In the wake of gerrymandering and Crosscheck voter invalidation, the United States government has finally become a full-on evangelical theocracy, enacting biblical punishments for all transgressions. They've also adopted the non-evangelical notion of "purgatory" out of a sense of expediency and necessity.
When you're arrested for any non-mortal sin-- or even if you give confession for those sins-- you can be put into suspended animation to serve your "purgatory time" immediately. This helps alleviate overpopulation, and there's a political component, in that those in suspended animation are unable to vote. Those offenders with views opposing the government / church face a much higher rate of purgatorial punishment.
I'm a freedom fighter, looking to illegally resurrect a purgatory-dweller. I drive a small hovercraft / antigravity ship-- it's car-sized, more like a skiff or a convertible. It can fly up, down, sideways, upside down-- the floorboards are always "down," gravitationally. There isn't a top on it, but a top would be unnecessary, as global warming has forced all the cities into massive walled-off domes. I continue my search, deep into the archives full of glass coffins packed with those who are suspended in purgatory. They go on and on and on, for miles.
Also I have the unique ability to travel back in time, exactly one year from whenever I choose to exercise the ability. Once I've done so, I have to live forward in real-time, and cannot skip ahead.
If I fuck things up too much and change or damage the timeline too drastically, the shadows will come for me.
I'm in love with the purgatory-dweller for whom I search. She's a fierce political activist, and can rally dissent magnificently.
I keep searching.
I'm walking through a wooded area, but the trees are all in neat rows. Looking to my left, I see a serpentine, floating beam of light, roiling through two rows of pines. It moves, but not in a straight line like a flashlight beam: It drifts and carries the light with it, like luminescent smoke. Illuminated smoke. Only I can see it. It disappears or dissipates quickly.
I keep walking. There are people walking near me, but we are not together. Periodically, looking left, I can see the luminescent smoke, and I finally understand that it functions like a fiber-optic cable-- if I were to catch the end, I could look through it and see what's on the other end. It never stays long enough for me to catch it.
The group of people grows. We do not speak. We do not interact.
At last, the beam appears and lingers. I can see it. I run to it and stare down it.
A man at the other end slowly turns. He's wearing a shabby green-brown shirt and a faded red baseball cap. His face is darkened by shadows. He is unshaven. He has very bad teeth. Instead of eyes, he has small white suns in his head. They're almost too bright to look at.
Now he knows who I am, and he will come, and he will find me.
I woke up shivering with the most intense goosebumps.
My car has been in the body shop for so long that the insurance company doesn't want to keep paying for a rental, and I'm forced to return the one I have and figure out other arrangements. An acquaintance loans me a beater-- an old white '80s four-door sedan, long and chunkity. It runs okay until I'm driving toward an underpass and all four wheels come off at the same time.
I get out of the car, and hold up my hand to stop the oncoming traffic, which stops impatiently. "Shit," I think, and I sigh. I put one hand under the front bumper and one through the passenger side window, where I can grab the handle, and then hoist up the car with my bare hands and carry it to the side of the road. I gather all the tires and throw them in the trunk.
It's too late to get four new tires at CostCo, so I pick the car back up and carry it through some wide double doors into a Mexican restaurant and put it up on a tall planter while I use the restroom.
What a pain in the ass!
When I come out of the restroom, there is a small crowd gathered around the car, which is now sitting, tireless, on top of a tall planter. "Oh shit, I'm sorry," I say. "Let me get that out of here. I guess I'll just carry it home." I grab the bumper and the oh-shit handle and pick up the car again.
"Hey, if you need a car for a couple days, I can loan you one," says the woman running the place. "It won't be good, but loaners aren't supposed to be good. It'll get you where you need to go."
"Really?" I say. "That would be a lifesaver."
It isn't until I wake up that I realize that everyone in the dream was flabbergasted that I could just pick up an entire car and carry it around.
So, I keep up with a lot of folks on the ol' social media. One of my old friends, Sandra, has been an amazing pastry chef for more than a decade, and has recently been having a lot of success lately with her new bakery in Minneapolis. It's called the Savory Bake House, and although I have not eaten there, because I do not live in Minnesota, I follow both Sandra and the bakery itself on social media.
Last week, this cropped up on my feed:
I'll be goddamned if that doesn't look like the most amazing and delicious thing ever.
(Also, #cleanmeat needs to start trending, across all topics and platforms, because that is a hilarious hashtag.)
We were gonna have a few folks over this weekend for a swimmin' pool trip-- kind of a rarity, in my post-parenthood lifestyle. I love to bake and I like making things that are delicious, so I figured what the hell, why not give these a shot? I gave Sandra a shout (bear in mind, I've known her more than half my life), and after swearing me to secrecy, she gave me the recipe for the strange brioche fold-over for sandwiching.
