Not Just Sausage

23 March 2001

In case you're wondering, At Home is still being bastardly about letting me see my own webpage. Only now I can't see it at all. Before, I could see an old copy, with journal entries up until 3/19. Now, nothing. Mark says it's another level of failure in the transparent cache they'd been using. I don't know if he's right, but whatever it is, I wish they'd fix it. Because now I can't see Karina's site, either. Grrrr.

Mostly Real Work today. Went to the library and got to read one of the books out of the locked case. It was a really nice old book. Firm, slightly worn leather. The pages were crisp but not too brittle. It made me want to come up with excuses to read the other books in the locked case, too.

Other than that, the major noteworthy event was probably dinner, which was largely made up of Trader Joe's supplies. (Yay, Trader Joe's!) We got gorgonzola tortelloni and Italian sausage, and Timprov made a lemon cream sauce to go on the lot. The tortelloni was unexceptional, and the sausage would have been, except for one thing: we live in California.

Is there a place in California that sells good Italian sausage? I mean really good Italian sausage. Not just edible. This stuff was quite edible -- wasn't greasy, plenty of spices, unobtrusive casing. But it had very little character.

Maybe it's just that I grew up in Omaha. Omaha has a lot of Bohemians and Italians in it. It is a very sausage-friendly city. The newest large ethnic group is Hispanics, so perhaps chorizo will be joining the list of Omaha sausages. I don't know. I do know that before I moved out here, I had two classes of sausage: the store-bought kind, which were good enough for every-day occasions, and the kind that the Catalano/Wiley clan made themselves, which was for special stuff.

Kari's then-boyfriend (now husband's-ex-roommate -- let it never be said that Kari's life is boring), Mark (more on which in a minute), was once over at Nana's making sausage with them. He was kind of freaked out that they were mixing the meat and spices with their bare hands. Nana said, "Oh, that's just because you're here. Usually we use our feet."

Mark. Right. We figured that there was a Mark constant, between Kari and Mary and me. Kari dated two Marks not very far apart, and then Mares must have had one sometime, and then I found mine. And now they don't have to worry, because the Mark constant has been filled. Bound state for that electron. Etc.

Anyway. Omaha. Sausage-friendly. Right. Good Italian sausage is probably the only thing I would miss if I gave up pork, now that I don't get to eat Grandma's apricot pork chops very often. (I think about giving up pork from time to time. I'm not sure I feel great about eating something that smart. I have no compunctions at all about eating cows. Cows are dumb. But pigs are pretty smart.) So when I moved out here, we tried to buy Italian sausage at the grocery store. Big, bad mistake. It made me ill. The only sausage that bad in Omaha is at...the Bohemian Cafe.

Did you hear the little thunder crash there? Gosh, I hope so. The Bohemian Cafe is located next to the gates of hell, down on Thirteenth Street. If you go to Omaha, you can eat there. Or, if you prefer, you can scoop up some of the clay soil and eat that instead. It'll make your stomach feel about the same way.

There are better places to eat in Omaha. Really. But I'm not the One-Woman Board of Midwestern Tourism. Oh no. That position has been filled -- in my immediate family.

We were on the bus out to Pearl Harbor when we were in Hawaii last fall for my grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. It was a crowded bus with people of all flavors. In the front of the bus, my mom made me speak French to some people to apologize for the rudeness of a fellow American. She kept coming up with more stuff that I was supposed to tell them, and then they would look at me quizzically and I'd start in with, "Ma mere dit...." ("My mom says....") She didn't bother to tailor her vocabulary, just told me what to say and let me say it. Let it be known that I have not spoken French regularly for five years now.

Then my dad wanted me to speak Japanese for some tourists who had questions. My Japanese is terrible and does not include important phrases like "bus route" and "arrival time." But darn it, if they had asked, "Toire wa doko ni arimasu ka?" then...I would have been able to do nothing for them, because I didn't know where any bathrooms were either. But I would at least have known what we were trying to get at without much sign language.

So I finished with the Japanese attempts, and I heard my mom's voice floating up from the front of the bus, where she'd managed to find a seat: "...which has been named the best zoo in the country several years running by National Geographic, and the Disney family travel magazine says it's the number one family destination in the country...." Mark looked at me. "Henry Doorly," I said. The zoo in Omaha. Later, we heard, "...and then they make butter sculptures out of each girl's head."

"Omigod," I groaned, "I can't believe it. She's actually telling them about Princess Kay."

Unfortunately, I can no longer complain about this behavior.

See, at the Minnesota State Fair, in addition to many wonderful things like All-You-Can-Drink Milk (which used to be a quarter but is now fifty cents) and cream puffs, they have Princess Kay of the Milky Way. This is a competition to be the spokeswoman of the Dairy Farmers' Association for the year. Lots of young Minnesotan women dream of being Princess Kay. Others mock her mercilessly. But the thing is, once you've won, you get your head sculpted out of butter -- life size! -- and put on display at the Fair. And then afterwards, you get your head to keep, and your family can butter its bread with bits of your nose and hair.

I can't complain because I wrote a short horror story about this phenomenon. "Butterhead." It's my one and only horror story. (So far, at least. And maybe it's not horror. Maybe it's just dark fantasy.) I like it a lot. It makes people (like Mark) shudder and go around making slurping noises for days after reading it. This is not usually what I'm after, but just for this once....

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