It’s a Cruel. Cruel Summer.

Let’s talk about the kid with the pool.

Everyone knew this kid, and maybe you were this kid.  I’d be surprised if you were, because I rarely associate with demons from Hell.

At least not since I got out of the music and insurance businesses.

The kid with the pool could be a girl or a boy, black or white, rich or poor.  The kid with the pool could be anyone, anywhere.  The one common theme among all kids with the pool was that they never wanted to go in the pool.

I hated the kid with the pool.

Let’s call them KWP for short, because I am already tired of typing out “kid with the pool” and we’re only getting started here.

KWP never had a regular, everyday pool, either.  KWP had an awesome pool.  A pool with a slide and/or a diving board.  A pool with one of those hot tubs that spills over the side into it.  A pool that’s screened in so you don’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes.  A pool that had a sweet boombox on the porch where you could listen to your Beastie Boys License to Ill cassette all the live-long day and gloat about how awesome sixth grade is going to be next year.  An awesome pool.

An awesome pool that they “weren’t in the mood” to go swimming in when you came over.

On any summer day in South Florida, it gets so hot that you literally contemplate suicide.  Then you think, “Nah, it’s not that bad” and decide to go on living, and then take one step outside and think, “I wonder how much carbon monoxide it would really take to kill me?”

The fact that we didn’t have air-conditioning in my house growing up made this red-hot strife approximately one billion times worse.  We were so miserable inside that ramshackle sweatbox, a slow gas leak in the kitchen would have done wonders for morale.  I bet at least half of the fist-fights in my house would have never happened if we had just had stupid air-conditioning.  And also if we weren’t born mean assholes.

You would wake up on any summer morning, drenched in sweat from sleeping in a 90 degree room all night, and call up KWP.  The conversation would go like this:

“Hey, it’s Maggie.  Wanna hang out today?  It’s supposed to be really hot so I was thinking we could go swimming and lay out.”

KWP:  “I don’t know.  I may feel like swimming later.  You can come over now, though.”

You don’t want to seem too eager when you show up at KWP’s house, because the more you let on that you want to swim, the more KWP will resist the idea because, as I may have mentioned earlier, KWPs are demons from Hell.

In an effort to not appear too eager, instead of showing up in just your bathing suit with a beach bag full of stuff, you just tie on your bikini top and then put a t-shirt over it so that the strings hang out the top of the collar in the back.  Bikini bottoms go on under your regular shorts.  No pressure, KWP.  The bikini top strings hanging out the top of my shirt are merely a visual hint that pool-partaking might be a fun thing to do.  KWP did, after all, say that they may want to go swimming later.

Then when KWP opens the front door, they look you up and down and say, “Oh, hey.  Come on in.  I just put on The Goonies.”

Then you say, “Oh, wow.  Haven’t you already watched that like fifty times?  I just rewatched it for the tenth time last night!”

This has no effect on KWP.  Nothing doing.  You’re sitting through that whole movie, in your bathing suit, eyeing the glistening pool just outside the sliding glass door behind you.  KWP will pause the movie to take phone calls, make a sandwich, play an Atari game, and stretch out this 51st viewing of The Goonies to a three hour affair.

As the credits roll, you stretch out a little when you stand up and say, “Man, the pool looks really good today.  Wanna go jump in?”

Then, naturally, KWP says, “Oh, my mom said nobody’s allowed to use the pool for a few days.”

Damn you to Hell, KWP.  You could have said that way, WAY earlier.  But no!  Heavens no!  KWP has to string you along all day.  And to top it off, when KWP’s mom comes home, she asks why you’re not in the pool on such a hot day.  KWP looks away and says nothing.  Oh ho hooo, KWP!  On top of being a pool-tease, KWP is also a filthy liar.

Hey, look.  I’m not an idiot, despite what “college admissions officers” may tell you.  I know that KWPs are afraid that everyone is just using them for their pool and they want you to prove your friendship to them before they’ll agree to go swimming.  I assume all KWPs were emotionally damaged by having a pool as kids, and grew up to be those non-committal types in relationships who never trust anyone’s motivations and they eventually turned their angst into one of those awkward early Sex and The City episodes where people still talked at the camera.

Here’s the thing, though, KWP.  I’m going to save you a ton of time in therapy:  People can like you and still want to swim in your pool.  The two things are not mutually exclusive.

So let me in your goddamned pool.  How can you live in that house and look at that pool all day long and not want to get in it?  What are you, sick?  Are you SICK?  You get some kind of cheap thrill off of dangling pool time in front of people and then snatching it away?  What is the big deal, KWP?  LET’S JUST GET IN THE POOL.  It’s not like I’m going to get in the pool and then ignore you.  I’m going to get in the pool and then we’ll play Marco Polo or some shit.  I’ll even let you be Adrock when we pool-rap to “Brass Monkey”.  We’re still hanging out together!  We’re having fun!  Why do you slam the door in the face of fun, KWP?  WHY DO YOU REFUSE TO BE HAPPY?

If you don’t work this stuff out, you can probably count on dying alone, KWP.  I don’t want to have to be the one to tell you that, but it’s true.  Let me be your friend.  Let me be your pool’s friend.  Learn to trust people again, KWP, because you deserve it.

