Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

Sweet Dreams are made of Boobs. (Yes, you read that right).

 

Do you fall asleep listening to music? I do. And when I do, it is always with the same album. I drift away to the sweet, sweet tunes of a record none of you have ever heard of called “Night Tracks”.

I bought Night Tracks (on compact disc!) in the early years of my city life, when I was living with three girls in a duplex on the Upper West Side. As if multiple roommates weren’t enough to tune out, the asshole who lived right above my room would climb his Stairmaster late at night after work and the never-ending mechanical hum was like attempting to sleep in a field that was in the middle of being plowed. Additionally, my bedroom was on the first floor facing the street, which means I heard the door slam every time someone went in or out of the building, and every smoker on West 93rd street gathered directly in front of my window.

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My desperation for sleep was palpable–it still is–and so I went to my local Best Buy and scooped up Night Tracks, an album whose very cover made my eyelids heavy. I tossed it years ago, but it featured a picture of a dark, starry night sky with the title scrolled across in a loopy, dizzy cursive font. The songs on Night Tracks are the kind of moody, melodramatic piano instrumentals you’d hear as background music in a movie about war or star-crossed lovers. It makes perfect sense that I would purposely lull myself to sleep with movie theme songs since I have conked out in approximately 75% of all movies I’ve tried to watch since the age of six. Don’t even try to get me to explain the plot of The Hunt for Red October. I think I set some kind of record in that one. I didn’t make it past the opening credits.

I’d forgotten about Night Tracks until a few months ago, when I just happened to pull it up on the old bedside Ipod. “Hello, old friend.” I whispered as the first familiar song began to play. I don’t remember what I said to the second song, since I was out like a light.

So now, every evening, I tune into Night Tracks before tucking myself into bed. I think I might actually be addicted to it, because I’m finding it harder and harder to get to sleep without it. If I’ve already shoved my legs under the sheets and forgotten to turn it on, I harass Vinny to put it on for me by crying out “I need my traaaaaaaaaaacks” until he offers a patient “yes, dear” and presses play. Ugh, what a doll. I should make out with him more.

So last night, after a bowl of unbearably spicy pho that made my belly drop into my shoes, I got cozy in my sheets and summoned Vin to put on “the tracks”. Next thing I remember is waking up in a cold sweat after a really awful nightmare. We were on our private double-decker ferry, commuting to brunch on the Hudson River after a terrible rainstorm. We hit a huge wave and Vin says flatly, “I hope this boat doesn’t tip over.” Next thing you know we’re upside-down and fighting for our lives Titanic-style while NY1 is filming the whole thing from Chelsea Piers.

This was almost as frightening as the time I dreamed I was trapped at the top of the winding staircase in my enormous mansion, as the walls around me went up in flames. Downstairs, Ben Affleck wore a blue-velvet tuxedo and calmly smoked a pipe while tickling the ivories on a baby grand in the foyer.

Clients will often ask their therapist to analyze their dreams. I have no training in dream interpretation and I’m never going to pay for it. I look that shit up on the internet just like everyone else. But clearly, my subconscious is trying to warn me that Wealth = DANGER.

That, or I need to start listening to Katy Perry before bed so I can dream of happy things like dancing jujubes and cupcake boobs.

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Be True to Your Teeth, and They Won’t Be False to You

I used to be one of those people who feared the dentist. It all started with an x-ray for my wisdom teeth, and ended with me flat on my back on the office floor, surrounded on all sides by a team of alarmed dental hygienists. I don’t know if they still use this torture device, but at the time, they were doing x-rays where the patient stayed standing, inserted their chin into a metal tray, and then had a screen move over to cover your entire face. I was all, “Here’s my chin!” and then my knees buckled and everything went dark.

So I avoided the dentist for at least 7 years after that. Just enough time to develop tons of plaque and plenty of cavities. Then I finally found a place I really liked and my world–and mouth–opened right up.

