Monday, October 4, 2010

Toast and Bananas

It is fall and I am upstate, driving west on Route 17. Mid-afternoon sunlight saturates the car, tumbling unfiltered from a brilliant blue sky that is trimmed at the bottom with riotous leaves: some still green, but most yellow, orange, and the deepest, darkest auburn red. I guide my boyfriend’s car—a very responsible sedan—off the highway and towards 208, checking my speed just as a 30-year-old who is more concerned about car insurance than looking cool should. At the stop sign, the car is silent for a moment as my iPod switches tracks, and in that pause I hover between present and past, between the time I am in now and those years I spent on these roads as my character was shaped and formed. The speakers open up and a pop punk song from high school spills out, filling the car as I make that hazardous left onto one of the most familiar roads I know.

Suddenly, I am 17 and behind the wheel of the boxy, hopelessly dorky white LeBaron that my parents insisted on and that I was both embarrassed by and enamored of. It’s very hard to hate the vehicle that is your means to freedom and possibility, but it’s also very hard to love a practical white car with a thin blue and red stripe running along the length of it. It was just so wholesome.

My shift at the Bugle Boy clothing store—at the bottom of the social hierarchy that is life as an employee at the Woodbury Commons— is over and nothing else matters but getting to my best friend’s house. The night, the world, and my whole life unfurl in front of me as I round a bend and dive into a straightaway, and my entire body pulses with joy. It’s not the actual plans for the night that make my heart sing, but the possibility of what will be. This could be a night where something actually happens, and to a suburban teen girl, the possibility of something is everything.

For a moment, self-awareness takes hold and I am fully alive to how young and fresh I am, how little I have lived and how much time I have ahead of me. My adrenaline spikes and giggles involuntarily escape from my lips and I am simply—and please forgive the cheese—high on life. I crank the volume knob, knowing the music can never be as loud as I need it. I want it to surround me and suffocate me, seeping in until it’s sweeping through my veins and coming out my pores. It should be so loud that I can’t hear myself belting out the words, so loud that my ribs vibrate to the bass line, so loud that the car can’t contain it and the music pours out through the cracks. If I could just make it loud enough, the song will overwhelm me and permanently infuse me with its magic.

In the present, in my 30-year-old body, I wonder at the power music from adolescence has, its ability to transport you. I can feel the youth and naïveté of my younger self, that skin I shed years ago. I can reach out and touch it from enough of a distance that it seems sweet instead of sad. It makes me a little wistful—not enough to actually want to be 17 again, but enough to remind me how powerful music can be and how what you experience when you are young affects you in ways nothing ever will again.

[I think I need to lay off dashes for awhile...]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Next on the Life List

Life List, I'm not sure because the list is at work and I'm at home: attend a TED conference.

I mean, how amazing does this look??

The price tag is a bit out of my reach, but there appear to be "watch parties" akin to those live broadcasts of the Opera that the Met has been doing lately. Until I have $2,200 burning a hole in my pocket, I'll make do with watching the talks in a movie theater.

As always, thanks to Mighty Girl for the Life List inspiration...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life list: Ride my bike to work? Check!

Five things I learned while biking to work today:

1) Safety before pride.
It really doesn't matter if you slide through that yellow light or beat out that cab if it leads to you getting squashed by a bus. There is no prize for getting to work 3 minutes early.

2) NYC needs to put in some cross town bike paths in Manhattan.
The 20s and the 90s? Really? Nothing in between? That's like 70 blocks of heart-pounding, terror-filled, small margin of error bike riding. Give me just one lane somewhere in the 50s!

3) Streets are safer than sidewalks.
Intimidating though they are, biking in the streets is still more predictable than going up on the sidewalk. Also, pedestrians don't have to roll down a window to yell at you.

4) In NYC, there's even construction on the bike paths on the bridges.
And it requires a large van that forces everyone to dismount and walk their bikes, which always feels alien after having ridden for so long.

5) I love riding my bike.
This sounds much more new-agey than I usually go, but I truly end up feeling at one with my bike while shooting through intersections and navigating around potholes.

I may just make this a regular thing...until the sun starts setting at 5pm. But that means it's boot weather, which is a fair trade to me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leave a Light On...

Last night I had “Leave a Light On” by Belinda Carlisle stuck in my head, and it kept rattling around in my brain while I lay there, trying to sleep.

That song reminds me of a video I saw when I was twelve. I had to endure the unique brand of religious torture that public school children of Catholic parents are subjected to: CCD class. Mine was a class of 10 middle school kids fervently trying to make sure that everyone knew how little we cared about religion, how cool and above it all we were.

We watched a lot of lame videos, but for some reason the ending of this one stuck with me. It was a classically cheesy story in the vein of after school specials: a boy who seemed much older than me at the time—meaning he was probably 17—gets into a fight with his parents and decides to leave home. I remember that he left with just a backpack, and I thought, “That’s not nearly big enough to fit all my stuff.”

