Hi, I’m Rene Montesino. I’m a smart and capable college student in my mid 20’s. Am I independent and able to live on my own? Of course. Am I also a not-so low-key disaster? All day, everyday! All too often the simplest things turn into the biggest calamities, resulting in a series of bizarre and sometimes painful, but always hilarious outcomes. To say that life can sometimes throw me for a loop is a gross understatement. Even though I’m an insurance claim waiting to happen, that doesn’t stop me from living it up, having fun and continuing to make decisions that inevitably end in catastrophe.
When asked, “How are you doing?” I’d like to reply with something upbeat and lighthearted. But of course the actual answer goes something like, “Honestly not great, I’m kind of a mess…like a passenger train bursting into flames and derailing at full speed into a dilapidated trailer park”. Although the answer is usually met with a hearty laugh, it’s important to remember that surviving, let alone thriving, after the fiery explosion and subsequent crash is no easy feat. An explosive train wreck was my everyday baseline pre-pandemic, when goods and services were plentiful. Everything I consumed was from a restaurant, as the entire concept of kitchens and cooking was so foreign to me that I didn’t know how to use a can opener, and me trying to grocery shop is like a 12-year-old trying to pass the LSAT. Albeit, now that goods and services are few and far between, and restaurants are closed (aside from some takeout), my life has undergone a total 180. If you think you’ve had a rough adjustment to pandemic life, you haven’t seen anything yet!
This is the true, baffling and riotous account of how a self-proclaimed ‘no stress, hot-mess express’ is “handling” life amid a global pandemic, one misfortune after another.
**While I’m not going to include a ‘Do Not Try This at Home’ disclaimer, I will say this: Let my remarkably ignorant oversights be a lesson, especially when it comes to anything relating to the kitchen. Being patient and paying attention are very important attributes for a successful and safe life.**
And on that note, the journey begins…
I decided to fly to my parents’ house to ride out the pandemic, with the notion that it would be a welcome reprieve from the chaos that was my life. The problem is that I haven’t lived in a balanced, functioning home in years, so I’m astonishingly out of touch with traditional home life. As such, my fantasy couldn’t have been further from reality, as I now have more blunders in 10 days than I usually have in one month. After several mishaps in the kitchen (a mishap to me is a full on calamity to most everyone else) I decided to take some initiative and sharpen my domestic skills. And what a hopeless endeavor that turned out to be. My extended stay at Casa Montesino has been a chaotic hodgepodge of distressing injuries, fiascos and general mayhem. Kitchen fires, chronic addictions and ‘Bernia’s’ (more on that later) have all become a part of my daily routine.
Inspector Clouseau in the Kitchen
How many times can someone (i.e. me) fail at something so easy-breezy? The bewildering nature of that question surrounds me like a swarm of locusts, growing in size with every visit to the kitchen. Even as I write this I can’t help but question why I’m still allowed in the kitchen, let alone allowed to use it? Perhaps because watching me undertake tasks with such brazen attitude and unwarranted confidence only to have it turn into total havoc for the umpteenth time is pure entertainment. I can’t disagree, as I too find myself sobbing laughing before the dust even settles.
One of my favorite foods is pasta, and making it couldn’t be simpler: Boil water, throw it in, wait ‘x’ amount of minutes, strain it and you’re done. Whoa there, not so fast! Even though I’ve made pasta hundreds of times without a single hiccup, I now manage to set it on fire (yes, even though it is in water). In the last month this has happened twice, and each time I was caught off guard and didn’t know what to do, so I did what I do best. Absolutely nothing. Doing nothing is my m.o, especially for kitchen mishaps. It’s an easy way out, and has worked in my favor so far (knock on wood). As I watched the surprisingly high flame reach almost above my head, my mindset was somewhere along the lines of, It’ll go out eventually….fingers crossed! The problem was that I had the flame too high, causing it to come up the side of the pot, and when I put the unbroken spaghetti in, the portion that stuck out past the pot (the pot was, of course, too small) the pasta went up in flames. Even though it was on fire, it was in water, so I figured it was fine. Turns out I was mostly right…ish. By the time the spaghetti relaxed and fully submerged the charred parts disintegrated filling the water with ash. It was fabulous! Marco Polo, the famous Italian merchant who brought pasta to Italy during the 13 century was probably having a seizure in his grave.
