• All Blog Entries,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Family & Life,  NYC

    Take This Job & Shove It!

    I just received a text from my mom that read: I’m RETIRED!

    It made me strangely weepy. My mom is the hardest working person I know. She used to build helicopters and was in a Budweiser commercial during the “For all you do, this Bud’s for you!” advertising phase.

    My mom helped wire a helicopter for the NYPD and got a hat from it. My dad put it in the rear dash of our junky Thunderbird to try to deter cops from pulling him over. It didn’t work. We got pulled over one day and he grabbed the NYPD hat to try to butter up the officer. I was with him and acted as his interpreter. My dad told the truth to me, and I interpreted a lie to the cop which was better. It worked. We didn’t need the hat.

    Years later, when I first moved to NYC, I worked for the attorney that represented the NYPD in their precedent-setting licensing efforts and confiscated unlicensed NYPD hats. Funny how things go full circle.

    Throughout my life, Mom never once turned down overtime and sometimes logged as many as 80 hours a week. Congratulations to her for finally being able to take a break and reap the benefits of a lifetime of hard work. Mom, for all you do, this Bud’s for you.*

    *Bud sucks. How about I give you a Brooklyn Lager?

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC

    Cafe Wha? The Hell!

    Y’all. Apparently Van Halen is playing Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village right now and not a single one of you told me. Now how am I supposed to meet Diamond Dave if y’all keep failing me like this? I’ve got his bim bam banana pops right here!

    I’m not there but some of my “friends” are. I say “friends” in quotes because they are dead to me now.*

    To add insult to injury, Van Halen announced their tour dates and are playing the Garden on guess which night? MY FLIPPING BOOK RELEASE / PARTY NIGHT!

    Oh Heavens, I curse thee for your cruel Gift of the Magi crap you’re pulling.

    Looks like fans will be disappointed to see Sammy Hagar on stage because I am totally going to pull a Casey Anthony and chloroform Diamond Dave, stuff him in my trunk and bring him to my party. He might be dead but HE WILL BE THERE!

    I’m actually tempted to switch the party to February 29th so Dave can attend. When I mentioned my idea to Christian he said, “It’s like I need to tell you there is no Santa Claus.” Pfft. Party pooper. He also totally gave me the green light to have sex with Dave (even though I never asked to and don’t think I’d want to) but if that makes Dave more excited about coming to my book party then, hey, let’s go for it. (I’m such a mensch.)
    ‎*Except for Larry Getlen. He’s there and he’s still my friend. But, Larry, don’t freak out, but I want to kill you and wear your skin so I can pretend to be you and get in to see them. Please tell me they were awesome and that Dave kicked butt.
  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Rock House

    Through the Looking Glass

    Today, I spoke to three people who didn’t have a single tooth in their heads.*

    After a week of staying holed up in our cabin and not seeing or speaking to a human other than my husband, Christian convinced me that I needed to venture outside. He’d been out several times and felt that my lingering fatigue and lack of motivation was due to some stink needing to be blown off. So, we looked up an antiques auction and set out for an adventure.

    Thirty minutes later we pulled up to building occupied by every weirdo in Sullivan County.** This auction house was really a sad little junk store selling off some recently deceased person’s effects. To pull in substantially better income, they should install a two-sided mirror and charge admission to stare at its customers in their natural habitat. They were a wild, motley crew who all seemed to know one another, for better or for worse, and freely exchanged pleasantries and ribbed each other. This was going to be fun. Interesting, and fun.

    A friendly, 20-something young woman greeted us and gave us our auction number: 121 written in Sharpie on the back of a paper plate worn so thin it felt like tissue and couldn’t have held a dollop of Cool Whip. The girl was a bit plump, not unattractive, and showed no signs of a meth habit yet she was as toothless as the day she was born. Two rows of her pink fleshy gums glistened with saliva.

    We passed a row of decrepit men waiting on discarded furniture and made our way inside to the “showroom”. I was still contemplating what could have caused such a young girl to lose Every Single Tooth in her head when I discovered that Christian and I had more teeth between the two of us than everyone in the showroom combined. Where are we?

    That’s when I spoke to the second toothless person. She was a middle-aged fellow shopper browsing rows of boxed up, dusty, broken household items. She called dibs on a fur coat and shrieked at anyone who dared fondle it. She threatened to shoot one man who tried it on. (To be fair, he was plastered and nearly ripped it.) She was joking (I think) but, well, I would not be testing her.

    The third toothless woman was 50-something and, like the first, worked for the auction house. She turned off an old tube television that was buzzing and flickering, the screen stuck on the same image. “Oh, were you watching that?” No, we assured her, we were not. I laughed because I was sure she was joking. She was not. Probably because it’s quite possible her other clientele would be content to watch a buzzing frozen screen.

    As we contemplated leaving–other than the sideshow, there was nothing of interest for us there save for a nightstand– a short young man with a trucker hat and flannel shirt quickly entered the showroom, scanned the room as though he were looking for something in particular, then locked eyes with me. A huge grin (several teeth still intact) spread across his face as he turned around and ran out as quickly as he’d come in. He’d come in to gawk at me. I was on the inside of the two-way mirror.

    I’m the weirdo, here.

    But wait a second. My friend Jim Hall once wrote a letter of recommendation for me for my application to join the Peace Corps. He compared me to the girl in To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, he used to call me by her nickname “Scout” as he mentored me at FirstMerit in Akron, Ohio. Jim was convinced that I had bravery in my blood and, more importantly, a specific kind of humility that comes only from a hardscrabble life living amongst and fiercely protecting physically and mentally challenged humans. “She is not afraid of the Boo Radleys in the world,” he had written. “Because she is of them. She is them.”

    That’s why I had kissed a drunk, toothless homeless man on the streets of NYC one day.***

    “It’s my berrff-day!” He had shouted, jumping in front of me and my friend Keith, blocking our path. Keith had been visibly shaken and tensed up as the very happy, very inebriated man slung around a bottle of hooch and stood too close.

    “It is?!” I had shouted back. “Yep,” he had slurred. “I’m FITTY!”

    “Fifty? WOW! Well, happy birthday to you!” I squeezed his cheeks, puckering his lips and gave him a big kiss. He lifted me off the sidewalk (or maybe I lifted him) and we hugged. It was a good hug, too.

    “Happy birthday!” I had sung out again as Keith and I continued toward our red carpet party.

    “What the hell just happened?” Keith had asked.

    “It was his birthday. I just wished him a happy one.”

    Back at the auction house, being gawked at reminded me that I was the outsider here with my full set of perfect white teeth, clean clothes that matched and fit, and body parts intact and functioning at around 90%. But I felt comfortable. I have spent many hours in various holes-in-the-wall with folks as hard up or worse off than these poor folks. It’s just been awhile and the undiluted concentration under one roof was a tad jarring.

    However, as much as I love making chit chat with strangers, whether they be of the freak show variety or not, my husband does not. Christian’s just not the social sort of butterfly and, like my friend Keith, gets squirmy when forced to make small talk.