I got to see my girl Sherry yesterday. Sherry is my dental hygienist, and I love her. A big reason I love her is because she also loves me. She calls me “Sweet Girl” and I become putty in her chair. Instead of handing it to me, she buries that little sample pack of toothpaste and tiny mouthwash right in my purse and says: “We’re close enough for me to do that.” She can’t clean teeth until she’s tuned into Taylor Dane on Pandora, and she has the last known poodle perm on the island of Manhattan. Sherry is fabulous, and I wish she would invite me over for Hanukkah.

Because we’re as close as two people who see each other for 30 minutes every six months can possibly be, Sherry has this habit of pursuing an actual conversation with me while she is knuckle-deep in my molars. On this visit, the main topic was what everybody’s doing for the holidays. Sherry is vacillating between Florida to see her daughter and Pittsburgh with her in-laws. Her first grandson was born six weeks ago, and while he is “yummy and delicious”, she actually finds him pretty boring at this phase and would prefer hitting Florida in 3 or 4 months when he will be guaranteed to be slightly more entertaining and worthy of a trip to the airport.

I have a metal utensil poking around my gums and my verbal skills are pretty limited, so I end up doing a lot of grunting and mhmmmming,while trying not to drool all over her fingers. Thirty-eight years on the job, and Sherry is still holding onto the hope that her patients will magically become viable conversationalists mid-cleaning.

“You’re doing great. Barely any bleeding.” She says, as she attacks my gums with a tiny pick-ax.

“Did you just say it’s good that I’m barely breathing?” I ask, because apparently when my ability to speak is affected, my ability to hear is too.  Of course it sounded more like “mumble mumble grumble droooooool”.

Anyway, I got the all-clear from Sherry and the dentist. No cavities! No gum disease! Barely any halitosis!

And as I packed up my purse, complete with my little plastic baggie filled with waxed floss and Listerine, my darling Sherry said her goodbyes.

“See you in six months, Sweet Lady.”

Sweet Lady. Lady. Apparently Sherry and I have now entered a new phase in our relationship. Equals. Contemporaries. Amigas.

We’re getting together for Mah Jongg next week.

 

 

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Let’s talk about blogging.

 

I’m going to try something new. New is good, right?

These blog posts of mine are getting kind of long. And very infrequent. Time to strike that. Reverse it.

I’m getting to a place with writing where I want to save some longer form pieces for other things, and writing involved blog entries is interfering with my ability to do that. I think I’ve made everything a little more complicated than it needs to be with blogging, which leads to me not posting for weeks, and also not spending the time to craft longer pieces either. No bueno.

So I think I’m gonna bring it back old school and use this blog as a daily online journal of sorts. Short, concise, minimally edited little clips from my daily life. I live and work in New York City, so it’s not like it’s difficult to find something weird to report every day. I mean, just today I saw a man with a huge spiderweb tattooed across his entire face. Imagine? I still wince plucking my eyebrows.

Anyway. As usual, please hold me to nothing. I’ve changed my mind about this blog and the way I use it several times over the past four years. But isn’t that the beauty of registering your own online space? The freedom to make it whatever you want?

Hope to check in with you soon…like, tomorrow!

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Money, Time and Space-Saving Thanksgiving Tips (For apartment dwelling hosts!)

 

Well, folks. I did it. I made my very first turkey. I feel like I just crossed some important threshold in my adult life. I haven’t felt this grown-up since I booked my first podiatrist appointment.

Saturday I hosted my 2nd annual Friendsgiving dinner, and it was awesome. It’s my new favorite fake holiday, trumping even Festivus and National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Last year was my first time to host this important event (hence…2nd annual), and things went more smoothly with a year’s time and a little experience under my pilgrim’s belt. Since Thanksgiving (aka: best real holiday ever) is right around the corner, I thought I’d share some of the tips that helped me feel stress-free. If you’re an apartment dweller, hosting a seated holiday dinner can seem like a pretty intimidating idea, but I assure you…it can be done!

