Insane Bachelorette Story…

posted in: Chicago, Family 2
The kid.
The kid today, right as everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

No one in my family has ever sipped a Hurricane slushy through a straw shaped like a penis. No one in my family has ever — or will ever — wear an inflatable hat. We don’t do feather boas, we don’t do party wagons, and we certainly don’t do male strippers (heh) or Jell-O shots. But the youngest Fons is getting married! What’s a bachelorette to do??

So much. So much that is not making Girls Gone Wild XXIIVI. The world is wide and beautiful. The world is grand and gay. There’s no reason any bride-to-be ever has to be sprayed with whipped cream. She never has to be carried out of the club, vomiting, with a broken high heel. This should not be the way nuptials are celebrated. I mean, girls.

Gather ’round, friends, and I’ll tell you how to throw a party for a bride. This weekend was Rebecca’s Surprise Wedding Fun Weekend. The grand plan was mine — I am maid of honor, after all — but without the logistical and financial contributions my mother and older sister made, it would not have been possible. Thank you, guys.

We picked the kid up Saturday morning, her only instructions to “dress like a lady.” At a favorite brunch spot of hers we gave her a box that contained a Visa gift card. There was a sizable amount of money on the card; we had all contributed to make the number a wowie-zowie one. “Today is a shopping spree!” we cried when she opened the box. “We have you all afternoon. You can spend that money on whatever you want — no rules or restrictions, no judgements. It’s your shopping day!” My sister was floored. Shocked. Thrilled. And, ever pragmatic, she bought a killer leather jacket and is choosing to spend the rest of the money on wedding needs.

But tonight, the piece de resistance: we rented out the historic Music Box movie house here in Chicago. We invited forty of my sister’s best friends and family. We put her name up on the marquee and booked a private screening of her favorite movie, Big Trouble In Little China.

When she walked up to the theater and saw her name in lights, that was good. When she passed the window of the lobby where all her friends were, waving to her, that was good, too. When she got into the little lounge area and saw exactly who all was there — superb. But the best moment came when Jack said, “Rebecca, wait… Did you see that?” and he pointed to Theater B where we were going watch Big Trouble. The movie title was lighted up above the door. My sister did this beautiful, involuntary convulsion and her hands went up to her head, looking like someone experiencing most pleasantly excruciating migraine headache in history. And then she said something I’ll never forget. She was so happy, so happy, and then it occurred to her. Through ugly-tears of joy, she looked at us all and squeaked out, “Are you all… Are you all going to w-w-watch it…with me???” Yes, Rebecca. Yes, we are.

It was a slam dunk weekend. And just in case you’re thinking, “Yeah, well penis-shaped sippy cups are a lot more affordable than renting out a whole damned theater, Mary Fons!” I want you to know that it was surprisingly doable. We did it on a Sunday, from 4pm-9pm. This is considered an off-peak time, so the space rental was quite reasonable. We didn’t go nuts with decorations. We didn’t order extra food or do a big cake or anything. We did have an open bar, but with 40 people — several with babies — that wasn’t too bad. All I’m saying is that with a little dough and a lot of creativity, you can do something awesome for someone you love.

And boy do we love you, Biccy.

On Hollywood.

posted in: Day In The Life, Rant 8
This is a violent image.
Am I missing something?

For years, a conflict has raged within me:

Is Hollywood destroying humanity or am I just no fun? 

A couple months ago, my internal struggle was refreshed with the blood of Godzilla, which remains the last movie I saw, in the theater or otherwise.

Yuri and I had a night off, and I was actually the one who suggested we go. I’ve been to the movie theater maybe five times in two years. I completely get that many folks love movies — my sister and her fiance work in the industry and I have tremendous respect for them, their art, and their specific path — but feature films just aren’t my jam. I don’t see a lot of movies like I don’t read a lot of fiction. I’m a documentary-lovin’, non-fiction readin’ real-time junkie. I feel manipulated by film, I guess, and not in a good way. Still, every once in awhile, there’s a film that looks like such pure spectacle, such pure, 21st century American entertainment, I gotta do it. It’s like eating a Cinnabon or a Auntie Anne’s pretzel once every couple of years: indulging feels very wrong/momentarily good. The 2014 remake of Godzilla looked cool from the previews my sister Nan played for me; the monster was so big! The cities were so small!