    So when I informed him that if we did bid on that crappy little nightstand and won, it would mean we had to stay till the end to settle up and collect our goods. The table wasn’t that spectacular and its drawer held remnants of a life recently extinguished:  syringes, used tissues, and medicine bottles filled with pills taken to stave off the inevitable. Christian decided it wasn’t worth the wait or the effort. Agreed! We headed into the entry hall to return our tissue paper plate numbered 121 and, so as not to seem rude, browsed through a rack of used DVDs.****

    While waiting for Christian, I taught a mentally challenged lesbian with enormous, pendulous bra-less breasts***** what foosball is and gabbed about her favorite sports. Might I remind you this is the reason my husband thought I needed to get out of the house in the first place–I NEED to talk to people. She was people and equally desperate to gab.

    “If the Giants win this week they go to the Super Bowl,” she told me. I tried to explain the playoffs and that she was mistaken. There was no convincing her otherwise.

    In medieval times, she may have been a soothsayer or perhaps burned at the stake for witchcraft. Either way, if the Giants go to the Super Bowl, you can bet I will ask her for more predictions. Because I will be back. Because I’m of them and am them, and because I am totally going to bid on that fur coat.

     

    *Oh, there were at least seven other toothless folks there, I just didn’t have conversations with them. And it’s quite possible that their wisdom teeth were present but impacted.

    **I’m sure this is not factually correct.

    ***I say “one day” but I have been known to hug, kiss and give homeless people the actual shirts off my back. I don’t know why. It’s fun. Their faces light up like a kid at Christmas. Maybe one of them will kill me, but I doubt it. If so, all press is good press, right?

    ****They had an excellent selection. We scored Transamerica, Capote, The Warriors, K Street, Shaun of the Dead and Reality Bites for a grand total of $10.

    *****Her breasts are why bras were invented. Christian was amazed that the giant appendages that swung from her body are the same body part that men lust after. They are. Suck on that!

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Family & Life,  Rock House

    Christmas on the Rocks

    We usually head out of the country for Christmas (check out last year’s epic trip to Peru), but 2011 is a different sort of year for us.

    Almost one year ago we bought our first home (the “Rock House”) and just weeks after that we welcomed into our lives a rescued mutt (the “Griswold”).

    Since it’s our first Christmas at the Rock House and Griswold’s first Christmas EVER we are doing it up right. Christmas tree erecting, wood fire burning, vinyl records spinning, meals crock-potting, fresh orange juicing, cookie baking, movie watching, Scrabble and Monopoly playing…it doesn’t get much better than this.

    Day two had my boys cuddled up doing crosswords and staring out of the Rock House window at anything that moved. Guess who was doing what.

    Our tree has no decorations and we aren’t exchanging gifts, unless you count the rolling pin Christian bought me yesterday.*

    But really who cares?

    We’re together and warm and happy and this year has been one rife with gifts that can’t be bought. I hope this season is equally blessed for you and yours and that 2012 brings good tidings to us all!

    *Oh, I’m totally counting that and will use it in an argument years from now when he has forgotten that I asked for him to buy a rolling pin while running errands so I could make him sugar cookies.

  • News

    Received another amazing review for BURN DOWN THE GROUND from Publishers Weekly in which they describe it as “a remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” They also called it a “harrowing memoir” and an “extraordinary story” and said I “face the truth with an unflinching eye.” Whoa. Read the full profile here.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  PR & Marketing

    Publishers Weekly Profile

    I received another amazing review for BURN DOWN THE GROUND from Publishers Weekly in which they describe it as “a remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” They also called it a “harrowing memoir” and an “extraordinary story” and said I “face the truth with an unflinching eye.” Whoa. (Click here to read in full.)

    Publishers Weekly Profile

    Can someone show me how to sew words into a quilt? I need to wrap myself up in these for when I’m down on myself. Alternately, if there’s a recipe that melts words into a silicone penis that I could make sweet love to, that’d be swell, too.

    My friend Rachel said Stephen King doesn’t even get this much ink. I said I hope Mr. King reads it and is like, “Who the fu*k is Kambri Crews & why is she getting more ink than me?!” Then he’ll read my book, share it with his movie producing buddies, take me under his wing and host dinner parties with me as his special guest at his place in Maine where he lets me use his guest room and stay as long as I want because we have become as close as mentors/proteges can be without any hanky panky.

    THOUGHTS BECOME THINGS!

    Meanwhile, if you’re on GoodReads.com, my publisher is hosting a giveaway. It’s free & simple to enter.

    And here’s a link to the original review from Publishers Weekly published a couple of weeks ago.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  PR & Marketing,  Writing

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    If you’re a Goodreads member, my publisher is hosting a giveaway of my memoir. It’s free to enter.

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Burn Down the Ground by Kambri Crews

    Burn Down the Ground

    by Kambri Crews

    Giveaway ends January 10, 2012.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

     

  • All Blog Entries,  PR & Marketing

    Another First

    "Burn Down the Ground"This is a week of firsts for me it seems. I created my first promotion and my first raffle and today I received my first review. From Publishers Weekly, no less.

    They call my memoir “intensely readable” and say I “paint a vivid portrait of an impoverished childhood in rural Texas with hearing-impaired parents…”

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  PR & Marketing

    My First Raffle

    I’m trying out Rafflecopter (a site in beta testing that organizes free giveaways) and just whipped this one together. Enter to win, if you like. Or not. I’m just happy I got the flipping thing to actually load! Scroll down & enter to win!

    And, you can still receive a bookplate scribbled by yours truly by sending me your proof of purchase receipt for pre-ordering BURN DOWN THE GROUND. Click here for details on that.

  • All Blog Entries,  PR & Marketing

    Holiday Special

    It’s Black Friday! You know what would make an excellent gift for yourself or someone you love? My memoir BURN DOWN THE GROUND! Why? Because as Chris Regan, five time Emmy award-winning comedy writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, said “Kambri Crews’ remarkable memoir of her turbulent upbringing, BURN DOWN THE GROUND, will amaze, amuse and–most importantly—finally get you to stop whining about your own childhood.”

    I know what you’re thinking, “But, wait, your memoir isn’t out until February 28th.”

    Here’s what I’m gonna do for you…

    Pre-order my memoir –send proof of purchase to me at kambricrews@gmail.com— and I’ll mail you an autographed bookplate (a sticker that you put on the inside of your book). That way you’ll have something to give on Christmas day or Valentine’s or any other gift giving occasion that occurs between now and February 28th. As an added bonus, I’ll send you something from my apartment. A postcard, a CD from my husband’s music collection, a can of tuna. Who knows what it’ll be! For those in NYC, I’ll also send an admit two pass to Gotham Comedy Club good through 12/30/11.
    Be sure to let me know how you’d like it autographed, i.e., to whom should I make it out and what special message I should include, if any.

    Offer ends 12/19/11. Sorry rest of the world that is not the United States of America, this offer doesn’t apply to you. 🙁

  • All Blog Entries,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  My Jailed Deaf Dad

    Give Me an “O”. What’s That Spell? Vagina!

    People are curious about vaginas. Specifically, those in American Sign Language (ASL). I’m used to bizarre searches landing folks on my sites, so when I noticed a surge in traffic to my websites for people searching the term “ASL Vagina” I didn’t think much of it. That is until my friend Sarah shared a link to this article about the Oregon Ducks in the NY Times.