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SAVE SPACE

FIGURE OUT WHO’S COMING: I hesitated writing this post because friends read my blog who weren’t part of this event, and if I had it my way I’d own a 30-seat table so I could accommodate more wonderful people. But since Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving is a seated dinner, it forces us to narrow the focus on a specific guest list. For Friendsgiving, I choose to invite a group of people who all know one another pretty well (you’ll see why this bit is relevant later in this post). We had 17 last year, and it was tiiiiiight. But do-able. So if you live in an apartment, never fear! You can do it. But be realistic with how many invitations you extend.

MOVE STUFF AROUND: When I host seated dinner parties, I end up completely deconstructing my home. With a two-room apartment (note: two-room, not two-bedroom–big difference), I really have no choice. When dinner is served in our kitchen/living room, that means appetizers and desserts are served in our bedroom.

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The sofa gets moved to the bedroom, so folding tables can be brought in for dinner. A chest of drawers next to our bed gets cleared off and becomes a dessert buffet. It’s very New York, and actually makes the party feel more intimate and kind of sweet. Little do our friends know that their chocolate cake is being served right above Vin’s underwear. Well, now they do.

INVEST IN FOLDING TABLES: We got three folding tables at Home Depot and ten folding chairs from Ikea, and we get SO much use out of them. We also use every counter available for hosting– bedside tables, bureaus, windowsills. Gotta make the most out of your space when you’re an apartment dweller!

CLEAN OFF YOUR KITCHEN COUNTER: When potlucking, your kitchen counter is going to fill up FAST once people start arriving. Hide things that aren’t essential, pack away any unused appliances, and make sure you have a big blank canvas for people to start piling things on.

GET YE A COAT STAND:  In a small apartment, 14 coats and 7 purses can make a tight space feel immediately claustrophobic and messy. Instead of having people drape coats on the couch or bed (which I always need for actual seating/lounging), Vin and I cram our own coats in a closet, then make sure all guests’ coats get corralled in one place on the coat stand.

 

SAVE TIME

PAPER OR PLASTIC? For me, both. We don’t have a dishwasher, and no one has time or energy at the end of the night to hand-wash 14 sets of big plates, little plates, bowls, cups and wine glasses. To keep things looking uniform and pretty without falling victim to dishpan hands, I use a strategic mix of permanent plates and disposable serveware. Knowing we will spend a lot less time wasting water makes me feel a little better about all the garbage we put out. Once I know I’m hosting and have a good idea of our guest count, I buy my plates, napkins and tablecloths. I like to get all decorative stuff out of the way early so I can just focus on food the week of the party.

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I set the tables with plastic tablecloths and paper plates and cups. Then I mix it up with glass stemware, pretty silver or glass platters, and good silverware. With the lights off and candles lit, you really can’t tell the difference anyway. Party City has a great selection of disposable stuff in a full range of autumnal colors and they’re cheap. Local dollar stores are good resources too. Pick a color scheme, stick to it, and cheap stuff looks more expensive. Is it sad that I get so much enjoyment from setting a table? Eh- don’t answer that.

BUY YOUR TURKEY EARLY!  For last year’s Friendsgiving I served pork tenderloin because a) I had no idea you had to defrost a turkey for several days in the fridge, and b) I completely underestimated how difficult it would be to find a fresh turkey in Queens two weeks before Thanksgiving. You generally need 24 hours of defrosting time per 5 pounds. For a 21-lb bird, I bought it on Monday night, and cooked it up on Saturday.

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PREP ALL WEEK: I don’t like rushing the day of a party, so I’ve learned over the years to use the whole week to ensure that I don’t. I knew I was making sweet potato casserole and butternut squash soup, so I peeled and baked those a few days before the event and stored them in tupperware until I was ready to assemble the dishes. That morning, all I had to do was mix them with the rest of the ingredients. Easy-peasy. Anything that required baking (ie: pies, cookies, cornbread) was taken care of Friday night, so they wouldn’t have to compete with the big bird for oven space on Saturday afternoon.

