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“Stranger” Recap

August 17, 2011 in recap

Our second Saloon meeting was just last week, but our little group must be doing something right because it feels like we’ve been meeting forever. With all the little systems and processes, we are definitely the most a-dork-able book club ever. Or, at least, in Raleigh.

Food
We started the same way our last meeting started: lots of small talk, lots of food. Desiree made these adorable appetizers—I think I had about a thousand of them—with a light, crunchy shell and gooey, cheesy sausage filling spilling out the sides. She brought her wedding album for me to peek at, and it was all I could do to keep from eating them while I was holding her adorable pictures. It crossed my mind more than once that a little sausage smear would just add character, but I managed to get through her whole album without spilling anything.

While I gobbled down appetizers and marveled at Desiree in her pretty white dress, Jen and Des talked with our guest—THE Sarah Egan Warren! She planned SIGDOC-ish things with them, while they—as super-cool SIGDOC officers—thought up new great ideas for this year’s events. I can tell they’re going to be an awesome group, and SIGDOC is going to be fantastic.

Next was the main dish, Tyler Florence’s Eggplant Rigatoni Bake. I enjoyed fixing it for the first time, but I would swap out some of the eggplant and olive oil for more tomato sauce next time. The homemade sauce recipe he includes in there is really good, and I wanted more… but nevertheless, we all gobbled it up anyway, which is fine since we also had salad. Doesn’t matter how much pasta you eat as long as you have salad (Rachel Ray is my nutritionist).

After we talked Sarah’s ear off about how Saloon is better than Salon, we stuffed ourselves with Jen’s delicious dessert—chocolate candies wrapped in buttery crescent rolls and topped with powdered sugar—and got to work explaining our CDs.

Music
Jen had the most creative idea, using her CD as homage to the many stages of grief; unfortunately, she also epically failed by including a song that she had already shared on her first CD (honestly, it was going to happen eventually). Des made everyone a happy-themed CD, and I tried to redeem the rainy-day gloom of my last collection with a “slowly-getting-happier” theme and a rainbow-colored CD cover. To be fair to Jen, I was the real epic failure—I had to finish burning my CDs while Jen and Des each explained theirs. (and I just remembered that I never finished typing my CD list into that event’s group. Shit.)

Book
After that, we talked about Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself. It was an interesting conversation because we were able to share a little about our own experiences with culture, national identity, and “norms,” but we also did Mr. Bryson justice by comparing this collection to some of his other works, talking about his writing style and sense of humor, and agreeing with his wife’s exasperation about his constant complaints.

Other Stuff
Our current events conversation was all over the place in the best kind of way. First we talked a little bit about the world ending and what kind of currency we would need if it did, thanks to a Freakonomics article that Jen shared. Jen and I effectively scared the mess out of Des by talking about guns, stashed money, hidden fire ladders, emergency plans, and other disaster-related preparations we’ve made that, apparently, she hasn’t. Someone needs a “SAVE MY CATS!” fireman sticker for Christmas…

Our longest conversation was devoted to this article; well, really, it was devoted to this picture and quote:

http://www.steynonline.com/content/view/4259/28/'s controversial picture

The picture is taken from the back of the cafeteria. In the distance are the boys. They’re male, so they get to sit up front at prayers. Behind them are the girls. They’re female, so they have to sit behind the boys because they’re second-class citizens – not in the whole of Canada, not formally, not yet, but in the cafeteria of a middle school run by the Toronto District School Board they most certainly are.

And the third row? The ones with their backs to us in the foreground of the picture? Well, let the Star’s caption writer explain:

At Valley Park Middle School, Muslim students participate in the Friday prayer service. Menstruating girls, at the very back, do not take part.

There were a couple ideas thrown around here. For one, we had to talk about whether this idea of menstruation being “unclean” was some new-found craziness or if it was actually a tenant of Islam. In the end, we realized that Muslims have been following this idea for thousands of years, and that took some of the sting out of a debate that, otherwise, would have been easy to finish with a “What’s Wrong With Them?!” kind of sentiment. Still, we were able to talk about whether the support of this prayer time was sending the wrong message to girls going through puberty, or if subjugating this process to scrutiny in any way would be appropriate, since it’s a traditional religious expression and within these individuals’ rights to pray. We even discussed how religion in schools works (and how it doesn’t). We tried to wrangle through this idea of separating the girls, and we discussed whether or not that affected those girls’ rights. In the end, it was probably our liveliest debate to date, but we were able to understand each others’ ideas pretty well in the end. Saloon is for talking, not for agreeing, and all parties did a great job of explaining their views on that one. Horray for opinions!

We talked briefly about Food Trucks in Raleigh, but this debate wasn’t too difficult, as we all love food and the idea of food coming to YOU isn’t hard to wrap your head around. Still, we did talk about the debate coming from the restaurant owners who feel that these transportable tacos will steal their late-night fast food clients, and other things of that nature. The debate in Raleigh continues, but food trucks should be here soon. On a related note, we were able to learn a bit more about Des’ past and her father’s previous entrepreneurial adventure with a coffee and sandwich shop on wheels. While it ended up being before its time, it was a neat connection to the current event.

Probably the easiest debate of all was our mutual lament about Facebook’s insistence of providing a place for Birthday stalkers, or those “friends” who comment on your wall once a year with an enthusiastic “Congratulations on not dying!” or something similar. The article Des shared was great, because the guy was able to trick some of these not-really-a-friend friends into posting on his wall multiple times in a week when he kept resetting his birthday. An idea for April Fools…

The conversation turned when we started talking about Des’ article debating Book Clubs in America. We talked a bit about why we think our group is working and things we like about it. In the end, it sort of became a mutual love-fest agreement about how we all enjoy having one another as friends, and how we value that friendship, which is both proof that we all get along and, probably, more proof that we’ll never have male members. Still, it was a good transition into a more serious topic, since Jen’s next few questions got us sharing more intimate things about our past. We talked about points in our lives we’d want to take another swing at, happy days we’d like to relive, sad days we’d like to forget, and lots of things in between. I learned a lot about both Jen and Des that I didn’t know before, and I felt like I got more of an understanding about their background and pieces that make up their personality. It was a good way to end a great conversational night, an answer session likely fueled by emotional debate and alcohol, and, of course, further proof that male Saloon members probably need not apply.

Our next book is Life of Pi, and we’ll be meeting all of Desire’s cats and, once again, requiring her to pay the actor that is her fake husband (don’t worry Des, that joke is almost getting old). I can’t wait to see what she cooks for her main dish since all her food has been awesome so far, and I’m excited to get further than page two in the book. Happy Saloon, Happy Reading, Happy August!

Sarah

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