    When fans of the Oregon Ducks hold their hands in an “O” shape to cheer on their team, they are “screaming” the ASL word for “vagina”. (Click photo at right.)

    The headline says it all: Oops.

    Technically, the sign for “vagina” is flipped with the index fingers pointed toward the ground, the thumbs toward the sky and the other fingers tucked under as presented in the following examples.

    — At left is a spread (heh) I got in Time Out New York to promote “ASL in the Raw” at the now shuttered Comix.
    — In the center, I perform on a Drink at Work show at the now shuttered Ace of Clubs. (Hmmm….I’m noticing a trend.)
    — And, at right, the First Lady shows us her family values.

      

    But as you can see from the drawing below of My Jailed Deaf Dad’s prison tattoo, the Tasmanian Devil is hungry for some, umm, “kitty”, and the reverse “vagina” is shaped by two “I love you” signs joined together. It’s lousy with double entendres.

    While Oregon Ducks fans aren’t really shouting “vagina” in ASL, they come close. And when you’re a young kid talking about the human body, close is good enough.

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Family & Life,  Rock House

    Wiping Up

    Ah! The halcyon days of autumn at the Rock House! I want to scoop them up and smother them in a jar filled with nail polish remover to preserve them until they’re dust-covered, crumbly exoskeletons.

    I spent a lovely week in October partaking in the three Rs: Running, Reading and Relaxing. One evening, while watching La Vie en Rose, Griswold came cowering into the living room and hid behind the recliner. His tucked-under tail, panicked pace and look of mortification on his face could only mean one thing:

    There was poop stuck in his butt.

    I know I’m projecting human emotion on an animal, but he looked downright humiliated as I came to his rescue. Picture the saddest doe eyes, tiny whimpers, and a tail thumping quickly while still carefully covering the crime scene.

    Watching a French film –subtitles and all– while sipping a rich Malbec made me feel oh so chic. Needing to pause said movie to wipe and cut away feces from my dog’s rear end reminded me that I am not. None of us are. As they say, everybody poops.

    Another thing this experience taught me: My scissors are painfully dull.

  • All Blog Entries,  My Jailed Deaf Dad

    Picture Day!

    It was picture day at prison, so I wore stripes. Dad didn’t look scary like he did during the last visit when he had a shaved head and sallow complexion. This time he had hair (not a gray to be found even at almost 65 yrs of age!) and had a nicer, more flattering pair of glasses. He had taken the lenses out of his ugly “Buddy Holly” prison issued prescription glasses and shaved and shaped them by sanding them down on concrete to fit inside the more attractive frames of a pair of cheap reading glasses. The ingenuity!

    I bought two photos thinking we would get a picture together and one of Dad by himself, but he protested. Why would I want a photo of just him? I really don’t know. He is enamored of the photo of him in his old cowboy hat (The same hat one of my aunts plucked out of Dad’s belongings after his arrest and gave to her grandkids to play cowboy and Indians. Not cool.), and I thought he’d want a more recent one of himself.

    When I think about it, though, why would he want a solo shot of him in prison whites? I jokingly suggested he could use it to find a lady friend online. He said, sure if I’d help him find one. Ummmm, no. No, I will not help him find a lady friend. At least not until he admits he tried to kill the last one. So we used the two pictures to take close up and full body shots.

    Dad and I had a great visit. We discussed banal things like his wanting a new pair of New Balance sneakers to current events such as the liberation of Libya and the Occupy Wall Street movements and random subjects like bullfighting and child molestation. Dad said a doctor once told him that if a girl has sex before she’s had her first period, her vagina is irreparably stretched. What? Huh? GAH! I want to look it up, but I don’t want that Google search infecting my computer’s history. HA! Lord, my dad and I have some of the weirdest conversations.

    We also talked about his upcoming review by the Parole Board. This June will be the first time he is eligible for parole. I explained the process and we both agreed it’s unlikely he will be released. He wants to be, of course, but I don’t think he’s ready. He’s never admitted guilt, taken responsibility or had any counseling to address his drug and alcohol abuse and anger management issues. The latter, I discovered, is because the prison doesn’t provide an interpreter for those services. That is a direct violation of basic ADA laws. I’m going to look further into this, because those issues are exactly what landed him in jail in the first place. Without dealing with those demons, he will simply hurt someone else or their property and be back in the clink.

    And, just like clockwork, he proved me right. I had stepped away to get us more drinks and candy from the vending machine. As I walked back I saw a “guard” trying to tell Dad something. I say “guard” in quotes because at about 5′ tall and over 60 years old, she isn’t guarding anyone or anything. She is simply there to greet family and tell them which table they’re assigned to. Apparently while I was getting snacks, Dad had gotten up to throw away our trash. He did this twice, walking back and forth. That’s a no-no. Oops. I would’ve just said sorry and made a mental note not to do it again. Not a big deal, right? Well not to Dad.

    Being scolded was enough to make him furious. His face was so screwed up with anger, his skin flushed red and eyes turned black as he flipped his arms and hands angrily at her to get lost. I intervened and as she walked away I reminded Dad to not cause trouble. “Your mantra needs to be, ‘Parole Board, Parole Board, Parole Board.'” With that he laughed and his normal color was restored.

    But that flash of rage he demonstrated about a minor thing while he was completely sober, the contempt he carries for authority and rules and the disrespect he showed an elderly woman was enough for me to see that no, no he shouldn’t be released. A knot in my throat formed and tears welled up. My father is broken. And all the king’s horsemen and all the king’s men, can’t put my dad together again.

  • News

    Gave a presentation to over 650 students in Montgomery, TX about my book, life in New York City and how I made it out of the back woods to where I am now. They didn’t boo or hiss, laughed in the right spots and asked lots of questions. I’d consider that a success. Plus, they were awesome.

  • All Blog Entries,  Comedy

    Luca Lounge & Kickstarter

    Carol Hartsell and I are teaming up with Luca Lounge and we need your help! If you’ve ever wanted stage time or have endured watching a show in a crappy space, you definitely know why this is important for NYC comedy. Please consider donating anything from $1 to $3,000 to help us realize our $8,000 goal and get this Kickstarter project funded. Click here to donate & review a list of what your pledge will get you (besides a better space, of course). Below the video are more details if you’d like to read more about what we’re doing and why.

    What We’re Doing:
    We are transforming a leaky party space in the back of a bar called Luca Lounge in the East Village into an independent theater space for comedy. We are partnering with the owner to fix up the space and program cheap or free comedy and storytelling shows there 6 nights a week.

    We have already been producing shows in the space, working around the inevitable roof leaks whenever it rains and now we want to take it to the next level.

    With extensive roof repairs, the installation of stage lights and a revamped sound system, production equipment and backline essentials, as well as new tables and chairs, we can create an artist-run hub for NYC’s alternative comedy community.

    No more begging club owners to let us try our shows out there, only to have them gouge our friends and fans with high cover prices and drink minimums. No more apologizing to audiences and performers for a sub par room where the laughter dies before it begins and you run the risk of the occasional electrical shock.

    A great room for great comedy, that respects the artists and the audience. That’s what we’re building.