Something many people may be surprised to learn is that silver is flammable. In fact, I can now confidently say that it’s extremely flammable, and learning this was a welcome surprise indeed! Of course I know that some metals are flammable, but I also knew that the very fancy plate with silver accents was fake, so I wasn’t worried. I went to reheat my chocolate chip pancakes in the microwave and everything was fine…for about 5 seconds. Sparks started lighting up every square inch of the plate like the fourth of July. After another few seconds of sparks the entire plate went up in a huge yellow fireball so big and bright, I couldn’t see the plate. It turns out that the plate was silver plated gilded fine china and the silver couldn’t have been less fake. I knew my answer to kitchen mishaps wasn’t going to work, if I did nothing the microwave would have exploded. I quickly threw open the door and the fireball dissipated immediately. I figured the plate may be a little warm, seeing as how it was just in a ball of flames, so I grabbed a hand towel to protect my hands. This ended up being another poor decision. The towel I selected was decorative and 100% linen, so the heat permeated it instantly, burning my hand and causing me to drop the plate. The heat must’ve made it extra fragile because when it hit the floor it shattered like broken glass. My mom was both furious and bemused. Can you believe she had the nerve to ask me why I’d put silver in the microwave? So rude! I told her that she was unequivocally at fault, I mean who mixes fancy china amongst regular plates? How was I supposed to know that this random plate was pure silver plated porcelain? We made an agreement from then on that nothing went in the microwave, whether or not I thought it was real or fake. Now as far as putting things in the oven, well that’s a different story for a different day.
Hi, my name is Rene and I’m a Milano-holic
I’m not sure if it’s the stay at home order, being at my parents house, the general pandemic or the combined effects of all of the above that have contributed to the development of several new addictions. While some are more pressing than others, nothing has been more dangerous than my unbridled dependency on dark chocolate sea salt milanos. Paired exclusively with Whole Foods organic 2% milk. I’ve never been a particularly strong willed individual when it came to saying ‘no’ to food, those who know me know I’m voracious. Any shred of self-restraint that may have been hidden somewhere in my mind, has long been obliterated. I always liked Milanos but haven’t had them in so long I forgot how sinfully delicious they are. It’s no surprise that not long after our reunion, the relationship hastily evolved from a relatively tepid interest, to a passionate affair. I’ll be the first to admit it – giving into temptation feels so good and I revel in the pleasure of each and every bite. In mid April, our supply of Milanos ran low and we almost ran out, sending me into full panic mode. I lashed out at anyone in the house who didn’t take our low stock seriously. A few threats, some bribery and two ultimatums later, we now make sure there are several bags on hand at any given moment. We currently have a 60 pack in the pantry. These are desperate times, and I’ll be damned if I don’t have my precious Milanos.
“Is that a Hernia?” No – it was a toaster oven
The other day while fetching my pizza out of the toaster oven, I got burned….in an interesting area. I opened the door and used the bottom of my shirt to grab the rack and slide it out cause I didn’t care to look for anything else to use. Last time I thought I was clever because I used a hand towel (the silver plate debacle) and it backfired, so this time my shirt was the ‘oven mitt’. In order to reach it with my shirt, I had to stand on my tiptoes, which caused my lower abdomen to rest on the glass door. Because I was only wearing underwear and because the glass was 400 degrees, the heat quickly went through the flimsy fabric and burned my groin. I didn’t realize I was even making contact with the door until it was too late. The pain was horrible, but I managed to not drop the pizza (thank god). A second degree burn is one thing but a ruined slice of pizza would’ve been horribly devastating. When I inspected the damage, it actually looked worse than it felt. The door left a burn that resembled a scar from a botched hernia repair done by a 3rd rate doctor in the back of a minivan. Thus the term ‘Bernia’ was born. I enjoyed my pizza and went about my day. What did I do for the burn? You guessed it, nothing! Thankfully, doing nothing once again paid off. It has healed exceptionally well, and now resembles nothing more than a faint scar of a repair done by a specialist at Cedars-Sinai.
There you have it, a day with Rene, and oh what a day it was. Being back at home base for nearly three months now has been great, everything is abundant and free but my god has it been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. The list of unmentioned crises that I’ve given rise to since my arrival is so long I could write a book. Reviewing my track record confirms that the failures are far from over. Hopefully reading this gave you some good laughs or at least made you smile. The aim of lifting the veil on what goes on behind the scenes is to let people know that adjusting to this new way of life isn’t easy. We all have our ups and downs, good days and bad. Granted some people have more ups than others and vice versa but that’s ok! When challenges and hurdles arise, try shifting your mindset and reframing how you look at them. Whether it’s looking through a comedic lens like I do, or framing it as an opportunity to grow and develop new skills. Keeping a level head during these times is key to avoiding a meltdown. Stay positive, do it like Rene, and laugh your troubles away!