The correct answer is: your hopes and dreams, with barbecue sauce
From the archives: Saturday morning Rorschach
If there is one thing I have learned in my years as household manager and valet to a family of barbarians, it is this: the middle school's Dress Up Like a Tudor in an Authentic Costume Your Mom Must Produce from Scratch Day will be scheduled during the same week in which you are expecting 25 guests and the hormone combination drama known as PMS versus Teenager.
Also: No one is ever going to move the enormous pile of wet towels covering the floor to a laundry basket no matter how many Post-It notes you attach.
Please. I have teenagers. Your oozing, undead faces pressed against the glass do not scare me. I knew something like this would happen the minute I got around to cleaning the windows.
Plus I work out. As a result of my two, sometimes three-day a week regimen with the little weights I bought at Target, I have a achieved the ultimate fitness goal of every 40-something mom in the suburbs: No upper arm jiggle.
So, yeah. Bring on the zombies.
But a half hour on the telephone with Rich Gatz dispels any fantasy I may have had about kicking ass and taking zombie names. Gatz is a 28-year old fitness fanatic who runs the apocalypse-themed Zombiefit program in St. Charles, a leafy riverfront suburb on the western edge of Chicagoland.
I read about the program in Wired magazine and I call him immediately. If there are zombies in the suburbs, I need to know.
Gatz's students undergo intensive strength training and conditioning combined with parkour, which is the art of being able to escape James Bond in a footrace that winds its way up, over or around any obstacles in a path through the world's most beautiful cities.
The goal of Zombiefit students is to be able to outrun, outclimb and outmaneuver any creature or obstacle in their path as they flee the relentless hordes of undead that may or may not already have a foothold in the Midwestern suburbs.
And with block party season upon us, you really can't be too careful. "If you're ready for the zombie apocalypse, you're reading for anything," says Gatz. Which presumably includes side dishes made with green Jell-O.
I watch the video and realize I am a zombie side dish. Gatz as much as tells me so. There are people who work out a few times a week, look pretty good in a bathing suit, but can't do a single pull-up, he says. He doesn't mention the Target hand weights, or the Ralph Lauren bikini, but I know he is talking about me.
Well, I say defensively, I do a lot of ice skating. That's got to count for something.
"If zombies come, hell might freeze over," he says, which is not meant to be encouraging.
But I watch the video again and realize that my whole life is an exercise in parkour.
A mountain of laundry and two flights of stairs lie between me and the washing machine. There is a skateboard in the middle of the living room and someone has left every cabinet door in the kitchen wide open, which I can't see because I am carrying 45 pounds of groceries and a backpack.
I don't have to imagine zombies because my house is crawling with middle school girls. As soon as they hear my footsteps they swarm around me, demanding to be fed.
And if you think zombies are relentless, you have never been between a 15-year-old and the last remaining bit of currency in your wallet.
Trust me, I'm ready.
Posted at 10:49 AM in The Underachiever's Guide to Everything Worth Doing (Halfway) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
It is the first weekend in forever in which the forecast comes close to ruling out any possibility of snow, rain or gloom, and we are gathered in the backyard of the Suburban Overachievers, where a variety of perfectly seasoned meats and vegetables come off the grill and disappear in a chorus of praise.
As a native of Bacardi, I am expected to supply the mojitos, a beverage I frequently take credit for introducing to the Midwestern suburbs, but which I have had to relearn completely to meet the standards of the head Suburban Overachiever.
First, I scrapped the lemon-lime soda and learned to make mint-infused syrup, which is so easy it should be called simple syrup. Which, I later learn, it is.
My freezer bag full of last year's wilted produce department mint was the next ingredient to provoke her disapproval, which she signals by pursing her lips, raising an eyebrow and cultivating a patch of mint so beautiful and so fragrant I want to roll in it naked, but she says no.
This time, however, I am on my game.
I stand in her kitchen counting out the precise number of mint leaves (12 per glass) recommended by the Bacardi people. I have prepared my own syrup, I have my Crate&Barrel muddler. I squeeze the freshly cut limes and shake my hips. A few drops fall into the glass.
I add a little shoulder shimmy, but still, the limes fail to produce. I look over to where the Suburban Overachiever is chopping mango into a geometrically perfect dice. "I don't know what is wrong with these limes," I say. "I am doing the dance perfectly."
"Did you roll them?" she asks.
"It is not really a roll," I say. "It is more of a vigorous thrusting."
"The limes," she says. "Did you roll the limes?"
I did not. Also, there is a problem with my lime slicing technique. Good god, I think, it is starting to feel like an episode of Making Tea with the English.
"This is a rum drink," I say. "The important thing is that you spill some while you are dancing."
But of course, she has a trick for getting each lime to produce three times its weight in juice. Also a Japanese lime juicer that Mr. Overachiever probably handcrafted in the garage from materials grown in the backyard. It does the job. The mojitos are excellent. But you couldn't say dancing has nothing to do with it.
From the Overachiever archives: Camelot in the suburbs
Borowski's romantic ambitions were accidentally inflated by the proliferation of Sharpie "tattoos" inspired by teen singing sensation Justin Bieber, with whom Borowski shares initials, but not, sadly, the ability to make 12-year-old girls swoon.
Classmates tried to let him down easy, but say it became impossible to dissuade Borowski of his hopes after he spotted a heart-encased "JB" stenciled on the hand of the cute girl who sits next to him in fourth period social studies.
A crusty old New England contractor is getting ready to install a sliding glass panel for the hapless suburban couple whose ancient basement door is falling apart.
It is the kind of drama for which the big screen television was invented.It's a repeat. Maybe not this exact episode, because who can tell them apart? But it is safe to say that This Old House master contractor Tom Silva has shown his television audience how to put in a door a time or two before. Not to mention that among his viewers, door framing procedures do not rank among life's mysteries. Mr. Kamikaze could do it during the commercial break.
And yet, here he is, sealed to his easy chair as firmly as if he had been applied with a nice thick bead of caulk. He follows each step with the focus of a man who has spent his whole life contemplating the merits of the solid vinyl door jamb.
As the beneficiary of so much home improvement, I make an effort to
mock share his appreciation. I pretend to watch. I ask questions. Why the hell are you watching this? Do you want me to tell you how it ends? Doesn't anybody ever get naked on this show?
And by long and careful observation, includng countless screenings of the classic Toilet Replacement Cliffhanger episodes, I have learned to identify the moments of hidden drama in the renovation script. Is that a load-bearing wall? Can that foundation be shored up or will the entire house have to be lifted up on jacks - a contingency PBS will parcel out over six episodes?
And therein lies the secret, which, if you are willing to show sufficient interest in the range of options for door hardware, the suburban man will share with you:
"Sometimes they find things they didn't expect," he says. "Decisions have to be made."
Bossy wins new fans in suburbia, snaps one of her trademark long-arm group shots and goes on to take all of our money in a vicious game of cutthroat billiards. It was, as one early reviewer put it, "the greatest party to hit the Midwestern suburbs since the Aurora Senior High prom afterparty at the Day's Inn Route 59, 1983."
Read Bossy's account here.Garnish the Cat Bowl, Bossy's Coming (2008)
The other Boleyn girl has stepped on her hem which is how I find myself with needle in hand in the pre-dawn, pre-caffeinated hours of the 15th century.
Faulty career planning is largely to blame, though in my guidance counselor's defense, Medieval Household Support was once seen as something of a growth industry.
I finish in time to get her back into her gown and transported to Medieval Junior High, where the full range of pre-Renaissance society is represented, minus the 99 percent of the population of less than noble birth.