Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mmm Mmm Salty

A few days ago I ate a can of Campbell's condensed chicken noodle soup. This may not seem so impressive or interesting or uncommon, but to me, scooping spoons full of thin, salty, golden broth with its wiry inch noodles and tiny chicken bits was satisfying in such a pure, unpretentious, classic way.

A simple lunch, warm and quieting Campbell's soup took me back to sleepovers at my grandma's house--me and grandma and one of my cousins splitting a family-size can when my grandma didn't have time to make us her homemade noodles. It's the kind of meal you have to eat with a big spoon. Our bellies were always grateful.

I know that Campbell's has always used nostalgia, goodness, and American values to market their products. And I know that I always tend to get a little sentimental at the beginning of soup and sweater season.

I think it's just that for a while I've been beyond Campbell's classic chicken noodle. I've been dining at local restaurants--at bistros enjoying gazpacho and cous cous, at brew pubs eating creamy beer cheese broth. Even when I eat canned soup I've been doing the "healthy choice" varieties with less salt and more veggies to compensate. And all of these things are good (some more than others), but there are varying degrees of perfection.

And the commercial with the snowman is pretty adorable, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Love, Asiago-ly

I came to Panera to write tonight. I often find that I'm more able to concentrate outside of the house, where I don't have a needy kitten or a DVR to distract me.

Tonight when I came in, I plugged in near my regular leather armchair next to the fireplace, before realizing that the middle-aged man in the royal blue turtleneck one table over was going to use his outdoor voice for his entire visit. He sat and jawed at the woman across from him, who was dressed in what looked like corporate attire from the early nineties, about playing the keyboard and giving up "rock star aspirations," the state of the global economy, installing carpeting, and how he could have saved her thousands of dollars if he helped her remodel her condo. The woman maybe said five things, most of them polite questions about his topic-of-the-minute.

Then I saw her get up to leave, and I noticed that she was holding a single red rose. "I'm so glad we got together," I heard her say. In the parking lot, they exchanged a painfully awkward hug. So, I thought, I just witnessed a really awful first date. Much worse than when I thought he took her to Panera to sell her wall-to-wall carpet. I don't think there's going to be a second.

After that horrid exchange, though, something entirely different happened. A young man dressed in gym clothes and flip-flops walked in and said hello to the girl behind the counter who gave me incorrect change earlier tonight. They exchanged some words out of my sight, but I got the sense that they were romantic.

Then, he came back in moments later and called her to the other side of the counter. He got down on one knee, in his gym shorts on the bread crumb-covered floor, and asked her to marry him. She said yes, and the two threw their arms around each other, he dressed like he'd been watching football on the couch, she in her green work apron and visor. And they looked so incredibly happy. Satisfied with her answer, the young guy left her to finish the rest of her shift. Every few minutes I hear squeals from behind the counter.

This is why I come out to write. To be in the middle of everything, to witness the mundane, the traumatic, the ecstatic, the odd, the trivial. Tonight I got a little bit of everything in one sitting, and I haven't even gotten a refill yet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's a Start...

In the land of dissonant whistles
and lolling tongues
and skinny trouser legs clinging
to the ankles of mad lovers,
and of the desperate menthol burn...

Warm tongue vibrations hum
inside painted stained dead walls,
unknown bruises and a burning lead singer,
his necktie caught in a woodchipper crowd
of nodding samefaces,
with their water-slick
levitating bottles of beer.

Hiding in the standing-room shadows
of Thursday night, I am reeking with sex
and breathing the stagnant loitering ego,
the musk of hip,
the sandalwood and cigarillo essence
of the it-girls and boys
who are
tongue-kissing the fall
in someone else's clothes.

How do they live
outside of the frantic evening?
Will their halcyon days
be measured in moonlight?
And why must I fight to be their breed of free,
running my hands against you beneath the bar,
windblown and dehydrated,
and shifting my weight to stay awake
on aching rootless calves?