Portfolio + a story from 2004

It only took a month to put together a decade’s worth of work, but my portfolio is finally up! As a mainly production artist at my day job for the last 6 years and counting (I did in-house design and art direction for 4 years prior to my current position, although in retrospect, the transition to production artist was a necessary step — and not a backwards one — as it’s made me a better designer in creating pieces that meet exact printing and bindery specifications, which in turn makes my clients happy with quality products that don’t cost them a fortune or take forever to produce), it was difficult to sort through the the hundreds of projects I’ve managed printing production for, although over the years my involvement in doing full design from scratch has increased significantly that for the most part, it’s all I do these days. I still feel I have a lot to learn at the company I’m with but when I decide it’s time to move on, the portfolio framework is already here on my site, easily editable as needed.

During the process of sifting through materials on two different computers plus my Flickr, I stumbled across all kinds of written and visual stuff from the early-to-mid-noughties I’d completely forgotten about, including this nugget:



Chilaly Sandwich Spread

Omar and I were snacking for dinner on Saturday night. No set plans for dinner, so we ate what we could find: dry cereal, soy milk, cheese, grocery store brand Fig Newtons. His roommate’s grandma took notice of our frequent trips to the refrigerator, as we practically had step on her as she sat in her wooden rocking chair, blocking the entrance to the kitchen. Makes no sense to me why she keeps her chair there. The arrangement of the living room is to have all the furniture: couch, end tables, lamps, chairs, aligned on one wall facing the fireplace and TV. Her rocking chair is at the very end, between the kitchen counter and the wall. I don’t know why she doesn’t move. Like it’s her god-given right to block the way, like a sentry. Old people are like that. They have to know everything that’s going on, and they can’t really get up and find out, so they have to ensconce themselves in the most inconvenient places with high visibility so they can observe and make remarks. I don’t even know her first name. She just tells everyone to call her “Gran.”

She is a seemingly nice old lady who likes to chat, but like all old people, she has a gripey streak. Some are worse than others, I think. She also likes to eat. She’s not fat by any means, not even old-lady-metabolism-hasn’t-worked-in-30-years fat, but her Bermuda shorts ride high over her pregnant-looking belly. It looks funny. It must be weird to be old. Like adolescence all over again. Your body completely metamorphosizes into something hideous, you don’t recognize the face in the mirror, it’s awkward to get around with your stiff limbs; you find it hard to acknowledge these changes, much less talk about them. So Gran is obsessed with junk food and eating. I don’t blame her. If I didn’t have much time left, I’d eat everything that came my way too.

But it’s not just that she’s obsessed with her own eating, she wants to meddle in your food choices also. Every time you go look for a snack in the kitchen or something to drink, she rattles off a litany of disgusting, nutritionless morsels for you to eat. As if you didn’t have eyes to see in the fridge. Crab dip, cinnamon buns from Wal-Mart, canned ham and pea soup, hamburger-corn casserole, Goldfish crackers, Gatorade. “Why don’t you have some?” she asks. “Here, eat this.” You defer, trying to not to make it personal. Old people can be touchy.

The other night around 10 pm, I was putting my cereal bowl in the sink. Gran got up from her rocking chair to fix a snack. “There’s some cream cheese dip I made in the fridge. You should try it. It’s great for parties.” She put a lot of emphasis on “great,” which made me sort of depressed, but I also tried hard not to laugh. Everything is great for something. When was the last time she even had a party, I wondered.

“Here, try it. It’s got cream cheese, mayonnaise, chili sauce, onion powder, and pickle relish. It’s easy to make. You’re supposed to put hard boiled eggs in it too, but I can’t eat eggs, so I leave ‘em out.”

Spew. “No thanks,” I said. “I’m through eating for tonight.” And I walked off. But I heard her voice still talking to me from the kitchen. Oops, I just walked away in the middle of a conversation. Two minutes later, she brought in two cream cheese covered saltines on little square napkins, just like she was giving out samples at her Wal-Mart job. Pretty sad, really.

“I don’t like to put it on the crackers and serve it. It makes the crackers soggy.” I took a bite. It tasted like it was made the last time she had a party. 1963? Who uses pickle relish these days anyways? Other than on hot dogs? It was one of those skanky recipes from the 50’s, when all those canned and processed products were new. When was the last time you saw a lime green Jell-O salad with nuts, maraschino cherries, and marshmallows? Oh, people thought that stuff was hot shit at the time. The other day I saw an old ad for Libby’s canned cream corn. The recipe in the ad was for Hot Dog Casserole: Score 8 hot dogs, insert Kraft American cheese in scores, in separate bowl, mix 2 cans of Libby’s Cream Corn with 2 tablespoons of prepared mustard, pour in baking dish, top with hot dogs, and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. This all flashed through my mind as I was nibbling the pathetic cracker. “Let me give you the recipe. I’ll make a copy of it for you.”

I didn’t want her to go through the trouble, much less want to think about the concoction ever again. “Um, that’s ok,” I replied. “It only has – what – 5 ingredients? I can remember that.”

“But you need the measurements!”

“Oh, I never use measurements when I’m cooking. I just go by what tastes good.” But I already heard her using the fax/copier device in the living room. She came back with a piece of paper. The recipe was called Chilaly Sandwich Spread.

“Well, here it is anyways, you can adjust to seasonings to whatever you like.” She sounded sort of insulted, as if such a thing as not using measurements had never been attempted. Even the idea was an attack on everything she stood for. “It’s great for parties,” she said again.

“Uh, thanks.” I put it in my purse and she left the room.

Fifteen minutes later, Omar smacked his lips. “Did that dip have garlic in it?”

“Onion powder,” I said. “But you can also use grated onion.”

“I’m going to brush my teeth.”

I pictured actually serving the stuff at a party. Everyone would self-consciously walk around with horrible pickle relish-onion breath. There’s definitely no way I would ever serve it. I pictured a cocktail or canasta party she might’ve had in the 60’s. Beehives flocking around the snack table. Then 15 minutes later, all the ladies thinking, Oh god. I need to brush my teeth. Or walking into the party, talking to people, the onion breath radiating from their mouth. Or their stomach acid breaking down the dip, little onion tasting burps coming up on 15 or 20 people, all at the same time. Of course, everyone smoked in those days, so maybe they couldn’t even smell or taste it.

— July 2004

Leave a Comment