TAKE SHORTCUTS: Sorry, I don’t do homemade crusts. Those little Jiffy pie crust mixes cost less than a buck and create a pretty decent pie crust in like two minutes (seriously, all you do is add cold water, stir and roll out into your pie pan).  In lieu of homemade rolls (which I do love), this year I made cornbread instead, which requires no rising, kneading or hand-holding. Know what’s even faster? Go to the bakery or grocery store and buy ready-made or frozen bread dough. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Most people don’t notice the difference.

 

SAVE MONEY

GO POT-LUCK:  Thanksgiving is a communal feast if there ever was one. I would have been stressed out, cramped for time, and halfway to broke if I’d made all the dishes myself. Once I extended the initial save the date (about 6 weeks in advance) I let people know I’d send out another email to get a thread going about food contributions. As the host, I would make the main course (turkey), a few sides and a dessert. I then gave some suggestions for contributions that would be helpful, and would blend with what I was planning to cook. Since everyone has different dietary restrictions, I made sure we’d be covered in all areas so I asked for friends to contribute vegetarian-friendly and dairy-free side dishes and desserts.

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WELCOME NON-FOOD CONTRIBUTIONS:  Not everyone enjoys cooking, so always extend a non-food option. Wine, beer, soda, ice, coffee creamer and jugs of water are always helpful.

RECYCLE, REUSE, REPURPOSE:  Did you know you can reuse all those glass candle holders you have? If you have old wax in a nice glass canister, pop it in your freezer for a few hours. Then you can break up the wax easily with a knife and wash it out with Palmolive and a sponge. They’re great to use as vases, candy dishes, or to burn fresh candles in. The short vase here used to house a candle. The tall vase is actually a drink dispenser filled with fake leaves I picked up for a buck at the dollar store.

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USE BUDGET INGREDIENTS: Pumpkin desserts are cheap; pecan desserts are not ($8 for a tiny bag- no pecan pie this year folks!). Sweet potatoes–cheap! Dishes requiring bacon? Not cheap! I wasn’t planning on making brussel sprouts, but when I went to my market on Friday, they were on crazy sale, so I ended up swapping out green beans for brussels at the last minute. A little flexibility can shave off  quite a few dollars.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

BUY A BIGGER TURKEY THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED. I bought a 21-pounder, thinking there’d be tons of leftovers. If you’re going to go ahead and devote so much time to one food project, make a really big one and get a few more meals out of it. Our group ate the bird clean! Wish there were more leftovers this week, but I’m really glad they liked it and I didn’t kill anyone. (PS: If you don’t have one, make sure to get a meat thermometer so you don’t kill anyone either).

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GIVE ‘EM WHAT THEY WANT: I heard four people ask “Is there gravy?”. There wasn’t. Note for year three– make the gravy. Also! Buy gravy boat.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE:  Recipe didn’t call for it, but I threw a shot of whiskey in my sweet potatoes. Know your audience.

DON’T GO NUTS. I cop to the fact that I tend to overdo it. I start scouring Pinterest and my cookbooks, and then fantasize about making a huge spread with a million different things. I have to continually remind myself to reign it in a bit, and not go bananas with too much food. I kept it much simpler this time, and it made my day less complicated, less expensive, and no one missed out on anything.

SERVE ALLERGENIC STUFF SEPARATELY: We’ve got friends who are vegetarian and others who can’t have nuts or dairy. I like keeping small bowls of toppings on the table so people can customize dishes to their liking. Last year I made a butternut squash polenta which people could top with either bacon or cheese. This year I made a butternut squash and apple soup, then left out bowls of maple-cinnamon-cream (holla!) and almonds to put on top. The cream also doubled as topping for the pumpkin pie. If you can go double-duty on items- do it!