    Why We’re Doing It:
    We’re comedians and producers ourselves who have already put on great weekly stand up shows at cool independent spaces that have since closed like Rififi, Mo Pitkins, Ochi’s Lounge and Comix. Every time a venue closes, a huge number of quality comedy shows are forced to scatter and regroup elsewhere, wherever they can find a willing space. Sketch and improv have UCB and the PIT. It’s time for New York’s unrivaled stand up scene to start putting down some roots too.

    The best comedy is smart, reckless and exuberant, and it deserves a venue that embodies the same adventurous spirit (except with regards to roof maintenance).

    At one point in time, downtown was home to several venues that offered alternative comedy several nights of the week (Rififi, Mo Pitkins, Ochi’s and Luna Lounge) and they have all since closed. We want to rebuild the space, the spirit, and the community.

    Why You Should Support Us:
    Over the last two years, those of us involved in the Luca Lounge Comedy Project, as we just dubbed it, have made a commitment to work together and prove ourselves, both to the owners of the venue and the audiences we’ve brought into it.

    We currently have 13 shows that call Luca Lounge their home and we’ve had some of the best comedians in the country grace our rickety stage, including: Janeane Garofalo, Fred Armisen, Bill Burr, Judah Friedlander, Reggie Watts, John Mulaney, Lizz Winstead, Donald Glover, Kurt Metzger, Joe DeRosa, Kumail Nanjiani, Baron Vaughn and more.

    But, more importantly, we’ve showcased hundreds of up-and-coming New York comedians and we will continue to focus on fostering their work first and foremost.

    In short, you should support us because we are true comedy believers who want to support the work of our community, not just our own.

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan

    Au Contraire! Art

    The cover of Christian’s DVD / CD “Au Contraire!” is actually a painting by the incredibly talented Stephen Gardner. Stephen and his lovely wife Angie stopped by our cabin today to deliver the real thing. It is stunning and beautifully framed. I’ll wait for Christian to return from LA before hanging it. It could go in so many places.

    Incidentally, they are also running in the NYC Marathon.

    You can donate to God’s Love We Deliver in their honor. It’s super simple and a great organization. In the “Payment Information” section of the donation form:
    1) Select “ING NYC Marathon 2011” in the “I am making my donation in response to” box
    2) Select “In honor of” in the “Tribute Box”
    3) Fill in “Angela Martin” in the boxes below the “Tribute Box”

    And are posting their progress here: https://www.facebook.com/pages​/Steve-and-Ange-are-running-th​e-NY-Marathon

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC

    Strip Clubs & Other Playgrounds

    As I watched live coverage of the NYC Marathon two years ago, the announcer said, “Now the marathoners are entering the less than picturesque part of Queens.” That’s where I live.

    There is zero in the way of outdoor park space except for a tiny playground that is across the street from a strip club.

    Yes. The only playground is across the street from a strip club.

    Most mornings the playground looks post-apocalyptic as if zombies had raided Queens and I survived till morning to witness the carnage. Garbage cans overflow and needles, used condoms, beer and liquor bottles, and broken glass litter the ground. Just this morning, Christian took this photo of a bloody t-shirt next to an empty Four Loko can.

    For a year, the door man at the strip club Riviera barked me to come in. Never mind that I would  have a dog in tow or would be carrying groceries or wearing gym clothes.

    “Why would he think I’d want to go in there?” I would wonder even as I wore the lesbian uniform of jeans, Chuck Taylors and a softball t-shirt.

    Finally, he said something that made me reconsider: “Ladies drink for free!”

    Whoa. Beep, beep, beep! Back the truck up.

    Free? I’ll be here Tuesday. What time do you open?”

    Prepare to lose your rent money Mr. Jiggle Joint Owner because my pal Jenn & I will clean out your stash of white wine!

    I imagined the bar manager taking inventory Wednesday morning and firing a cocktail waitress for swiping bottles of Pinot Grigio. Because, really, how would they go through so much so quickly? Men in strip clubs aren’t exactly heavy imbibers of crisp white wine. I, however, am.

    Without consulting with each other, Jenn and I both wore summery dresses and had on makeup. Something about being around naked women made us want to look our best. We arrived so early there were only two other men there wearing suits and seated at the ring of seats around the stage.

    The doorman escorted us to a table of our choice, away from the stage. We didn’t want to take a seat from a legitimate customer looking for thrills. He also introduced himself to me officially. His name is Abdelaziz Essafoui and he is a Greco Roman Wrestler who competed in the 1996 Olympics for Morocco. In addition to serving as security for the strip club, he competes in cage matches in the Bronx.

    We pulled out our notebooks and had a great time brainstorming, catching up on gossip and, of course, drinking free wine. As we were new customers, a dancer was sent to the stage and took off her clothes. It was like Jenn and I were hanging out in the locker room at the gym with one of those particularly extroverted women who stands around with her top off for a long time for no real reason except to show off and/or make me uncomfortable.

    Soon, two casually dress guys in their late twenties came in and took the table next to me and Jenn. Again, a dancer was sent to the stage to welcome their arrival. According to the emcee who sounded like a morning radio DJ, her name was Licorice. She was wearing a one piece, stretchy bodysuit which, to me, seemed like an odd choice. If I were a stripper, I’d want more pieces to take off as part of the tease, but what do I know? I put on pants on after I put on shoes. But in one simple move, she was butt naked save for a sliver of string that covered her hee hoo.

    A few more gentlemen came in while Licorice was finishing up her song and the DJ called for Candy to take over. (Hmm…theme night?) The song ended but Candy was no where to be found.

    “Candy, make your way to the stage,” the DJ bellowed. “Gentlemen be ready for some delicious Candy.”

    Licorice looked positively bored, maybe even irritated that she was still on stage without anyone paying her any mind, and moved with the least possible effort required to simulate writhing. The emcee beckoned again, “Candy, has anybody seen Candy?” Still no Candy.

    Licorice had had enough. She picked up her body suit and began to get dressed.

    On stage.

    Now, ladies and gents, seeing someone take off clothes might be titillating, but watching someone get dressed is not. In fact, it is an unequivocal turn off. Especially in something like a one-piece stretchy bodysuit. Licorice didn’t care.

    Picture a woman trying to put on a too-small pair of Spanx. She wriggled and squeezed and clenched and thrust her body to squeeze into her outfit all while teetering on 6-inch platform heels. This should be an act on “America’s Got Talent.” It takes SKILL, people.

    As we watched the spectacle unfold, Jenn curled her upper lip like she’d just smelled someone fart after eating nothing but sauerkraut for a week. “She really should do that elsewhere.”

    Agreed.

    Finally Candy appeared, as did a large group of men. The music got louder, the lights dimmer and strippers took men to back rooms. The shift in mood was palpable. It was like hungry lions lounging lazily in the sun were suddenly tossed a lone, bloody carcass. And Jenn and I were like caribou whose fellow herd mate got caught and ripped to pieces. Do you stay behind to try to save them and witness the slaughter? Absolutely the fuck not. So we asked for our check.

    Turns out Mr. Olympic Greco Roman Wrestler Turned Doorman at a Strip Club and Cage Match Fighter lied. Ladies don’t drink free. He only bought us our first round. Shocker! And, how could we argue? Present the contract?