I consider myself a fairly skilled amateur baker. I can make some pretty good breads, including some pretty tasty brioche loaves. But I've never tried to do this thing, where you bake an array of things inside another thing. I make this hella-tasty prosciutto bread, but that's a bit different: the point of that recipe is to make the prosciutto melt into the bread, imbuing flavor-ham; here, the tasty innards are intended to stay cohesive. It's recursive baking. I was pretty nervous, so I thought I'd document that anxiety, and then I'd have an interesting document whether the experiment was a success or a failure.
I think you can tell how nervous I am.
I was so nervous, I didn't document the creation of the dough! But, y'know, that's probably for the best. I also went off-book and took some extra steps-- substituted some molasses for another sweetener, added unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder for color, and threw in a bunch of toasted caraway seeds. It's never enough to try a brand-new recipe for a brand-new type of dish, because I am a smartass. I wanted to make this into a pumpernickel brioche Reuben sandwich (with a vegetarian alternative for some folks).
So, there's a bunch of corned beef in there. This is the non-vegetarian option, obviously.
Then the sauerkraut and cheese. I don't know if the cheeses were organic or not, so I can't cut #cleancheese for this. I did use organic sauerkraut, though, which I drained and sizzled up in a pan pretty nice, both for color and to get rid of excess moisture.
I used a ratio of like 3 to 1 tasty baby swiss to spicy pepperjack. I love swiss on a reuben sandwich, but I wanted a little bit of tang, especially because I was going to be omitting the Thousand Island dressing (because Thousand Island is gross, and also because I had another super-experimental idea I wanted to try. More on that later).
I did a layer of corned beef, a layer of sauerkraut, and then the cheese-- to seal the sauerkraut in as much as possible, and prevent moisture from messing up the sweet, sweet experimental pumpernickel brioche.
Then, the folding over.
The dough was so thin. I was terrified the whole thing was just going to turn out to be the world's worst taco. A gross-ass caraway-infested crispity shell around a giant wad of corned beef and cheese and sauerkraut.
My concerns almost ruined a perfectly-good trip to the swimming pool!
Okay, that is not true at all. I had a delightful time with some wonderful pals, all swillin' back tasty beers (holy crap, y'all, that Boulevard Ginger-Lemon Radler is the perfect poolside beer; they ain't even payin' me to say so, I'm just proclaiming on it because it is so damn tangy and tasty on a hot summer's day). Also, my kid is starting to warm up to splashing around in the water, so that's always a good time. Here is a picture of that, which is totally unrelated to this recipe or the processes involved in this recipe:
After a day spent splashing and drinking and doing lazy laps, we returned to the house, where the dough still had not risen, like, at all. When I texted Sandra to ask about it, she said:
"It never does [rise]... I feel like part of the success is that it works best if it makes you nervous."
I did a last-minute egg-wash on the bread (one of my coworkers keeps chickens, and he gives me these incredible free-range pasture-fed eggs, which taste better than any eggs ever), and then bunged them into the oven for a while.
And man, I was so incredibly relieved when these turned out well.
The bread really puffed up beautifully just in the oven, going from a quarter-inch to three-quarters of an inch of just fluffy, eggy, buttery brioche, all piping hot and approaching almost flakiness.
Here's a picture of the vegetarian version, which used tempeh, sauerkraut, and cheese:
And now one more picture of the array of sandwiches, because I'm so proud of them. Like a new papa. Well, like a new papa who then turns into a cannibal and scarfs down his creation.
Okay, so here's a long-winded addendum. I mentioned earlier that I skipped the Thousand Island, because it is gross. Another reason I skipped it is because I wanted to do something else.
There's a small neighborhood bar in the Little Russia part of Topeka, Kansas, called Porubsky's. It's kind of hard to find, in an area mostly filled with little houses, and it's only open for lunch. At Porubsky's, they make these things that they charmingly, understatedly call "Hot Pickles."
Calling these things "Hot Pickles" is like calling dry ice "Chilly Carbon Dioxide." They make these things with some sort of hellacious wasabi extract-- maybe it's horseradish oil, maybe it's hot mustard oil, maybe it's some bizarro combination of everything that punches you in the snoot and disappears completely after a few seconds, but whatever it is, it is delicious, and it is not playing around.
I wanted to turn this into a relish. What's more, I wanted to turn this into a relish that normal people-- which is to say, people who wouldn't want to just put a spoonful of asian hot mustard into their mouths-- would eat.