BUY TAKEOUT CONTAINERS:  The last few events I’ve hosted left us with pounds of uneaten food in our fridge.  I finally wised up and bought some takeout containers so guests could help us finish up the leftovers. Everyone packed doggie bags, and we now have a reasonable amount of food to eat for the week.

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SET THE MOOD:

START NEW TRADITIONS:  Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is the best holiday because it’s the one that emphasizes bonding, community, gratitude, and togetherness as opposed to over-the-top expectations and egregious consumerism. It’s a holiday that seems to bring out peoples’ sentimental sides, and it’s a great time to begin and maintain traditions with your family and friends-that-feel-like-family.

I started a tradition last year that our group seems to really enjoy, and it’s one I plan to continue doing as the years roll by. I give little writing assignments at the table that put a spin on the old “what I’m thankful for” lists people conjur up this time of year. For example, last year, I gave everyone a card and had them write 3 things they’re thankful for. Then they had to also write something nice about the two people sitting next to them. It ended up being a great mix of sweet and hilarious. Apparently my husband smells “exactly how a man should smell.”

friends notes

This year, I had everyone draw a name of someone else sitting at the table. Then they had to write down everything they were thankful for, in the voice of the person whose name they drew. It ended up being a collective roast, and it was hysterical. My friend Kerri drew my name and read her list in a questionable Texas accent, giving thanks for having a group of friends in Queens so I could “introduce them to cornbread and good manners”. It was fantastic.

And now I need to know…what are your best tips for hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving on a budget? Do you have any fun traditions that you do year after year?

Anyway, that’s a wrap for this post. Off to stick my face in some leftover pie.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Morning in the Life: The NYC Commute

 

Friday, October 23, The commute

8:oo am: Dry my hair, put on my pants, pack my lunch–the usual morning stuff. I need to get downtown to the NYU campus by 9:25 for a “class” I take on Friday mornings. I use quotation marks because it’s not really a class, it’s a seminar I’m required to take as I supervise two NYU grad students at my agency. The interns are cool 20-somethings, and being around them reminds me that I’m not.

8:20: It is a brisk autumn morning, and so I wrap myself in a big cuddly scarf in warm autumnal colors. I bought it innocently at Zara two months ago, then turned on Instagram and became aware that this scarf is an internet sensation, popular with 20-something cool girls. Its popularity stems from the fact that it’s soft and cuddly and looks like it should be worn while kicking a big pile of crunchy red leaves or running in slow motion through a pumpkin patch. This scarf is truly adorable, but it has these microscopic fibers that pepper your entire outfit when worn, and it’s possible that it’s made with something I’m mildly allergic to. But it’s me against the scarf today, and I’m determined to win.

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<worn presumably without reaction on lemonstripes.com>

8:25 am: Leave house for the train station. Hug Vin and mention in passing: “I think I might be allergic to this scarf, but it’s cute and warm so I’m wearing it anyway.” This is what we call FORESHADOWING.

8:31: Ugh, it’s one of those days at the train station. So many people, so little space. My station has those announcements that alert you to when the next train will be arriving. This brings comfort on some mornings, rage on others.

8:32: The train arrives. It’s packed so tight I feel like I’m back in Tokyo even though I’ve never been to Tokyo or anywhere remotely close to it. I’ve  still got time; you’re not squeeeeeezing me thru zat tiny door. (that was supposed to be the German lady from Willie Wonka saying that).

8:33: “The next train will arrive in seven minutes.” Cue collective groan.

8:35: A cool-looking 20-something girl is eyeballing my scarf. It’s sold out everywhere. I could probably get 60 bucks on ebay for this thing.

8:40: I reluctantly board the bloated train. There are people touching me on all sides of my body. One sudden jolt and this car becomes a mosh pit. I excuse myself, and reach over a young woman’s head to grab the pole. I’ve tried riding freestyle on crowded trains before and it always ends in tragedy.