    Luckily the wine was priced at typical NYC prices and not the jacked up rate strip clubs often charge. To split the bill, Jenn needed to break a $20. Because the place had gotten so busy with men dropping loads of cash, we were not high priority for the staff. Jenn grabbed the first available stripper, handed her the bill and asked, “Can I get change for a twenty?”

    A stripper? Giving change?

    Maybe in Heaven.

    Maybe.

    When a barmaid came by Jenn asked, “I gave that stripper $20 and…” I waved frantically and mouthed, “Don’t call them strippers.”

    “Oh, excuse me,” Jenn continued, rolling her eyes. “I gave that ‘exotic dancer’ $20 for change and she never came back with it.”

    The last time I had been to a strip club was with a famous billionaire. Let us just say, we were treated differently that night. Jenn never recovered her missing $20 which made me feel terrible. The main reason I invited her was for the free drinks and to save her money. Abdelaziz* was conveniently missing in action.

    Now, when I need my thrills, I go to the playground.

    Kambri
    *When an Olympian says free drinks, one expects free drinks. I mean, isn’t there some Olympiad code of ethics?

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC

    The More Things Change

    Ten years ago, I turned thirty. In my first year as a 30-something in New York, terrorists attacked the country, I co-founded a business, and Dad tried to kill someone again.

    September 11th from our Roof by kambricrews

    I moved to New York City in the fall of 2000. I knew one person. I entered my thirties to little fanfare. After finishing the work day as a legal assistant, I enjoyed a few drinks with co-workers at the Rink Bar, the outdoor restaurant in Rockefeller Center that serves as the infamous ice skating rink during cooler months.

    Afterwards, I headed home to Queens on the N train where a tiny Latino man assaulted me under my skirt. His height topped out at my waist, at best*; an excellent access point if you’re prone to fingering slightly buzzed women on public transit. Being from Texas and new to the city, I sized up my assailant and chose fight over flight. I ran after him freely spewing vile curses and threats to his life while wearing my 3.5 inch heels. I was double his size with a fury in my eyes.

    He looked positively terrorized that I’d given chase.

    The strangers around me looked positively terrorized that I’d used such vile language.

    In his desperate attempt to escape, he pushed people aside and jumped a turnstile, losing me.**

    A decade has passed and the goals I’ve accomplished and wildest dreams that have come true are too numerous to count. I’ve pinched myself silly. I ain’t dreamin’. I blinked and now I’m forty. The next ten years has a lot to live up to. I mean, in my thirties, Erik Estrada was involved. Twice.

    Still in New York City, I know more than one person now, but again celebrated a milestone of life with little fanfare. I’ve never been the birthday bash type. I guess I prefer producing fun for other people. But it was very special and spent with my favorite people without assaults by any miniature men.

    I don’t know much, but I do that in my first year as a 40-something, I will celebrate five years of marriage, my memoir will be published and Dad will be up for parole.

    The rest is a mystery. And isn’t that the most thrilling and frightening thing ever?

    Kambri
    *In his defense, I was wearing heels.
    **To this day, I wish I had caught him. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t.

  • All Blog Entries

    Interspecies Love – Dinah "Feeds" Griswold

    Our parakeet Dinah is obsessed with our puppy Griswold. His grungy fur is much more interesting to clean and pick at than any of ours, I’m sure. On Saturday, she took their relationship to the next level: LOVE. To show love parakeets regurgitate and share their food with their loved ones. All day and night she swarmed around Grizzy, stretching and pumping her neck and trying to get food in his mouth. Lucky for her Grizzy will eat anything, though her beak is a bit ticklish for him.

  • All Blog Entries,  Rock House

    Work on the Rocks

    I’m working “on the rocks” at our cabin in the Catskills, more specifically the “patio” between our cabin and the outbuilding, and having the most perfect day.

    First up, I took an early morning bike ride to and from one of the gobs of local post offices where there are no lines, everything you might need is in stock, and the postal worker is happy to see you. Read that last line again and appreciate the shock and awe of it. I’m tempted to abandon emails in favor of snail mail just to give me an excuse to go back. And the bike ride was just challenging enough to work up a sweat but without the “OHMYGODI’MGOINGTODIE” feeling that some of the hills around here induce. I came home to eat breakfast and read the paper on the aforementioned patio while listening to Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of American Music, took a trip to the hardware store (yes, that’s part of the perfect day…I could spend hours in them), I’m wearing flip flops and a sun dress and there’s just enough breeze and clouds to cool down the sun. Perfect, I tell ya!**

    The patio between the cabin and the outbuilding has been a rewarding, not-too-labor-intensive project. It started as a huge mound of dirt and rocks as deep as two-and-a-half feet in some spots and a ten-foot long by three-foot wide area. The pile was left during the renovations that took place some five years ago. I was convinced there was something worthwhile under the rubble or, at the very least, we could make the dirt level to where we could put down stones.
    Once the ground thawed, Christian and I went to work. We used some of the bigger rocks to build a stone staircase and began the sweaty, tedious job of hacking away at the rock pile. We unearthed a smooth patch of concrete patio along with some natural rock and some broken concrete slabs. The picture at right is just past the mid-way point. It’s great knowing something awesome and usable is underneath that pile and that it didn’t cost us a cent. But it’s not so great knowing that you have that much work ahead of you. After a while it was like pulling the string on a sweater…just when does it stop?
    As you can see from the bottom two pics, it was worth the effort. Once we patch a hole, add a few flowering plants, and a string of party lights and we have a party!

    **And, okay, so maybe it’s not PERFECT. Christian queued up Elvis Costello (blech) and, while Texas loves to brag about how big everything is there, lordy the mosquitoes here are the size of horseflies. And my Texans are saying, “Sheee-it, here we call them gnats.”
    Kambri
    Full Flickr set of Rock House photos here.

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  NYC

    How’s this for a Memorial Day weekend?

    Friday, I rode my new bicycle to a protest. Now I just need to grab a granola bar and stop shaving and my transformation will be complete. I WILL be the person I would have rolled eyes at.

    The impromptu rally I attended was in reaction to NYPD officers Moreno & Mata, aka the “Rape Cops,” being acquitted of rape. Luckily, they were found guilty of a few lesser charges so Ray Kelly promptly fired them from the NYPD. Their sentencing isn’t till later in June and, hopefully, seeing the public’s outrage at the verdict the sentence will be the harshest allowed (2 years) for the lesser crime of misconduct.

    Incidentally, “attend a rally” is on my re-vamped bucket list. I had forgotten this until I was actually chanting with the crowd outside the Supreme Court in lower Manhattan. Since writing that post, I’ve also now ridden the Orient Express, though it was in Peru. I still want ride the REAL Orient Express.

    Anyway, all told, I rode about 18 miles through Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens during rush hour traffic, including the smelly streets of Chinatown, and only fell once (while stopped at a traffic light and trying to adjust myself on my seat — stupid), scraping my right knee but not to the point where I needed to stop for a band-aid or anything. Not bad for my first time!