So I blended a bunch of Porubsky's pickles with sweet gherkins, and dill pickles, and sriracha pickles, and roasted red peppers, and a couple different kinds of vinegar (for funsies). I did this in a food processor. I ended up with what looks basically like a cherry pepper relish, and which gives you a small love-tap on the snout and then backs off really quickly. It was the perfect compliment to the sandwiches, if I do say so myself.
Man, these sandwiches.
Sandra says she uses the same recipe, or very similar, to create sweet things as well-- cinnamon rolls, sweet mini-brioches, and something she called "mixed berry cream cheese rolls," which oh my goodness I may just have to try.
I'll leave the relish off those, though.
As a cat owner, I handle feces regularly. Handling feces is gross. Many cat owners are also not super-crazy about handling a whole bunch of feces, so we sometimes talk to each other about ways that we can minimize the feces-handling.
Today someone linked me to a brand-new "best litterbox ever," this one a Kickstarter sensation that has gone on to be well-liked by a number of people with small furry purring poop machines in their house. It looks problematic to me, but it also reminded me that I have never encountered a decent "better litterbox" than a big tub filled with some sort of medium, into which the kitties crap.
I only had one truly horrendous experience, with the CatGenie. This happened five years ago, and I have no idea if the fine folks at CatGenie have upped their game, so take this with a grain of salt and don't use it (entirely) against them.
The first, say, five months I had the CatGenie, it worked as it was supposed to. It consists of a rotating bowl, a bunch of plastic granules which serve as the litter, a raising and lowering scoop-like spatula, a hopper, and a flusher. It's hooked to a hose and a drain. When a cat craps in the box, the intention is this: The spatula lowers, the bowl rotates; the turds are captured in the spatula, letting the granules through. The spatula raises, dumping the turds into the hopper, where they're washed down the drain and whisked out to sea. The hose flushes water into the bowl, where the plastic litter is rinsed. Then an air-dryer dries the granules, and it's ready for the next cat-crapstravaganza.
After five months, the whole thing went awry. I contacted CatGenie, and they were fairly helpful, sending me a replacement "engine" for the thing; and then another, and then a third smaller replacement part. Then, things started to get really bad, and that's when I emailed them this:
I'm not sure if this is something I'd be better off calling in about than emailing you directly, but here goes.
I'm at my wit's end with the CatGenie. Thanks to your help last month, and the shipment of two different main unit replacements, I've gotten the CatGenie to a point where the bowl rotates the whole time without stopping (instead of pausing for long periods of time where nothing happens), the air blower does in fact dry the granules (instead of leaving a pile of soggy plastic bits), and the arm does raise and lower effectively when the main processing unit tells it to (instead of staying up or down the whole time and accomplishing nothing).
The problem I'm having now is, frankly, awful. Instead of scooping up the cat turds, dropping them into the hopper, and flushing them, the CatGenie seems to be basically straining the turds through the scoop by breaking them into chunks small enough that the scoop is unable to effectively pick them up. Then, after breaking the turds up, failing to scoop them, and leaving them mixed in with the granules, the CatGenie blows hot air over the tiny turd chunklets, filling my house with the rancid, disgusting smell of hot feces. So when I get home from work, or when I come downstairs in the morning, that is what greets me.
I am including a photo of the CatGenie immediately after having run a cleaning cycle. The dark bits are the turd chunklets. You will notice also a massive wad of poo on the arm itself, where it has mashed a turd into the bottom of the bowl and then tenaciously clung to it, which is also not an uncommon phenomenon. Usually when this happens I use a paper towel to remove the turd-wad from the arm. I use the same paper towel to pluck out the turd chunklets and manually dump them into the hopper. All of which seems to go explicitly against the reason I got a CatGenie in the first place, which was so that I would rarely have to handle cat poo.
Honestly, I can't think of anything that would make me not want to go back to a nice, civilized, covered catbox with scent-dampening clay litter, throw this thing into the dumpster, and warn everybody I know about the failure of the CatGenie to function. However, I now present you, Rich, with an opportunity to change my mind, present a solution to this seemingly insoluble never-ending series of problems, or otherwise alleviate my utter disappointment with your product.
I never heard back. In all honesty, I was at my wit's end with the thing and could not foresee any possible solution. In my furious insanity, I deliberately wrote this letter in as provocative and florid a manner as I could muster. I imagined that the people at CatGenie would read it, laugh, and offer a full replacement as a solution, instead of what happened, which was nothing.
I am not angry at the CatGenie people, at this point, because their product was fundamentally flawed, and they must have been inundated with complaints from people like me. Many of the complaints must have been much more vocal about their hatred of the scent of fresh-baked turdlets waking them up in the mornings (I have always maintained a policy of being even-tempered with Phone Helper People, because I have been on the other end of that phone). They did what they could with what they had.
I'll stick with a big tub full of a granulated medium that can accept whatever my cats dish out.