“Yuri, let’s go see Godzilla.” 


We got our tickets and sat down with cups of tea and smuggled chocolate, fully prepared to be entertained. I had an open mind. I really wanted to have fun.

But I didn’t have fun. Because Hollywood sucks. Hollywood creates a facsimile of life for scores of people whose general well-being I care about. Hollywood cheapens the human experience. At its best, Hollywood inspires great floods of emotion that can be cathartic. But at its worst, Hollywood movies are irreverent, disrespectful, and hypnotic. And false. And confusing. And they are all expensive.

My main trouble wasn’t with Godzilla. It was not a great movie, but that’s okay. I was more troubled by the previews, the first one for a Scarlett Johannsen film coming out soon called Lucy. In the preview, we see a clip of Johannsen enduring forced abdominal surgery. The bad guys open her belly and insert something inside of her that she must transport against her will, the thing now being inside her and all. I’ve had multiple abdominal surgeries that might as well have been forced — if I didn’t have them, I’d have died so the choice was nil — and take it from me: There is nothing entertaining about being filleted. The reality of that sucks so much. I realize I have personal experience that most folks do not regarding this plot development in Lucy and clearly, I am going to be more sensitive to seeing such an experience portrayed fictionally, but like…can’t you pretend about something else? There’s so much to choose from.

Like…war. After Lucy, there were several previews for war movies where people were getting creamed right and left. Legs were getting blown off. Men were screaming, men were crying. After that, a preview for Non-Stop, which is about an airplane hijacking. Jet black guns, exploding pieces of airplane, crying women with hysterical, terrorized babies, a rugged Liam Neeson flinging himself backward down the aisle, shooting multiple rounds.

Am I missing something? Why is this entertaining? I’m not being rhetorical. I don’t understand. Surgical procedures, wars, gunfire, terrorist plots on planes, and death are things that create suffering. They are realities of life that require seas of compassion and support to endure and process. It’s not funny to see someone get shot to death on a plane flying at 35,000 feet. It’s terrifying. It should be terrifying. I beg someone to explain to me why people spend millions of dollars to create fictional suffering to last on film forever for people to watch in theaters while they sit eating snacks. Escapism? But how?

Maybe I’m just no fun.

That’s entirely possible! I do feel like I have blind spot, that there’s a “Kick Me” sign on my back and I’m just being snippy and snobby and old and lame. Everyone goes to the movies, right? Folks have preferences, too, and discernment. I shouldn’t say “Hollywood is this” because Hollywood is a lot of things and people and there’s good art that comes out of the place, I realize. But just when I was thinking, “Mary, chill. There is more to the movies than the crassness of Non-Stop,” the last preview presented itself. It was for a movie called The Other Woman, in which three hot blondes are real ornery about a man and exact their revenge on him for his misdeeds. There were boobs everywhere. And toilet humor, which is always better/grosser when there are girls involved, I suppose.

It’s just all so hostile. To be sure, there is great cinema in the world, but this is the stuff the general public is eating, the movies that are “in theaters everywhere starting Friday.” Mere blocks from where I sit, there are art house cinemas and legendary film centers that show incredible stories put to film. But people go see the Godzillas and The Other Womanses in Des Moines because that’s what’s playing there. I grew up not far from Des Moines, so I know. If you don’t have options, how can you discern?

No one should be stopped from making whatever sort of movie they want to make. Advocating for censorship will never be on my list of things to do, as much as I dislike these kinds of movies. I’ll just stay home.

(On my list of things to do, “Take on Hollywood” was also not there. Oh well.)

Karen, Nicole, Popcorn + Me.

posted in: Day In The Life 4
Adobo and Peanut Roasted Popcorn, from Nicole at's discomfittingly up-to-date blog.
Adobo and Peanut Roasted Popcorn, from Nicole at’s almost discomfittingly up-to-date blog.

I made popcorn on the stovetop tonight. To me, this is the only way to have popcorn at home.

