Friday, August 24, 2018

Exit West

The other night I had a dream that I found an Exit West activity book at an amusement park gift shop. That would be a ridiculous book tie-in (or theme ride) but I take Valerian root to sleep and my dreams are bananas. My dreams are like starring in a David Lynch movie every night.

I guess you could make it a maze book as Exit West is about a couple of refugees that go through a "magic door" to a less war-torn country (it feels like early days of Syria--but it could be anywhere in the middle east).  The book does not focus on the magic door at all but on the couple's struggles. I'm kind of curious about these doors though. I would love to go all over the world without flying. Sign me up. I'm not scared to fly but I don't like that parched creepy airplane feeling.  My body is like: We are not normally up at this hour. Why is this stranger so close to us?  We're thirsty but we don't want to pee in that closet. What is that kid doing? We don't normally have heartburn but on vacation all bets are off. We want beer when we land. When do we land?

Exit West really focuses on our couple and their relationship. But that's a little boring. Living as a refugee after going through a magic door is interesting. I'm not interested in your intimacy problems. In fact, I'm very rarely interested in characters intimacy problems. I think I watched too much Donahue with my Mom when I was a kid.  I remember it's about communication people...and hitting yourself in the head with a microphone in frustration.       

The part about being a refugee is intriguing as it is certainly not a typical novel topic, at least the long awful transition. Most books have a big sea voyage and it stunk and it was hard for a bit but then the kid won a contest and then the plot moves forward. Exit West is a good book but certainly not a fun book so consider yourself warned.

The drinks are sporadic in this book but this is a good late summer-early fall transition drink:  Hard Cider Sangria: (Makes 4) 1 cup of apples thinly sliced with peel on, one orange sliced, 1 cup apple juice, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple brandy and one 22 ounce bottle of hard cider. Combine everything but the cider in large pitcher. Just before serving add the cider and serve over ice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Two Girls Down

It's odd that I associate beach reads with thriller and murder mysteries. Nothing says a relaxing day at the beach like kidnapping or maybe a nice murder. Maybe because the sand absorbs the blood so easily or evidence gets washed out to sea? I think it's more likely we need something distracting while the weirdos at the airport lose their freaking minds. Everyone turns into a solipsistic maniac at the airport. Me me me me me....(why is water like $9?) me me me me me. 

This title is a little on the nose as it is about well...two missing sisters. This is fairly standard thriller with two hard boiled detectives. One is a lady detective. She reminds me of Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I love Rosa. Apparently that actress has a small scar on her eyebrow from tripping on a Lego as a child.  I suspect there are tons of Lego related scars out there. They should make a Lego Facial Reconstruction kit....Star Wars edition. They could do a whole Bobo Fett thing and make millions.

Most thrillers need more red herrings like olden times classic novels. The classics don't mean to have red herrings but you wonder why is this brother in this book and he falls in love and maybe this new lady is important? No, they are just in there and moonwalk right out of the book not furthering the plot. Modern novels don't do that because no one wants to read an 800 page novel anymore. Two Girls Down doesn't do that. While the plot is kind of far-fetched I'm confident you will put some of the pieces together. I'm not a thriller expert but it kept my interest even if it was ultimately kind of ...yeah,we know.   

Summer vacation means summer drinks. Tabernacle Crush: In a tall glass muddle half a peach with six basil leaves and a half an ounce lemon juice. Add one and half ounces gin, one ounce Lillet, and half ounce simple syrup. Add ice and top with club soda.

Friday, August 3, 2018


While it's not a pachinko machine there is plinko board at my local brew pub. On Wednesday nights they put a little puck and the number it hits on is your beer price. Sometimes it's a dollar. I stopped going as it became a baby bar. I'm not kidding. When you drive by you can see the high chairs stacked up and it gets really loud when the babies complain about simcoe hops. Just order a porter then ya babies. 

There are a few babies in Pachinko, as it a multi-generational tale of a Korean family in Japan. If you didn't know this, Japan is super duper weird about Koreans. Even if you are born there and your kids are born in Japan neither you nor your kid is considered a Japanese citizen. No anchor babies. My babies at the brew pub are beyond anchor babies but have become fixtures (banging tippy cups on the bar--they call all the bartenders Mom for some reason). Anyway, Pachinko's racism is harsh and this family feels like the Starks without the beheading.  It's full of Thanksgiving third rail topics like racism, religion, sex and money. One safe topic is all of the delicious Korean food descriptions in this book. BANCHAN FOR LIFE!

This book won a big award and was heavily researched. If you like multi generational dramas then this is good one. It's a little like Cutting for Stone but with no detailed descriptions of gynecological anomalies. I know you are disappointed. Pachinko parlors come up in the novel and some people think it might be a metaphor for life. Maybe life has elements of luck but also a little rigged? Of course people sometimes find a metaphor when there is none. The bird in the film represents the protagonist's quest for ultimate freedom. The truth is probably that the director can't control the bird population so that little dude made into the final cut.

As most of this novel is set in Japan and it is still summer why not try this crazy zucchini cocktail. Zucchini Sake: Shred 2 zucchinis and use cheesecloth or a fine strainer and squeeze out the juice (about 1/4 cup), add 2 tablespoons of lemon simple syrup and 1/4 cup sake to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain and garish with a zucchini ribbon.