    I was ever grateful I didn’t injure myself because at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, Christian & I hopped a flight to Akron/Canton for my ex-husband’s niece’s wedding. She didn’t know I was coming as her mom, my ex-sister-in-law Tracy, wanted it to be a surprise. Upon seeing us at the church, Alisha burst into happy tears! I was worried the shock wouldn’t go over well but she was overjoyed. I hugged so many ex-in-laws and friends that my rotator cuffs are sore.

    We flew back to NYC less than 24 hours later, picked up Griswold from the vet where he had been neutered. I headed in to Manhattan for a lovely dinner with Tex in the City pals, Scott Ramsey & Greg Gorman, and today has been video games, writing the acknowledgements for Burn Down the Ground, and general laziness. What a perfect weekend!

    We really need to learn how to operate iPhone cameras because none of our wedding photos are that great. But here we are from top to bottom:  Me & Alisha, me, ex-husband and current husband duke it out, me & my ex-husband (aka The Sailor for those of you who follow my http://www.lovedaddy.org/ blog), and poor little Griswold.

    Kambri

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals

    A “Rooster’s Crow”

    >This morning, I was awakened by a bird. The imposter rooster was Dinah, my parakeet. I’m not sure what compelled her to fly into my bedroom but she did and hung out on the bed with me, Paquita & Griswold. I love that she loves the dogs, especially Griswold because his weird fur is fun for her to chew on.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Writing

    Pre-Order My Memoir!

    Pre-order now and by the time you get it it will feel like getting lay-a-way out of hock. And isn’t that the best feeling in the world?

    Hardcover version:  Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir and the Kindle version: Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir

    Kambri

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan,  Comedy,  Family & Life,  Random

    Erik Estrada is in Mortal Peril

    Will Christian Seek Revenge on Nemesis Erik Estrada

    During a little cocktail party prior to the TV Land Awards, a certain Mr. Erik Estrada had me swooning. The man I knew and loved as the star of CHiPs was as charming, good looking and fun loving as the 8-year-old me had hoped and dreamed. See evidence Exhibit A to the right: Erik and I gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes, as my then fiancé, Christian Finnegan sulks nearby.

    Read my original blog posts here and here and here.

    Five years have passed since I was hypnotized by Ponch’s spell, and I still get giggly thinking about the moment.

    Today Christian is filming a scene with none other than Erik Estrada on the set of TBS’s Are We There Yet?. He’ll be on Christian’s turf. The question remains: has Christian forgiven him for working his Latin magic on his lady?

    Kambri
    If not, he might have to recruit Terry Crews to help take him out. I mean, have you seen the Ponch in action?

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

    Tortilla soupOkay, I found my Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe mentioned in my blog entry that will improve your sex life, make you lose weight & become rich & famous*.

    2 large chicken breasts (1 lb or slightly more)
    1.5 cans of chicken broth
    1 fresh jalapeno sliced or 2 heaping tablespoons of Mrs. Renfro’s** jalapeños
    2 chili peppers diced (I never can find fresh chili peppers in the store so either skip this or throw in a few extra jap slices)
    3/4 cups of diced red onion
    2 extra large tomatoes diced OR two 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
    2 garlic cloves minced (or 1/4 teaspoon if from a jar)
    2 tablespoons cilantro minced (Dang, I love cilantro. My tablespoons are heaping!)
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    2 teaspoons cumin
    2 teaspoons pepper
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons tobasco

    Put chicken in bottom of crock pot and pour in all the other ingredients.

    For super tender chicken that shreds easily, cook on low for 8 hours. If you don’t have the time, cook 4 hours on high.

    Garnish = tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese and sliced avocado.

    Hold on to your wig, otherwise it will be blown back by how yummy this is.

    Kambri
    *Results may vary. If these things don’t happen to you after eating this recipe, then it’s probably your own fault.
    **She’s was a counselor at my high school in TX and Mrs. Renfro’s salsa & jalapeños are delicious! COOL!

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Martha Stewart Crawled Into My Ear & Laid Eggs

    And they hatched into tiny little Martha spiders that have taken over my body. This Crewsfly I’ve meta-morphed into is quite a handy little worker bee.

    Just a few dishes I have made lately include red beans & rice with sausage that could compete in cook-off, meatloaf & mash potatoes that would blow your WIG back, chicken tortilla soup* that tastes like you’re in #$&*! Mexico minus the sun and sand of course, and caramel apples that make your mouth water like a slobbery infant.

    In addition to various home projects like painting and hanging shelves, I’m awaiting my order of supplies to make homemade soap and have a yummy recipe for a brown sugar scrub that I might “accidentally” eat in the shower.
    Are you sitting down? Good, because check it out, I have even taken to sewing.


    We have a kitchen “island” which is actually an antique gas stove that is inoperable and missing a door creating an unsightly, gaping hole. So, I bought a gingham checked shirt at the thrift store for $3 and turned it into a little curtain. Check out the before and after by rolling over the image. If I had a machine & more cloth, I would have done it differently but let’s not get crazy here. You don’t live in a barn because your trailer got repo’d and not have to sew a few things by hand — hemming skirts, patching up holes and trying to make things last or look halfway decent like Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. I can sew. I just don’t. My hand job is perfectly fine serving both a function & adding a fun little kick to the island.


    Since I don’t have a machine, I just got a little emergency travel sewing kit from the hardware store. It was standard, containing a couple of needles and small spools of thread and that thing. You know the bendy little silver metal thing with the face on it. I stared at it curiously as I have in the past wondering what function it served. My first instinct was to look it up on the internet — which shows you just how long it has been since I last sewed: THE INTERNET DIDN’T EXIST. So I Google “sewing kit silver thing with the face on it” and got this answer.

    It’s a needle threader! All these years I’ve been painstakingly threading needles while the face on the silver thing was staring at me. How had my mother never shown me this when she was teaching me to sew? I guess she was too busy teaching other basic things like don’t steal, take candy from strangers, or tell people she smoked marijuana. There are some lessons I guess parents never get to. But that’s why we have the internet, to answer plaguing questions that your mother didn’t tell you. Like what is a clove of garlic or the silver thing with a face on it and is it normal for women have hair on their nipples?


    *Trust me, you want my recipe. I just need to find the paper I wrote it on so I can transcribe it. So, pray that I do locate it, because, like using a needle threader, it will change your LIFE.
  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Christian Finnegan,  NYC

    Thundersnow & Lightning

    It’s the winter that keeps on giving and last night was a first: THUNDERSNOW. As I worked in my home office, there was lightning flashes, rolling booms of thunder, sleet, hail and by this morning a foot of snow. Paquita was terrified of the storm and the building was creaking and making weird howling sounds so she ran for cover and stayed there all night. Her safe hiding spot: under the toilet.

    I’ve never seen a more pathetic looking creature. When I pulled her out, she squirmed out of my arms and hurried back. Today, she’s glued to my lap.

    The snow has stranded Christian in CT where he is filming episodes of “Are We There Yet?” (TBS, Wednesday nights at 9 CST/10 EST). Which, speaking of, his character “Martin” has a B-plot in an upcoming show where he’s dating  an older woman. And just who is portraying the love interest? Paulina Porizkova.

    He came home that night covered in glitter and in a great mood. Hmmm…not sure I want to tune in for that episode.

