Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
Only three questions for you this week...sorry, kind of a busy week work-wise, and very unexpected. On the plus side, it was also a lucrative one, so I’m not going to bitch too much about being stuck in the office until 11:00 a couple of nights this week:-).
Daryl has more Boston questions, this one cake related. Or pie, depending on how you feel about dessert terminology. Nutella Riot needs some clarification on how much texting he should be doing as a part of ruining his marriage, and January Jess is looking for a new place to live...and Alex has some pretty serious life advice on that.
Finally, we'll do a song of the week that is all about Rex!
Submitted by: Daryl
Where did Boston Cream Pie originate?
First of all, imagine if you will, living in a time when America is so devoid of promise and hope that we haven’t year conceived of different words for “cake” and “pie” and just call them the same thing as if they are one heterogeneous dessert treat. *shudders*.
Science has come a long way people…
But this is an easy one! Boston Cream Pie was first served in Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856. The Parker House, located on School Street, is notable for several reasons outside of it’s famous pie:
On this subject, the Boston Cream Pie is not, in fact, the best dessert created in an American Hotel kitchen. That honor belongs to Chicago’s similarly named Palmer House Hotel, whose owner wanted a dessert for ladies during the 1893 World’s Fair and asked her pastry chef to produce “a cake-like confection smaller than a piece of cake that could be included in boxed lunches”. He produced a denser-than-cake chocolate square of a size conducive to eating with one’s hands, topped with chopped walnuts (which modern science has rightfully removed because they are garbage.)
So, move over Ferris Wheel, serial killers, Pledge of Allegiance, Aunt Jemimah, Quaker Oats, Hershey’s chocolate, PBR, automatic dishwashers, zippers, fluorescent lamps, and Juicy Fruit and make way for the single greatest invention of the Chicago World’s Fair…
I mean...baked goods, Chicago and Boston all in one answer? Best question ever, Daryl.
Best question ever.
Submitted by: Nutella Riot
How many text messages per month are appropriate for me to send to my mistress?
Well...now this is a tricky one. There are just so many variables...is she married? Is she hiding this relationship? Is she high-maintenance? Is one of you part of a secret government society that is either intent on subverting the President or just a recipe-swapping quilting club? Do you have sex-emojis on your phone?
Also, I just invented sex emojis. I know we throw the word “genius” around a lot, but sometimes it is just the only thing that fits. I mean, what have you ever done for humanity?
That’s what I thought.
Back to the question: rather than pick out a number, I’ll approach this backwards and point out what certain monthly volumes of text messages say about you and your relationship.
Also, PSA, you’re a terrible person for cheating on your wife. I’m looking forward to her getting everything in the divorce! And then watching your mistress leaving you because you are now just a sad, lonely divorcee whose kids hate him and won’t visit him in his two bedroom apartment with shitty carpeting, thin walls and shared laundry facilities.
Think about what you’ve done, man...
Submitted by: January Jess
Should I move to Texas or Virginia?
Neither. You should move to Boston. You can be my Nanny...I have extra bedrooms now that we’re done with construction and all moved back in! Bonus, you get to hang out with my sister, so you can have a full social life from day 1, and you never have to drive anywhere...it’s really kinda awesome.
What’s that? You are looking to avoid seven month winters? Hmm...well, I guess that is kind of a problem…
This is going to be a personal preference based on a lot of different factors. Mostly, what are you looking for in a place to live? Where do you wanna work? Those sorts of things. Also, it is worth noting that each of these states has huge variations in the places you might live. Like...HUGE…
Northern Virginia, for example, is home to several of the richest counties in America. They are highly educated, very cosmopolitan, rapidly growing and very livable. They are also extremely expensive, very liberal and kinda crowded. I could write at length about the inherent problems with Washington DC, a city with little actual industry outside of government, being the richest place in the country, but the problems don’t change the fact that Northern Virginia is the biggest beneficiary of the Federal Tax suck.
Then you get a whole swath from basically metropolitan Richmond southeast to the coast. You are still in a pretty heavily populated urban and suburban area, but the vibe changes pretty dramatically from a “Northern” vibe to the beginnings of a “Southern” vibe. You’re going to be markedly less likely to run into non-Virginians here than in Northern Virginia. From there, you can head west and get to some very, very rural places...in fact, quite a few of them. So, if you are looking for quiet, peace and available moonshine, you can find that, too.
