk. It was a world free of fur drifts, free of unpleasant surprises. It was a beautiful, peaceful, allergy-friendly world. And then it was gone.

After a $500 appointment with the ultra-sound the very same tech that had, only the day before, condemned our overgrown furball to imminent doom gracefully back pedaled with a new theory that maybe it was just something she ate, like a lump of clay or an extra helping of toilet paper. The governors’ pardon on her supposed death sentence. The convict was coming home.

And now every time I see one of those husky tumbleweeds I can’t help but see little money signs; money signs drifting off her body with every step, money signs bursting off her body with every sneeze, money signs littered down the hallway with the shredded tissue paper. Every annoyance that is Maya is now decorated with sad little money signs. Is it too late to make a little girl’s dreams come true?

 

Share

Online Dating

From the male perspective, online dating is a completely different game. In the predatory world of the bar scene typically the male has the dominant role of hunter,… or so I’ve heard. In my lifetime I’ve probably engaged in this sothrowback_thursday1_largert of bar room drama less than a dozen times back in college and even that was under duress because friends and roommates, driven by alcoholic delusion, were convinced that their boyish charm would score them some dance floor groping if not a full-fledged one night stand. And since misery loves company I came along for the ride and was therefore blessed with the opportunity to bear witness to their drunken failure and inevitable shame. But despite me and my friends’ lack of success I was able to observe how the game should play out by individuals more dedicated to the craft. The perfectly puffed up male swaggers confidently over to well-positioned and well-manicured female and engages in some level of inane small talk for the sole purpose of stalling for time while they mutually access their sexual attraction; the woman evaluates his potential as a lover, a provider, and his ability to make her friends jealous while the man evaluates if she’s at that alcoholic sweet spot safely between “willing” and “passed out”.

Ok honestly, what do I know? I just admitted very little experience with this whole process so maybe I’m just jaded and there really is some soul searching being exchanged out there. My point, though, is that the role of the male in these situations is still very clear, regardless of the depth of conversation or the sexual end game. When this moved into the online dating realm the gender roles remained the same. Everyone fills out the same profile information, posts the same self-portraits in the bathroom, and pads their preferences with the same white lies – guys pretend to not be couch potatoes, gals pretend to be really in to sports, and everyone pretends to enjoy hiking.   But after all that it’s typically the guy that initiates the first contact. For the woman this plays out with them receiving a stack of invitations from a variety of suitors from which she can choose or simply ignore the lot. For the man this plays out with them firing off introductions in a shotgun pattern hoping that something will hit and trigger a random spark. Sure you can spend all your time combing through profiles hunting for your perfect woman, but chances are a dozen other Romeo’s before you have already filled up her inbox with the same attempts at witty banter and romantic propositions that you were so proud of just moments before. After a week of the virtual cobwebs and crickets you realize that your perfect woman, who the site promised was a 92% match with you, is not going to be writing you back much less bear your children or share matching rocking chairs on the porch of the retirement facility. “Ok”, you think, “how about this one, she’s an 88% match?!” This process continues until you find yourself, late one Saturday night, after one too many rum and cokes, writing to a 65% match that is 10 years, 60 pounds and 120 miles outside of your acceptable range, waking up the next morning with a hangover and a vague recollection of the romantic promises you made to this mystery woman only to reach the sad realization that she too has chosen not to respond.

Having exhausted my pool of prospects in this manner I start to consider perhaps it’s not me (of course, how could it be); perhaps I’m just not on the right site! In this age of online dating the variety of sites that has cropped up is staggering. Now days I can sign up for a specific site based on my age, race, religion, occupation (at least if I’m a farmer) or even my chemical composition. This all sounds like a fantastic idea until you consider that any restrictive classification only further limits the pool of available prospects. Think about it; you can fill out as many questionnaires as you like detailing your preferences and ideal qualities but if there are only three 40 year old, Jewish farmers in the Sacramento area how meaningful is any of that amassed information really going to be? It’d be like if I walked up to a vending machine looking to score a package of peanut M&M’s only to have it spit out a bag of stale trail mix with carob chips because that was the closet match. Did I benefit any from finding my own personal vending machine? I could have stepped into Costco and ended up with the same bag of trail mix but at least I would have had more options for substitution. I could have settled for a jumbo bag of Goobers,… like that night I had one too many rum and cokes.

So am I bitter because the online dating world isn’t just handing over the girl of my dreams? Wasn’t that subliminal marketing promise? Isn’t it written somewhere in the cosmic small print that your efforts will be rewarded?   Ok, so maybe it is just me. Maybe if Gerald Butler felt he needed online dating to meet the right woman he too would find a flooded inbox filled with provocative propositions. Maybe that’s the part I’m bitter about. Why can’t I lie down and be the proverbial prey for a while? I want the woman to abandon the old fashion traditions and take some initiative damn it. I did find one site that was basically the online equivalent of a Sadie Hawkins dance; it’s all about the woman being in control and initiating the selection process.   This sounds great in theory but doesn’t it come down to the same principle; woman having the ultimate power of selection over multiple suitors. I guess the only real difference is I enter into the process accepting my passive role in the equation hoping that perfect bag of peanut M&M’s is already out there just waiting for me to pick it up.

Share