Many years ago, my friend Karen Kowalski showed me how to make stovetop popcorn just right. I had (very) recently moved to Chicago and into the strange-but-cheap building where I paid just $420/month. Karen chose the same building for the same reason, and we met one night because she heard me crying in my apartment all the way from inside own her apartment. In the fuzzy, despair-soaked fury of my tears, I heard a little “knock-knock” on my door. I opened it to find radiant, twenty-something Karen looking at a scrubby, wet, twenty-something me with deep concern and compassion.

“Do you want a beer or a cigarette or something?” she asked. We were pretty much best friends after that and we lived in that building for two years, more or less together, sharing our units like one space.

We were broke. Karen was an AmeriCorps teacher, I was a poet and a waitress. Pride kept us from asking our parents for anything — my mom bailed me out exactly once on rent and Karen never even asked her folks. We did fine, though, and we had good snacks on Friday night to go along with our bourbon + Cokes. Karen showed me one of those Friday nights that the best popcorn is made on the cheap, on a gas stovetop with a pot and some muscle. Here’s how it goes in ten easy steps:

Karen’s Stovetop Popcorn (serve with bourbon + Coke for everyone)

1. Set out a big bowl for your popcorn. Have it nearby your little work station. Then, get a big metal pot with a lid. An actual stockpot is a bit large; go with a large soup pot.
2. Put in some olive oil. Generous tablespoons, roundabout. Heat the oil a minute or so. Get it hot. Keep your flame on high and be careful: you’ve got a flame on high.
3. Put in popcorn kernels. You’ll make a lot of batches before you figure out how much popcorn to put in, but note that the kernels always seem to make more popcorn than you figured. So err on fewer kernels than you feel like eating. It’ll come out about right and if you don’t put in enough, hey, just make more when you’re done with the first batch.
4. Put the lid on the pot. Get some potholders or some oven mitts; grab hold of the lidded pot on either side.
5. Swoosh it all around.
6. Lift the pot up a bit and rotate it side to side and around a bit so that your flame hits the bottommost edges of the pot. You’re going for a pressure cooker, here, and this helps get the pot heated high, heated evenly. It also means the kernels inside the pot are getting coated with the oil.
6. Set it back down on the flame. The do the rotate pick-up again. Just work with it. Feel it.
7. When the popcorn begins to pop, smile. It’s happening!
8. Listen carefully and continue to manipulate your pot. Watch that flame. It’s gonna be going gangbusters. You also need to make sure your lid doesn’t pop right off with all that beautiful white, fluffy, oily corn coming up the sides. Yum! When the popping winds down and you hear just one…one more…pop…p-p-paaaaap, then you quick as a wink, throw the lid into the sink and you DUMP that corn into your big bowl. We do not want singeing corn.
9. While the corn is still hot and the oil hasn’t all seeped in, yet, salt generously.
10. Enjoy hot, with a bourbon + Coke, while Karen tells you about her crazy family. You are so lucky right now.

In my search for an image for this post, I discovered, which is exactly what you might imagine: an association for makers and distributors of popcorn and popcorn-related products. Everyone needs a voice; the popcorn industry’s no different. I had some fun there, especially when I spied the association’s “Encyclopedia Popcornica.” “Popcornica” is a delicious, ridonkulous word that someone has to use somehow on a large scale so we can all go ’round saying it. (Any aspiring sci-fi novelists out there? Popcornica might be a character name or a distant galaxy. It’s yours! Go!)

On the site there are FAQ’s and projects, and there’s a blog that is maintained with sincere dedication by a person named Nicole. Week after week, though there are few comments to encourage her in her task, there are posts about one thing: popcorn. Usually, Nicole posts recipes, and they all sound fantastic, including the pictured Adobo and Peanut Roasted popcorn, the Coconut Ginger Popcorn Truffle, etc.) But there are glimpses into Nichole’s life, too (e.g., she fell off her diet, she watched the Times Square ball drop with friends Susan and Todd, etc.) and then you also get her perplexing/fascinating take on things like winter:

“Could it be that winter is the new summer? Once defined as a time of quiet hibernation, winter has come into its own, in a social sense.”

Hm. I’m open to this idea. I need more. But I’m open, Nicole. You bring popcorn, I bring the beverages. See above.