Texas has, well, a little bit of everything. Houston is a hot, humid coastal energy hub that has the advantage of being home to @Annealexander70 and @marcannem96. Dallas is a hot, slightly less humid, glitzy purveyor of hated football teams and prime time soap opera families. Fort Worth is TOTALLY a different place than Dallas (wink-wink). San Antonio is more influenced by Mexico than the other cities, which means better Mexican food, more NBA Championships and, one would assume, much cheaper heroin. There are also millions or acres of non-urban ranch, farm and scrubland all over the state. West Texas is a whole other beast entirely, much more rancher than oil-man, outside of the seemingly endless supply of adorable homes that Joanna Gaines has made in Waco.
At least the ones that the ATF hasn’t lit on fire yet…
Of course, there’s also Austin, the city that conservatives love to hate like it is a liberal traitor deep behind enemy red lines. It is also, in a lot of ways, the most livable and dynamic city in Texas. It’s got the fastest growing local economy in Texas (which isn’t to diminish the rapidly growing other cities) and is on the forefront of food, music and other culture in Texas. It’s home to both the state capital and the massive and influential flagship state university campus. It’s the youngest of the major cities in Texas, too. Yea, I think the traffic sucks and, by Texas standards it’s a pretty pricey place to live, but it’s got a lot going for it. And you can hang out with @jholmsted!!!
You know what, though? You should put both of these off...you’re young, mobile and adventurous and we need to leverage that. Last we talked, you were talking about moving to Europe and I think we need to work on that, first. For someone who speaks French and aspires to speak it better, I’d send you straight to Paris. Forget the nonsense you’ve seen about roving bands of African migrants overrunning the city...that’s not a reflection of reality. Get yourself over there, find an absurdly tiny apartment in the very best location you can find and immerse yourself in being French. You can nanny, or wait tables, or tend bar or try to find more of a “career” job or whatever.
OK, so maybe Paris is overwhelming and you’re worried about finding a job. How about Switzerland? Your French is as useful in, say, Geneva as it is in Paris (and your English more so!) and it is a little more foreign-job-seeker friendly...unemployment is much lower, for one. Or maybe Basel? Very strong economy, really fantastic culture and a truly unique place...across the river from both Germany and France. Even better, if you hook on with either of the massive Pharma companies (Novartis or Roche) or the World Bank, you could probably transfer back to the States without finding a new job if you ever wanted to.
See, here's the thing...you’re not going to get this chance again. Picking up and living in another country is a remarkable experience, and if you don’t do it now, you never will. And what’s the worst that can happen? You get over there, get homesick and tire of chain-smoking Euro guys in skinny pants, so you move back to Austin. Are you really worried about waking up one day when you are 50 and saying “Gee, life sure is great, I just sure wish I had moved to Texas two years earlier 25 years ago…”? No, of course not!!!
So put Texas and Virginia on hold, move to Paris and live like most people only dream they did:-)
Alex’s random old song of the week
Last week, while confessing the depths of his indefensibly horrible music taste, @boonaticrex took a shot at me for questioning the choices that functionally deaf people like he and Anne make when they pick out music to listen to. Never mind, though, I take no offense...it’s really not his fault, sometimes nature just makes people eardrums do weird things.
But, Rex is an Alabama boy, so I figured that maybe I could talk some sense into him by speaking his native language. So, this week, we visit the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios to bring you the second greatest song ever recorded in the State of Alabama (first is The Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar”, and third is Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way That I Love You)” if you are keeping score).
I’m also going to note, as we learned from a confession-receiving priest in one of Rex’s favorite movies, The Commitments, that it was not Marvin Gaye who sang “When a Man Loves a Woman” but, in fact…
‘Twas Percy Sledge did that particular tune.
