Wednesday, May 27, 2009

danger cake

Although research for The Book is long finished, I still get the occasional email for bizarre cake stories, like the ejaculating cake or this, the five-minute chocolate cake in a mug.

“The Most Dangerous Cake Recipe” is made of the usual suspects, and the original recipe lacked only salt. (I made this the first time with melted butter.)


4 T flour
4 T sugar
2 T cocoa (Hershey’s dark)
1 egg
3 T milk (2% here)
3 T butter, melted
3 T chocolate chips (optional)
splash of vanilla
pinch of salt

1 large, microwave-safe coffee mug


1. Mix the dry ingredients well; add egg, and mix well; add remaining wet ingredients, and mix well.
2. Cook in the microwave on high for three minutes. The cake will bubble up over the mug.
3. Let it cool, and turn it over on a plate.

The email asks, “And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night.”

I’ve got some news for you. That’s not why this is the most dangerous cake recipe.

This cake in a mug is not nearly sweet enough. And though that could be fixed with more sugar (maybe a dusting of powdered sugar on the top?), it has the texture of a sponge. And though that might be fixed with a scoop of ice cream on the side, it already has a whopping 979 calories!

Better to waste those calories on something that's truly delicious, like a Berger's cookie.

Monday, May 25, 2009


When my neighborhood listserv is good, it's very, very good. If you forget that your community yard sale is coming up, someone reminds you. Neighbors welcome each other and new businesses and share good news. If you’re missing a pet—or have found one—you can guarantee hundreds of watchful eyes, often successful at aiding in the reunion. (You can also, alas, count on an endless lecture and debate about whether cats should be allowed to roam free or whether the new high leash fines are fair.) The best part about the list, for me, are the emails called “Wildlife Sighting,” which involve birds, foxes, deer, hawks.

Although I hate hearing about break-ins and muggings and shootings, I love that I am not in the dark about the criminal goings-on in my area. I like that several members, myself included, get to the bottom of how a fire started, why police response time was lax, how burglaries are being investigated.

But when my neighborhood listserv is bad, it's horrid. Unfortunately, when there’s a rise in crime, and it’s combined with a feeling of powerlessness to stop it, ugly things start to happen. Instead of becoming vigilant, some people become vigilantes.

How could we forget the war on drugs? If too many people use drugs, we’ll stiffen penalties for sellers and users. Never mind the systemic causes of drug abuse—a ridiculous insurance industry that leads to undiagnosed and untreated cases of depression; an economically and culturally deprived community; desperation and hopelessness; dwindling resources to address any of the reasons behind drug abuse. (Remember: with the amount of pain I was suffering and the depression resulting from it and a lack of exercise and sunlight, I could’ve been a drug abuser, were I not a person of means. And my desperation and hopelessness accelerated one night when I ran out of my prescription.)

I’m not saying that we should coddle and counsel our criminals instead of punishing them; I'm saying punishment can’t be the only thing we do, or crime and drug abuse continues. The fallout from the war on drugs was our increased paranoia and suspicion. If someone was tired, unshaven, or depressed, or if he had bloodshot eyes or a runny nose, he became a suspect.

Right now, because the number of burglaries has increased, some of my neighbors have waged war on strangers. That’s right: if you are walking down my street, you’d better be from this neighborhood. And even if you do live here, you’d better be dressed in neat attire, your pants pulled up*, your hair combed; in other words: be groomed.

I’m reminded of an episode of The Twilight Zone: "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”** The monsters are us.

As a victim of an armed robbery in the park, I’m not naïve enough to think all the people I encounter in Sector 2 of the Northeast district are law-abiding citizens. My heart doesn’t bleed, but it does beat. And this I know for sure: if you want to guarantee a long police-response time, start calling 911 because a woman canvassing for a charity is about to knock on your door or because a gnarly dude is pushing a lawnmower toward your block.

*Pull up your frickin' pants.
**Watch "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

magical beauties

After our annual Mother's Day brunch, with nine Millers and vonBriesens crammed together in a too-small space (which caused me to eat only half of my eggs), I took some photos of my sister, and then I went for a walk. I had a live radio interview at 2:30, so I walked fast.

During my hobble around the 'hood, I talked with neighbors about The Shooting, told a group of folks congregating by a garden which flower was a tulip (my attempt at humor, and they laughed), and heard a song by The Parlotones that choked me up. It was a free download from some music site I joined so that I could get free songs. Few of them ever move me like this one. I replayed it about four times so that I wouldn't forget my idea about how I would spend the majority of my Mother's Day, though I expected it to only usurp an hour. (Ha!)

I'm sure the lyrics do not fit precisely, but you'll have to grant me some poetic license.

I know most of the kids in this slide show—some from my daughter's school, some relatives. I threw in a few baby pictures, too—my sister, me, my husband. And I added a shot of my friend, Jennifer König, who had new reason to celebrate this Hallmark holiday.

In a new commercial, a doctor tells a baby, "Congratulations! It's a mommy!"

Here's to us and our miracles.

Friday, May 8, 2009


When the body, which is still breathing but is destined to be a body soon, lies there like a pile of clothes until he is gently turned over, when the eyelids flutter, when blood trickles from the mouth, when the body waits for escort by wheeled siren, that actor’s part is done. The detectives examine the scene, pick up shell casings, talk into their radios. This location shoot is almost a wrap. Police tape comes down. Roads are reopened. Neighbors go inside.

That’s TV—the stuff I watch every night.

The male cops are serious and handsome; the female cops are beautiful, and all their blouses plunge deep. The victim dies. (Sometimes he deserves it.) And the perp, who takes off on foot up the street, is caught.

But when you are ten feet from the lump of human who stumbled across the street after six gunshots at close range rocked your house, while you are standing in the kitchen with your husband, who’s been away all week, and you're just about to pick up your daughter from the school a half a mile away, with a bad guy on the loose, it’s not television anymore. And when the crude circle of blood in the asphalt, next to the gutter, next to your neighbor’s house, remains when the cops go home, it is not the only stain.

We waited until an hour after the shooting to pick up our daughter from school. I didn’t want her to be afraid. But Marty explained the events on their drive home, and when Serena arrived, she stood out on the deck with red eyes. We asked if she wanted to talk about it, but she turned and went in. She had other plans.

I went inside moments later to find her and give her another hug. But when I got into the dining room, I could hear her quietly strumming a guitar and singing. I didn’t want her to stop, but I wanted to preserve the moment, so I grabbed the camera—the same camera I used to shoot that blotch of blood on the pavement next to the cell phone and the pile of clothes—to spy on her as she strummed, then wrote in her journal, then strummed again.* I could barely hold the camera steady for my crying.

Today was the first beautiful day in more than a week. I walked a few miles, mowed my lawn, picked up my husband from his camping trip. And then I heard the six gunshots and called 911. I thought the day was bloodied, ruined. But my daughter redeemed it.

A little while ago, she came into the kitchen and said, “I’m angry. Do you mind if I cuss to get my anger out?” I told her I didn’t. And as she went down the basement stairs (on her way to watch the TV she bemoans in her song), she said, “That guy’s a mother-fucking asshole.”

Lyrics by Serena Joy Utah Miller

Sirens flaring,
TV blaring,
Tell me what you make of this.
The world has finally turned around.
We all live, and we all die
We hear God's deafening cry.
We deserve to die
If we can't live with one another.


We all deserve to die
If we can't live with each other
(stop; whisper "die")

*I have her permission to use this video.

If you can't see the video above, use this screen below.