8:42:  I am stuck in an armpit sandwich. We all are. We are all the meat and we are all the bread. You would think this routine would bond us. It doesn’t.

8:45: Thiiiiiiiiiiiisssss traaaaaaaaiiiiin isssssssssssss ssssssooooooooo slowwwwwwwwwwwwww. My arm cramps.

8:47: It’s mornings like this when my mind wanders and begins imagining other possibilities for my life. What about a cute cabin upstate? Or a McMansion in the midwest? A trailer in the middle of nowhere? All of those options would be cheaper than purchasing a residence in this area, and whatever mode of transportation I’d require to get around my new town would no doubt be more comfortable than shooting myself through a tunnel at the bottom of the river in a crowded tuna-fish can.

8:50:  Damn. I think a fiber from my scarf has lodged itself behind my contact lens. Commence one-eye squinting.

8:51: Shit. This is very uncomfortable. I would like to touch my eye or make a go at removing this scarf but I can’t move my arm. There’s a man on my right who’s standing so close that lifting my elbow would give him a black eye.

8:52: The same song has been playing on my phone for the last ten minutes because I haven’t been able to change it. If I hear Chandelier one more time I might have to lift my arm and give my neighbor a black eye.

8:55: Passengers disembark. I’m able to move over to an area with more space. I’m facing a reflective wall and take a look at myself. Holy hell. My eye looks like a cherry tomato at the end of July. Extremely ripe.

8:56:  My eye starts to water. Not a drip, a gushing leak. My nose follows suit. The first case of Ebola in NY was announced last night. The girl sitting below me is probably googling “Can I get Ebola from a dork’s tears?”

9:05:  I move my sunglasses from the top of my head to the bridge of my nose. It doesn’t make me look cool. A river of eyeliner is snaking down my right cheek. I look sad and twitchy. I want to ask the universe why I am having this reaction to a cool-looking scarf favored by 20-somethings. It doesn’t seem fair.  I wasn’t trying to get away with ripped shorts. I knew I couldn’t pull off crop tops. It was just a scarf, a trendy scarf, and my body rejected it.

9:06: I realize my youth is over.

9:10: We’re only at 5th avenue. There’s no way I’m making this seminar on time. I can’t imagine walking into the classroom with my eye looking and feeling like this. I think I actually need to go back home, throw away this scarf and rip out my contact.

9:20: I get off at Times Square station, nowhere near my intended destination. I’m thinking of going home, but I can’t wait that long to get this crap out of my eye. I crouch down on the floor, take out a tiny mirror and some saline solution and get to work right there. I’m far from a germaphobe, but am well aware of how unsanitary it is to go from touching a subway pole to touching my eye.

9:22: I think I can skip going home, so I head back downtown. My vision’s a little blurry. I take a quick tumble down the stairs into the tunnel, but pull myself together. I can’t remember which curse word I yell, but i’m pretty sure it was the good one.

9:25:  Downtown train arrives. Take a seat. A three-piece mariachi band begins to march through the car. I would rather hear Chandelier for the 9th time than hear mariachi music before 10 am.

9:26:  The seminar starts at 9:30, and I’m clearly not making it. I set the example for student interns everywhere and decide to skip class and take myself out for breakfast. I’ve stuffed my trendy scarf in my handbag, as far as possible from my sweet, innocent eyes.

9:45: I’m at a hip French chain with a nice atmosphere. If I’m going to skip class, I’m going full-on Ferris Bueller.  I count the number of times “organic” is scribbled on the walls. It’s 18.  We get it, your shit is fresh.

9:50:  There’s a big chalkboard wall highlighting today’s menu items. It includes organic kale juice, a quinoa salad and $10 avocado toast. That’s bread, toasted and smeared with avocado for $10. Just make it stop.

9:55:  I order a pot of regular coffee and a plain croissant.