At some point he decides that he misses his family and would like to return home. I think there might have been a priest involved, some kind of counseling. The boy calls his parents and ends up leaving a message on their answering machine (the kind with a tape—I miss those).

The gist of his message was this: “I want to come home. I’m going to walk by the house tonight. If you want me to come home, leave the lamp in the living room window on. If it’s not on, I know to keep walking.” Cheesy, right?

So, there he is on the top of his street, backpack slung over his shoulder. It’s dusk, and most houses on the block are dark. Except his—his house is lit up like Christmas, light blazing from every window. He walks to it and stands outside, drinking it in.

And I, straining to remain cool and detached, was horrified to find myself crying.

I still get a little misty-eyed when I think about the story. All those lights! They really wanted him home!

Wonder if it’s on YouTube…

Saturday, July 17, 2010


On a road trip with the fam, and we stopped the car on the side of the road to Estes Park, Colorado, which sits on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. This little pull off is home to the sweetest and most polite chipmunks in the world. They run up to you, stand on their hind legs, place their little paws gently on your hands and take the food you've offered them.

Seriously, I want them as pets. Here's what might just be the best picture ever.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I think that the ability to publicly compare Obama to Hitler and Lenin without fear of government retribution completely invalidates the point of this billboard.

After all, it wasn't so much their fiscal policy that was the problem. I think it was the mass murders and the wars and the media control and the closing of the borders and the brutally violent repression of opposing ideas...and kind of the overall crazy-pants dictatorships that were the problem.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

America: College Drop Out of the World?

You know that stereotypical happy jock character in popular culture? This kid, we'll call him Brad, was the king of high school. He was confident and nice and a bit incorrigible, did mediocre in class but amazingly well on the football field.

Teachers always forgave Brad his transgressions because he was just so damn charming and funny. His main goals were playing a sport, dating girls, and getting drunk with his friends. He was all about having fun and enjoying himself. Brad sounds like a pretty cool dude, right?

But then, as high school came to an end, Brad didn't really have much direction. Most of the kids who spent high school working hard and studying went off to great colleges, but Brad's grades left him no choice but a community college.

Perhaps Brad quickly realized that he should put some effort into his education, right? No, he partied too much to actually learn anything, and didn't really get why he needed to take all those "dumb liberal arts" courses. Brad ended up dropping out and getting a low-wage job, maybe as a salesman in a sporting goods store or a similar position that requires charisma but not skill.

Perhaps Brad worked really hard at this job and quickly advanced, right? No, Brad didn't really want any responsibility, and, anyway, he didn't really get how to use the computer system and didn't want to learn. He spent his free time hanging around, watching TV and amassing a pretty amazing empty beer bottle collection. But man, did he have some fun times.

All the nerds coming home from college--and eventually from their high-earning jobs--kind of felt bad for him. All the confidence he had that his charisma would get him by, that he could continue to float on the good feelings people had about him, have finally bitten him in the ass, and he didn't even know it.

Those kids, the ones who worked really hard in high school and college, went on to get jobs creating new software platforms, launching companies that change the way people do business, researching how to cure diseases, or being Steve Jobs.

But what happened to Brad?

Sometimes, I feel like America is Brad, with India and China looking at us with pity as their stringent academic standards allow their citizens to take over all the high-tech jobs. America had such potential after World War II, full of booming factories and a great education system. But in the intervening decades, the country has gone from sweet high school jock to over-confident college drop-out.

Our academic standards are slipping, with some school districts tightening their belts and meeting budgets by shortening the school week. Forget not getting new books, or cramming too many kids in a room. There are schools where kids are losing entire DAYS.

If we truly allow the education of our children to become such a low priority that days begin to fall off the calendar, that we'd rather invest in less taxes than a population that can find their country on a map, we're going to go from that over-confident yet low-paid college dropout to an illiterate migrant worker...working on Chinese and Indian farms.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fancy Pants and Dress

Dan and I got all dressed up last night for our dinner at Babbo -- he in dress pants and a black and gray striped shirt, me in a dress with heels that aren't really logical for walking (but they have ruffles on them!). First thing I have to say is that they give you a large piece of really incredible Italian bread that they continually replenish throughout your meal. This should be industry-standard as far as I'm concerned.

I did not take any pictures, but I did bring the menu home. Behold:

As you can see, there's a lot of Italian on there. Here's my translation:

(not on the menu)
Chick peas marinated in some kind of balsamic-y vinegar and oil with some herbs, sprinkled on top of tiny toasts.
Verdict: good

Sweet peas whipped into a tiny little cake-looking mold, covered in carrot vinaigrette with slices of duck meat laid next to it. I think this was one of the best examples of flavors melding together to blow your mind.
Verdict: very good

Wine: a light white wine that was very, very good. And I don't even like white wine that much. Looks like I've been buying the wrong kind.