Nothing can we call our own but Death
and that small model of the barren earth
which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
Richard II Act 3, Scene 2
His mind was made up. It wasn’t right, not this way. Not in this unfamiliar place. He knew the prevailing opinion on the tumor and subsequent strokes, that they made it unlikely that she knew where she was, or even that he was there. But that didn’t matter. He saw it in her eyes: not only recognition, but fear. She was scared of this place, of its antiseptic sterility. In his mind, her eyes seemed to plead with him. She was, in his mind, merely calling in debts owed, and payment was simple: “It is not for strangers to do this for me. I am yours, and have been always. It will be a burden for you. But I would not ask you carry it if I believed you unable.”
She would do the same for him if possible. He knew that. He also knew all the arguments against what he was now resolved to do. It was only one more injection since she was already sedated, and he would have no access to those chemicals which had been deemed the most humane for the purpose of compassionately ending a life if he left with her; injection was so accepted as the most humane way, in fact, that if he went through with what he now saw in his mind he could likely never tell another soul, for fear of being thought a monster.
The question of legalities flickered briefly within him, but he chose to suppress it. If the state’s line between legal and illegal, humane and inhumane, consisted of nothing more than a “licensed professional” pushing in the needle and using drugs pre-approved by the state, then that was a line he had no interest in toeing. That the state demanded this stressful setting, with strangers performing what he now saw not as the mere responsibility of someone who loved her, but as his sacred duty, only reinforced for him that this entire situation should be no concern of theirs. She had done so much for him. He owed her this kindness. She deserved this, a good death. A death in keeping with the prideful and dignified bearing she always exhibited in life.
She seemed to weigh nothing now. He scooped her up in a bundle of thin blanket and thinner sheet. For a brief passing moment he thought he felt her sigh, almost imperceptibly, and lean into his chest, as if to reassure herself of his presence. He left the room without so much as a glimpse into the corridor. He knew where he must go, and would not have stopped for anyone anyway. In any event, there was no one to try. If anyone saw him they did not bother. If anyone saw him, they understood.
The place was one of her favorites. There was an overgrown trail hidden just off the edge of a county road, with just enough room for one vehicle to pull off and park. The trail led, in a few hundred yards, to a small lake. From a rocky outcrop there was a small, almost hidden path down to the water’s edge. There was no beach, but the two of them had often come there to swim, him jumping from the ledge and her swimming out from the access point below. She was always afraid to jump but was always up for a swim. He smiled to himself at this thought as he pulled off the road. He shut off the engine and, glancing only momentarily into the rearview mirror, reached into the glove compartment. He put the small .38 he found there in the pocket of his jacket, and collected his passenger from where she lay in the back seat.
He had never carried her that far before, but the walk seemed to pass too quickly. Even their life together seemed to have passed too quickly now. How many people had he promised this same thing? How many relatives and friends had said something like “if that ever happens to me, if I ever get like that, just put a bullet in my head”? How many times had he said he would? What was the greater moral obligation, obeying society’s laws or keeping an oath made to a friend? That wasn’t assisted suicide anymore, at least according to the state. For that the patient had to be...well, a patient. It had to be clinical. A state proxy, in the form of a doctor, had to give a stamp of approval. That seemed to him ignoble somehow, that abnegation of the most fundamental of natural rights. If pressed in that moment he likely would have mumbled something about the right to a dignified death, but in his bones he knew the truth was both simpler and so much more profound. There is no dignity in death. The only dignity one can retain is in the choosing, in not allowing nature to have the final say, in giving the universe the finger one last time. But sometimes events or beliefs make it impossible for the dying to give the universe that last finger for themselves, and it was then, he believed, that we had the right to call in chits from those we love, and who love us. The inclusion of doctors, of government and by extension every single one of our fellow citizens, was the opposite of dignified in his mind. His undertaking was, above all else, the act of a truly free man.
He could not have said how long he had been weeping, but he found himself seated, at the edge of the lake, knees to his chest, her silent body resting beside him. Slowly he rose and, blinking through tears, started collecting a number of large rocks. He had decided this was where she should rest, in the water where they swam together. It was a good place, a place she loved. Taking the pistol from his jacket, he knelt and placed his other hand on her, looking again into her eyes. He gently removed the collar from her neck, and he believed he felt her warm tongue on his hand, saying “I will see you again my friend, in time. Thank you.” He wasn’t sure he believed, but in that moment he hoped. He wept, and he hoped.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.