I am done with trends for the day.

 

 

 

 

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This is Marriage.

About two years ago, I stepped into a small mound of cow shit. It’s a memory I just can’t shake, mostly because I was barefoot at the time. And wearing a really long white dress.

I stepped barefoot into a meadow muffin on my wedding day. That has to be good luck, right?

None of the magazines prepared me for that. They tell you to bring hairspray and lip gloss and bobby pins, but no one ever warns you that choosing an offbeat wedding location like a farm or a field might mean stepping into something other than rose petals on your special-special day.

My groom, ever the gentleman, sprinted to our reception tent and grabbed some wet paper towels from the bar area. I held up the hem of my dress as I waited, then he ran back, got down on one knee and gently but thoroughly removed the poo from between my toes.

I felt just like Cinderella.

***

We both became pretty violently sick on the second half of our honeymoon. He was headfirst in a bucket during an afternoon at sea, and I spent several days hacking up a lung after catching some historic plague from the most toxic airplane restroom in all of the Hawaiian islands.

My coughing fits were so constant and uncontrollable that they rendered me fairly useless. We tried to make the most of it, but one night I just had to stay in and cough my brains out.  We put on a movie and ordered $10 popcorn from room service, then he spent about 45 minutes quietly combing the tangles out of my hair. It’s possible he doesn’t remember doing that, but I’ll never forget it. We stared down a dozen mind-numbingly beautiful sunsets on that trip, but that’s my favorite snapshot.

***

I remember having a conversation with another woman about movies once, and I was asked to choose the most romantic scene of all time. She had never seen the film I referenced—Babel--and when I described the scene to her, she looked at me like I didn’t understand her question. I think I actually grossed her out.

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are a married couple traveling in Morocco. She gets shot, and they’re lying together on the crumbling floor of a
concrete room in the middle of the desert. After several hours of holding it in, Cate says she really has to pee. I can’t remember exactly, but Brad holds a bowl or something between her legs. And while she lays on her side relieving herself, he holds her and kisses her softly. I don’t remember anything else from that movie, but the intimacy of that scene has always stayed with me.

Marriage is not exactly a glossy production. It’s what happens behind your locked door, in a space kept very separate from the rest of your everyday world. It’s taking your contacts out at the end of the day and switching into a pair of old scratched glasses. Marriage is 9 pm, in pajama pants, with ruddy skin and no mascara. It’s dirty socks inches from the hamper and sticky floors that neither of you is rushing to clean. Marriage is an accidental fart under the covers and having a really good laugh about it.

Marriage is trusting another person enough to let them see the best and the worst of you, and not really worrying about the latter discrediting the former. It’s an unrestrained mix of laughter and tears, often at the same time, or at least in the same afternoon. It’s being the person you are when no one else is watching, when you can fully embrace whatever mood you woke up in because your mercurial tides are so familiar that you both know how to avoid the swells.

Marriage is hearing bad news at the same time. It’s holding onto what matters and letting go of what doesn’t and being comfortable with occasionally running out of things to say. It’s making mistakes, and learning more about yourself on those days than on the ones when you did everything good and right. It’s making peace with the silly ways in which you are different, and finding more appreciation for the really important ways in which you are almost exactly the same.

It’s sometimes being so sick you can barely scrape yourself off the floor and knowing there is someone to run out and buy you saltine crackers. It’s feeling like hell and saying so, because there is no need to sugarcoat your feelings. Marriage is understanding that home is not a place but a person, that warm spot in the crook of an arm where you burrow yourself and think: “I belong here.” It’s you, stripped down to your pure, authentically flawed soul and inviting one person to witness what no one else has the privilege to see.

Love is bliss when the days are easy.

It is a balm when things get rough.

And it really, really comes in handy when shit hits the fan. Or your foot.

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Call the mechanic: I think my inner GPS is broken.