Wide pasta noodles with tiny mushrooms in a garlic, butter, and olive oil sauce with thyme sprinkled on top.
Verdict: OH MY GOD

Wine: bolder white wine that felt like it was a touch carbonated. Good, not my fave.

Duck meat in folded pasta that looks kind of like tortellini, covered in red sauce that has been cooked with pancetta. Very bold sauce that also had a lot of oil in it.
Verdict: very, very good.

Wine: really nice red wine, my favorite of the night.

Small slices of steak covered in a sweet and sour sauce that actually tasted a bit like A1, sitting on roasted turnips and mushrooms.
Verdict: the steak was a little rarer than I usually like it, but it was all really amazing. Great sauce.

Wine: really bold red, good but not what I would normally go with.

Cheese! Goat cheese with peppercorns in it, with some fennel honey on the side. I love goat cheese, so this was perfect for me, though I am still kicking myself for not even noticing the little toasts on which to spread some cheese. I just ate it all with a fork.
Verdict: mmmmmm....

Wine: Champagne. I normally don't really like champagne, but this stuff was amazing. Dan left the table for about 3 minutes after this course and I came thiiiiiiiiiis close to finishing his off.

Dessert! A fig cooked with a wine reduction, served with marscapone cheese. The fig was good, but I was all about that cheese.

Wine: our first dessert wine, a really sweet red. Not my thing.

More dessert! Hazelnut gelato covered in very, very good chocolate with a cherry in the center. Apparently this is a very traditional dessert in Italy.
Verdict: Would move to Italy to eat this more.

Wine: white dessert wine, too sweet for me. Sweet wine makes me ill.

2 dessert: one from the tasting menu, and one a surprise from the chef.
Chestnut cake with a cherry sauce, some roasted nuts, and some kind of whipped cream on the side. The second was Saffron Panna Cotta with "Tre Agrumi" which is a panna cotta with orange sauce, pieces of grapefruit, and grapefruit sorbet.
Verdict: Both were incredible...but I'm all about the cherry stuff.

Wine: peachy and appley dessert wine. Still not my thing.

Dan got espresso while I got a decaf cappuccino and these came with biscotti and tiny cookies. The coffee was amazing, but I'm not a big fan of biscotti. I ate it all, though.

Final verdict? Great bread (I would go back just for more of that bread), good coffee, amazing food. Worth a month's wait for a reservation? Maybe. It's casual enough that you don't feel pressured to act perfectly, but it's still pretty damn fancy. I look forward to going again, but as far as becoming my "favorite" goes? Nah, I'm a casual girl, so I'd rather go to Vesta.

Sometimes, though, it's nice to get fancy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Becoming a Biker

My last post was Feb 8th. That's just embarrassing.

I spent this past Saturday riding a bike around Queens. My bike is an old Giant, rescued from the refuse pile and fixed up by my mechanically-inclined boyfriend. It’s not shiny or pretty, but the worn body makes it look like I’m much more of a biker than I am, like I’ve been riding for ages and know my way around the city’s bike lanes. Which I don’t, at all.

The Giant is quite a step up from my first and second bikes, both of which were pink. My first had a white banana seat with pink polka dots on it that I absolutely begged my parents for, and thin white streamers coming out of the soft white handlebar covers. It was a single speed with pedal brakes, and I’m pretty sure it came from Target.

The second bike, which I graduated to in Texas, was a pink ten-speed, though I never actually used the gears—I mean, I flipped the little switches, but couldn’t figure out what they did beside make it much harder to pedal. On this bike I moved up to handle brakes, and I remember the amazing feeling of coasting around corners in Texas, the hot air suddenly much cooler as it blew through my sweaty hair.

The Giant is a city bike, covered in dings and with some of the paint peeling off. It’s the first bike I’ve owned that doesn’t have a kickstand but does have a lock attached to it. The grip tape is dingy and some of it has slipped off, but there is a light on the back that blinks for when I’m riding at night. I’ve become familiar enough with the gears to use them all, but I still need a little reminder on how they work (“Go UP for downhill, and DOWN for uphill,” I sing to myself).

This it the bike I rode up and down the hills of New Paltz, through the busy streets of Park Slope, over the Pulaski Bridge from Queens to Brooklyn, and along Vernon Boulevard and the East River. This is the bike on which I rediscovered that wind-though-my-hair feeling, that freedom that comes from using your own human energy to propel yourself forward, and the feeling of coasting—which might just be the most delicious reward in the world.

What I have been missing, up until now, is a helmet. Rest easy, Mom, I bought one.