    Kambri
    Nothing like having your husband canoodling with a supermodel to make you re-think your diet and exercise plan. Oof.

  • All Blog Entries,  Rock House

    The Carpenter’s Daughter

    Perfectly HungI may not have known what a clove of garlic is and may have had to consult the internet to confirm exactly what constitutes a stalk of celery, but I sure know how to use a drill. I used a level, calculated the exact spacing, drilled holes, inserted anchors and screws and hung these bad boys up.

    In less than ten minutes. Including gathering and putting away tools and cleaning up.

    Tomorrow I’m patching a hole with plaster, sanding and painting. That’s nothing.

    Kambri
    Saving face.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Things Cooking Chili Taught Me

    I’m at the cabin and cooked my 2nd crock pot dish. This time a chili recipe I got from my cousin Shari’s blog (see yesterday’s “I’m Your Night Plower” entry). A few things I learned in the process:

    (1) I could rake in the big bucks on “Supermarket Sweep”. I picked up everything on my list in order without needing to double back in a store that I’ve never stepped foot in before. Although I’ve never purchased things like cans of chopped tomatoes, cloves of garlic and fresh bay leaves, I instinctively knew where to find them.

    (2) Cloves aren’t just for smoking. The list called for two cloves of garlic. Check. It also called for three whole cloves. Cloves of what? I went in figuring my cousin Shari would know since she has seven children. You don’t keep seven humans alive without knowing such things. Sure enough, along with all the other spices, there was a bottle of whole cloves. Whole cloves are actually pretty small. They look like a really thick, brown, harder pistil of a flower.
    (3) A clove of garlic is just one piece of the entire bulb. So, I put in too much garlic because I thought the bulb of garlic was a clove. I didn’t put THAT much extra in, though, because peeling the pieces of garlic was annoying. And chopping them up made my eyes water and my hands still smell like an old Italian.
    (4) I want a garlic press. That’s something I never imagined me saying. I still want a jigsaw before a garlic press, but still: I want a garlic press so I never have to deal with mincing garlic by hand.
    (5) I follow the rules. The lines were long with people whose carts looked like they were cooking for the Octomom. I had about 25 or more things and they had express lines for 5, 10 and 15 items or less. I just couldn’t bring myself to get in the 15 or less line, even after seeing a guy with much more than I had do it. I simply can’t bear the idea that I’m the “some jerk”when a person with only 15 items gets in line behind me, has to wait and tells their waiting friend or family, “Some jerk got in line with like 30 things in the 15 or less line!” While my dad and I always remark about how much alike we are, this is definitely where we differ. No way would he wait in a regular line behind carts filled to the rim. No. Way.

    Side note: I lost my list which I had written on official White House Situation Room note paper that I snagged during a private tour of, well, the Situation Room in the White House. I like that some hillbilly is going to find my list and think that a real White House employee, with such extraordinary stress and job responsibility, is writing down a chili recipe and shopping list instead of, you know, helping keep America safe.

    Kambri
    Chili in a cabin surrounded by snowcapped woods is just about as Norman Rockwell picture perfect as life can get.

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    I’m Your Night Plower

    I woke up today with a mission: get paint, groceries to make my cousin Shari’s chili, and end my day at the cabin painting said cabin and eating said chili. I left the apartment, dragging a ticked off Chihuahua through the snow behind me while carrying 100 pounds of STUFF in a temperature more frigid than Gwyneth Paltrow.

    The alley cats that live in my private car lot shot me concerned looks and slinked away, low backs, shifty eyes. I smelled like danger. I was THAT flummoxed. Car cleared of snow, warmed and loaded, I set off. Never have I tried to find a spot and parallel park after yet another snowstorm (including the 10 years I lived in Ohio), and I’ve only driven a handful of times in ten years. I quickly realized I had a better chance at finding Bin Laden than a place to park near the paint store on Steinway Street. I had left an hour later than I hoped, Paquita was whining, and I just felt FAT all bundled up in winter gear trying to program the GPS and check for blind spots…like I was someone who couldn’t bend over and tie their own shoe. Also, I realized I dumped all my change in a collection jar at home which meant I couldn’t feed the muni-meter.

    “This is NOT cool. NOT cool, Universe! I just wanna RELAX! How do people LIVE in this city! No wonder I’m trying to get out!” I may have even screamed a nonsensical, “AGGHERRERHHHHH!!!”

    Ask and you shall receive!

    A spot miraculously appeared, the new muni-meters take credit cards but as I fished through my wallet a woman gave me her unexpired meter receipt with FORTY-FIVE minutes left on it. I went inside, got my paint and supplies and met zero traffic out of Manhattan. No, you were not slipped a roofie. I did, in fact, type that I had ZERO traffic out of Manhattan. I got to the Shop Rite in Monticello, pulled up my cousin’s blog for the ingredients and found everything I needed in a jiffy. IN and OUT in 30 minutes on a Saturday.

    I get to the cabin and DOH! The driveway wasn’t plowed! I thought we had already made automatic arrangements with our plow dude, but no. There is NO place to park as an alternative and, sure I could stay at a hotel but who wants to blow money on that and have groceries go to waste? A lot of freaking out and frantic phone calls later –The groceries! The dog! Where will I go? What will I do? — I started driving around and saw a truck w/a plow attachment parked in front of a convenience store. I parked,
    went inside and found a dude who looked like he might drive a plow (read: filthy, reflective coat, missing teeth and buying two packs of cigarettes).

    My radar was spot on: it was his plow and it turns out he’s my neighbor. In less than ten minutes, he cleared a place for the Thunder Nugget, and I took down his info and gave him all the cash I had. (Don’t worry, if you know me, I carry little to no cash.) But now I’m worried that he knows I’m in the woods alone. So, while chopping up garlic, I had fantasies of stabbing him in the neck with the butcher knife and splashing him with the simmering crock pot full of chili.

    But for now, I’m here. In the cabin with my Chihuahua, paint and chili. Just when I think I want to stay holed up and write a sequel to the Unibomber’s Manifesto, the path is cleared.

    Kambri
    Just in case: His name is Rich and he lives in a yellow house just up the road from me and I have his cell number programmed in my phone.

  • Christian Finnegan,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Domestic Adventures: Le Pot de Crock

    On January 4th, Christian and I bought our first home together: a little one bedroom cottage in Sullivan County, about a two hour drive from NYC. Perched upon two giant boulders on a nearly four acre wooded lot, the “Rock House” is a perfect retreat for us to escape the noise of the city. (View the photo set on Flickr.)

    We have room to roam and a chance to try things we haven’t been able to while in the concrete jungle. One of those things for me is using the kitchen for anything other than popping popcorn in the microwave. After seeing so many friends and family posting on Facebook about crock pots and delicious meals they were eating, I wondered what the big deal is.

    I asked folks about crock pots and received TONS of advice. Apparently all you have to do is throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, let it sit there slow cooking for a while and voila! Wait? That’s it? What’s the catch? THERE IS NO CATCH? How can this BE?!?!

    So other people –nearly everyone I know– love and enjoy crock pots and never told me about this magical machine designed to make meals while barely lifting a finger. What other secrets are they keeping from me? Granted, I use my oven for storage and, if I cook, it involves boxing great George Foreman. But in that case don’t I, more than anyone, need suggestions on kitchen domesticity? Come on, people, help a girl out here.