And because you’re annoying the shit out of everyone.

Welcome to FlavorTown

The only two varieties of Hamburger Helper that have ever been worth a damn are Lasagna and Cheeseburger Macaroni, in that order.  Trust me – I used to be an expert.  A real “white trash foodie”, if you will.

Anything that first requires you to brown one pound of ground beef is firmly in my culinary wheelhouse.  Anything outside of that is dark magic and is not to be messed with.  That’s how you end up becoming a whore gypsy – all those “herbs” and “spices”.  Next thing you know you’ll find yourself in a bus station in Istanbul trying to trade sexual favors for saffron.  I won’t lose another friend to it.  I just won’t.  It’s easier to just eat the Hamburger Helper.

Besides ground beef as your leading protein, I also know all the boxed starches you can successfully cut hot dogs up into and bake under a layer of crushed Fritos.

If you wrap a Pillsbury crescent roll around anything, you have officially baked something “for company”.  If you make the entire can and eat them all by yourself, you have something I used to call “Soft Dinner”.

“Crunchy Dinner” was when I would take an entire cookie sheet of Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns, burn them nearly to a crisp, and then cover them on both sides with Tom’s Barbecue Sauce and eat them over the course of an hour while I watched The Love Boat at 3am in the same t-shirt I’d been wearing for two weeks.

Fruit = canned fruit cocktail, and if you have enough money left over after getting your electricity turned back on, you can buy a jar of maraschino cherries and dispense a dozen or so into the fruit cocktail can and instantly turn it into a party in your mouth instead of settling for the two sad half-cherries the cheap motherfuckers at Del Monte tossed into the can at the factory.  I used to refer to this as “Going Off-Road”.

Do you care for spicy food?  Something exotic, perhaps?  Then allow me to go over to my packet drawer where I can retrieve your choice of either Hot or Fire Taco Bell hot sauce packets to accompany your meal.  Have as many as you want – Taco Bell makes it a point to give me 100 packets of both varieties for every single taco I’ve ever ordered, even after I have emphatically specified that I only need “Two Hot, please.”  I’ve said it so often I should have a license plate that says “2HOT PLZ”, but then I imagine that would get me more attention in the way of “strange wang in my car window” than I really wanted.

Hashbrown casserole contains two different kinds of canned soup AND a vegetable.  That means it’s health food, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t eat it at every meal.  If you want to change it up, put it on a piece of buttered Wonder Bread toast for breakfast, sprinkle crushed Funyuns on top of it for lunch and then, using your fingernail as the knife, julienne some bologna slices over it for dinner.

Green beans and all other vegetables are purchased at the peak of their canned freshness, cranked open and dumped out into a pot with a half a stick of butter and then turned up to a boil.  If you want to make it for a special occasion, you can add a little pickle juice to the pot and call them “Dill Green Beans”, and dazzle all of your friends who just got out of lock-up on a technicality.

^^  The above scenarios refer only to the times when I felt like cooking.  Most of the time I would just eat dry cereal out of my fist and call it a meal.  That old school gigantic biscuit version of shredded wheat can easily be eaten like an apple, but without all those gross “fruit vitamins” getting in the way of your enjoyment.  The dog will clean up all the millions of wheat-string-leavins that will run from one end of the house to the other.  Fiber is good for everybody.

All that aside, you should know that I’m a reformed white trash foodie now, since I was fortunate enough to marry a man who not only doesn’t consider Velveeta a fancy dairy product because it’s “brand name”, but also makes things like basted eggs over curried riced cauliflower, doesn’t tear open a paper packet to make gravy, and makes his own salad dressing.

I don’t mean “makes salad dressing” as in “takes the bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian that has half an inch of dressing left in it and dumps it into the half-empty bottle of Kraft French dressing”.  He’s got a spice rack and and fancy vinegars and oils at the ready.  He mixes, shakes, tastes, adds things, mixes more, tastes.  It’s amazing to watch.  His attention to detail, his desire to make something that actually tastes good.  It’s like watching someone paint a masterpiece.

Prior to our getting together, I had reached a point of culinary laziness that was so rich and so deep, I had convinced myself that I actually preferred my salads with no dressing at all, because that would mean I wouldn’t have to get up and go get the bottle out of the fridge.

Yes, I am that lazy.  Pre-Bobby, any time I would actually get up off the couch and go get a bottle of dressing out of the fridge, I would inevitably discover that it was a new bottle, meaning I would have to break the outer seal, unscrew the cap, and pull off a foil-protector disk to get into it.  This discovery would cause me to loudly sigh, drop my shoulders, and proclaim, “WHY ME?” and then put the unopened bottle back in the fridge.

I would gladly pay for a service at the grocery store where they remove all the tamper-safe packaging from everything in my cart before I leave the store.  I’m just putting that out there, universe.  Work your magic or something.

Now I’m just rambling.  I bet Guy goddamned Fieri is going to sue me for using the term “FlavorTown” and then use all of my money to buy more thumb rings.  Happy Monday.