On the back it says “I love my brain.” I should add “and my bike.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Books in the Attic

Due to a very long story, I was recently up in my parents' attic in Florida, digging through some old boxes of my books. My main goal was to rescue a few old copies of my Baby-Sitters Club books, but I stumbled on some old favorites as well, including:

The Kid in the Red Jacket
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Katie the Pest
The Boxcar Children

I loved, loved, loved books with multiple children -- whether they were all main characters, like in Boxcar Children, or just the foil, as in Katie the Pest. Living with several siblings leaves you predisposed towards books like this, I guess.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Life List, Part 5

Part 5? Really? Hm...perhaps I need to stop spending time thinking up things to do and start spending time doing them. Which reminds me of what I keep telling myself recently: "Stop being so lazy."

41. Go back to Finland in warmer weather
I visited Helsinki while I was studying abroad, but had the bad sense to do it in February. Even though I spent most of my time trying to get warm (except for the time in the sauna, when I was trying to not die), I was totally charmed by the city. It's somehow modern and quaint at the same time, and I image it would be an amazing vacation during summer.

42. Go back to Prague with Dan
He was supposed to visit me when I was studying abroad, but his car burst into flames one day and effectively put an end to that plan. I'd like to go back and spend some time there without having to think about the paper that's due in my Media and Communications class.

43. Own one amazing dress
At the moment I own about 5 mediocre dresses. I want one that takes my breath away. In my head it has a very full skirt.

44. Own one pair of designer shoes
I'm not one for buying stuff just for the name, but I would like to own one pair of really special shoes.

45. Throw a fancy-dress dinner party
For my 30th birthday, we all got drunk in a bar. I'd like to do something a bit classier, though I might have to wait until we move to an apartment that can accommodate more than 3 people at a table.

46. Take a tour of the Library of Congress
How have I not done this??? I only live 5 hours away from it! I really need to make friends with someone who lives in or around DC.

47. Take a tour of the White House
Apparently this is harder than just calling and making a reservation. It stays on the list, though, because it's not impossible.

48. Visit Mount Rushmore
Sometimes I get all dreamy-eyed thinking about all the other countries I want to go to and all the things I want to see there, and I forget that we've got some pretty cool stuff here, too.

49. Go to Montana
I've been to a lot of states in my life, but there's an entire swath that I haven't stepped foot in, and I'd like to change that. Plus, I imagine its really beautiful.

50. Camp in Yellowstone
So long as I do it in the Montana section, I can hit 2 goals with one trip. Of course, after learning that Yellowstone is a GIANT VOLCANO, I might rethink this goal.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not enough distance...

Kudos to Pamie for having the courage to post her high school journal entries. I was also fortunate enough ( it "unfortunate enough"?) to have rediscovered all my high school journals in a box at my parents' house.

She has this to say about her vantage point:

I don't know how many of you out there are fifteen..And know that in like, ten years you'll find these letters and it still won't be funny, and in like, fifteen years you'll find them again and someone will laugh and you will be like GET OUT OF MY ROOM, but right around the twenty year mark you might see a couple of these letters and be like, "Wow. Okay, maybe that one went a little too far."

So...yeah, I'm just at the 15-year mark for most of what I wrote in high school, and it's still cringe-inducing enough that I can barely bare to read it, much less release it into the wilds of the internet. Maybe in five years my self-indulgent anger, ill-advised crushes, wandering poetry, and haughtily judgmental ramblings will seem charming.

For right now, however, stay out of my room.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things To Do In 2010

You might recall (all 3 of you) that I have been posting pieces of my "Life List" (tm Mighty Girl) for the past few months. This post will be another list, but a much more short-sighted and immediate list: Things To Do In 2010.

This is not a list of resolutions, because I don't really like making resolutions for the same reason I don't like giving things up at Lent: I tend to forget promises I've made to myself, then I do things/don't do things I promised to I wouldn't/would do, then I remember how I forgot, then I feel bad.

I have a really good feeling about 2010. 2009 felt like a strange, twisted, hard, uncomfortable year -- a 365-day struggle to stay afloat. I'm happy to leave that all behind and look forward to what's up ahead. Perhaps the optimism has to do with the feeling of a new decade starting (I know, I know, it's actually the end of the last decade, no year 0, etc, but whatever: there's a zero on the end of it, it FEELS like a fresh start), or perhaps I'm actually redirecting my "I just turned 30" anxiety. Regardless, I'm excited.

Things To Do In 2010
- run 2 1/2 marathons
- ride my bike to work one day
- see my brother get married
- go on a road trip with my family
- get my finances in order (I'm looking at you, small-but-annoyingly-hard-to-kill credit card debt)
- focus on creating amazing events for Women in Children's Media
- focus on saving money wherever and whenever possible

Not exactly the most ambitious list, but who says everything has to be a list of goals? Can't we make a list of stuff we are really looking forward to, rather than a list of crap that we need to fix about ourselves?