    I got the pot pictured because it was the only one at Bed, Bath & Beyond and at only $30, figured it was worth a try. Today marks my first attempt at making a meal: a pot roast or boneless chuck or whatever you want to call it.

    To keep my personality balanced, I listened to Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” while chopping up the vegetables. I also used a power drill several times today.

    Lest you get too excited, note that I had to look up how much a stalk of celery was. I mean I *know* what a stalk of celery is. When I was at the grocery store I grabbed a bagged bunch of celery and thought I’ll use a stalk for the roast and the rest I can munch on and grabbed some flavored dip / spread thing. But when it came time to looking at the ingredients/directions, I found myself asking “Wait! What IS a stalk of celery?” One stem or is the whole bunch a stalk? So I looked it up. The fact that the answer existed online is of some comfort (hey, other people wondered, too) but it is a reminder to me that like dancing, and drawing, cooking just does not come naturally to me.

    Kambri
    I forgot to look at what time it started cooking, so now I’m just guessing that it has about 5 hours to go. No delicious aromas yet, unless you count the Yankee Candle Sugar Cookie candle that’s burning.

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan,  Travel

    Viva la Peru!

    For Christmas 2010, Christian & I went to Peru for a 10 day, adventure-filled vacation. I won’t bore you with a long travelogue (What? You don’t want to read about the intricacies of foreign bathrooms and whether hot water was available in each place? No? Okay, fine.) But let’s be honest, this mostly for me, so I will only bore you with it for as long as you allow.

    After 24 hours of travel (flight to Miami, then to Lima, then to Puerto Maldonado where we got on a bus that took us to a boat that took us to the lodge!), days 1 – 4 were spent at Libertador Tambopata Eco Lodge and camping in the jungle. Lots of boat rides, treks into the jungle and spotting of wild animals like capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), caiman (alligators), boars, birds of every shape. We saw four different species of monkeys (capuchin, squirrel, tamarin and red howler) that were so abundant we hit the Monkey Load. Heh.

    The more exciting thing involved a less glamorous animal: a wild boar. We came across a couple of hundred of them crossing a path in front of us, froze and watched in wonder. No problem. After it seemed they were all done crossing, we continued along holding our breath along the way. I have never smelled anything so bizarre and rancid. Our guide kept blowing his nose and hocking to try to get rid of the stench that lingered. Suddenly we realized there was another herd of boars still crossing. Again, we froze this time a boar caught sight of us and came TOWARD us. It stopped, raised its nose and wriggled its snout to get a good whiff of us as we stood as still as possible. I was in front of Christian & our guide trying to stay balanced as I was squatting with my camera aimed at the boar afraid to hit a button for fear that the boar would see me moving. I was having a staring contest with a wild boar while a couple of hundred of its buddies crossed our path!
    Staring Contest with a Wild Boar
    It then made a few more steps to get CLOSER to us and was joined by another pal. Oh no! They’re on to us.  But as soon as the last boar crossed, the two watch pigs departed. Coast clear, we all burst into relieved laughter. “We never discussed what we should do in this situation!” I guffawed. Our guide then gave us a rundown on what to do should we come across any other beasts like pumas.

    We camped in the jungle one night at least 9 hours away from the nearest town. Our site was monitored by six vultures and two macaws that were tending to a nest. This would have been fun in a scary way but ended up being horribly terrifying because of an INTENSE, ALL NIGHT thunderstorm that was so dangerously close. Our crew of four included a boat driver who had to sleep on the boat to make sure it didn’t wash away. Our guide, cook and “errand dude” for lack of a better description all stayed in one tent while Christian & I stayed in another. I purposefully typed “stayed” instead of “slept” because sleep was nearly impossible. The lightning was so persistent it was like a lantern was blazing in our tent and the sound of breaking trees, thunder and cracks of lightning were so close that we all wondered if we’d make it through the night. It was so scary that no one said a word. Have you ever read about how in crazy plane situations witnesses will recount how passengers were strangely calm and very quiet? It was like that. There are no words. Christian & I know that no one will ever understand the fear or the surreal danger but we know. We stared at each other in the morning with an all knowing look and then got dressed for breakfast.

    Days 4 – 7 were spent in Cusco & a train ride / hike up to Machu Picchu. There’s not much I can say to adequately sum up these two places other than fun and beautiful, respectively. Cusco was decked out for Christmas and people were in great spirits. They love their nativity scenes there! The views of city lights against the mountain range was awesome. We toured Le Catedral and the Museo Inka, shopped at the local market which had such nasty stuff for sale (a bowl of raw cow mouths, anyone?) that it put Chinatown to shame and ate a lot, happy to be back in civilization with electricity and a phone line. I was disheartened by the hundreds of stray dogs but after a few days it was clear the dogs weren’t like regular dogs. They had no interest in humans, were immune to touch and were doing just fine thankyouverymuch. Still, I would have liked to have seen more of them with green collars which the city puts on to indicate they’ve been fixed.

    Machu PicchuThen we took a train ride to Machu Picchu (we would have loved to do the full hike, but we really wanted to do the jungle and Lake Titicaca so time wouldn’t allow). Every other second was a picture worthy moment. Lush farms, rivers and streams, animals everywhere, women carrying bundles of harvest on their backs (one had a puppy nipping at her heels for crying out loud!), sheep frolicking, just too much beauty in one place it isn’t fair. We hiked up to the top of Machu Picchu in the rain but within 15 minutes the clouds parted and the sun came out. We really lucked out. Pictures don’t do it justice but, well, we took lots of pics anyway. Llamas were in charge of trimming the grass and I loved being near them even if they could have cared less about me.

    Days 7 – 10 were in Puno & tours of the islands on Lake Titicaca which included visiting Isla de los Uros (the famous floating islands made of reeds) and staying with a family on Isla Amantani. The latter was a really unique experience that just puts in to perspective how different our lives are. Sure, you can see that people dress and speak differently, that poverty is the norm and hard work is a must. That’s a given. But we totally understand why Angelina Jolie is always scooping up kids…it’s very hard to not fall in love with them and want to give them more opportunity. But to live with them made us stop having so much white guilt and feeling like they’re living beneath their means and appreciate that they are blessed with such wonderful families, communities and togetherness that we’ll never have. They are filled with joy and love.

    Lucia and her brother William entertained us while their mother and grandmother cooked for us. All six of us were in their one room kitchen/living/dining room while their lamb Ñeñe looked on from their patio. They dressed us in traditional garb and took us to a dance where we laughed and sweat and carried on like kids.

    We met some really nice people from around the world, hiked a mountain (Pachatata aka “Father Earth”), ate lots of new foods like alpaca and cuy (guinea pig), and I managed to read two books and start a third on my Kindle. So I definitely got every ounce of pleasure and relaxation out of my 11 days. Getting upgraded to first class both to/from Lima/NYC sure helped. I wish I knew the magical reason we were upgraded (TWICE!) but the mystery is unsolved.

    Photos arranged in order of our trip. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kambricrews/sets/72157625701155196/

    Kambri