 

A few years ago, Vin and I took a trip to Barcelona with my family. Of the six of us, my husband was the only one who didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, which by most accounts would make him the least useful member of the troop. But of course, because Vin is essentially a human compass, the opposite was true. He became the unofficial leader of our travels, while the members of my family–myself included–just followed him around like a pack of sheep. Vin’s sense of direction is so sharp he doesn’t even truly require GPS or maps or a cell phone. I imagine he could just stick a thumb in the air and be able to point himself due north.

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<Vin mapping the route. Aunt and uncle dreaming of tapas.>

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<Me, Aunt, Dad. Strong jaws; weak navigators.>

My kinkfolk are very bright and talented in many ways, but it’s a well-documented fact that none of us can find our way out of a paper bag. I can’t be sure without checking some old records, but it’s entirely possible that a lack of direction is how the first settlers of our family ended up in the state of Texas. They probably had their sights set on California but got frustrated on the journey and said, “Aw, hell. I can’t figger this stupid map out. Let’s just stay here.”

Although I rather hoped it would skip a generation, I definitely inherited the poor direction gene. It is my burden and it is my birthright, and though it is often embarrassing and damn inconvenient, my inability to walk a straight path to any destination is one of many traits that connects me to my clan. I’d rather not share with you how many times I’ve led visitors to the city around in circles (cough…cough…it happened last weekend) or gotten completely flustered while mapping out my path to a restaurant, store, baby shower, or job interview only to arrive at my destination sweaty, distressed and exhausted.

One might think that living in a place for 15 years would orient me to the various trains, bus routes, bridges, tunnels, bike paths and overpasses that connect one section to another, but that is unfortunately not the case. My ability to get lost within my own town is in direct proportion to the times I leave my house. If I haven’t been there before, there is a fairly high probability that I will amble in the completely opposite direction of my destination before realizing my mistake, making a pivot turn and doubling back.

Eventually I will figure out where I am going but it will most likely include any, or all, of the following: heavy breathing, rapid pulse, pursed lips, unsuppressed whining, and noticeable pit stains. Some people find these high-tech gizmos called smartphones and GPS to be useful in their quest to find shit. Some people stop and ask for directions or pull out the old-fashioned paper maps from days of yore. Some people are just beyond help, and can get themselves lost while using a combination of all three. I am one of the unfortunate fools who falls into the latter category, and for that I blame my father.  Out of respect to the man, I won’t tell you all the filthy names my dad has called his car’s GPS system, but I can assure you the apple don’t fall far from the tree. (good thing too. I’d never find my way back.)

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As I hinted in my last post, the last few weeks have been pretty stressful, and more and more, I find myself needing a quiet reprieve from city life. Vin had to work all weekend, so when an invitation to spend the day in a beautiful leafy town called Cold Spring came around, I couldn’t resist. I was so excited to spend a sunny Saturday with Vin’s brother, his wife and their twin babies that I high-tailed it to Penn Station, bought myself a ticket and hopped right on the train.

To Cold Spring Harbour. On Long Island. I traveled a whole hour on the wrong damn train line. That’s impressive, even for me.

So I didn’t get to spend the day bouncing a chubby baby on my knee or swirling a glass of white while giggling with my sister-in-law; instead I nestled right back into a pleather seat on a city-bound commuter train, surrounded on all sides by 20-something Long Island bros heading into Manhattan for a big night out. Instead of fresh, clean, Cold Spring air, I found myself breathing in stale beer and excessive cologne. I was disappointed, but I can find the humor in it too.

It didn’t turn out to be the relaxing Saturday I had mapped out for myself, but what are you gonna do?  It’s the potholes in the road that keep the ride interesting. If there weren’t unexpected detours and delays, we’d never know that feeling of pure gratitude when we finally arrive where we’ve always wanted to go. There’s a reason for those bumper stickers, the ones that promote life as a journey, and not a destination.

It’s to make dorks like me feel better about getting lost all the time.

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Writer’s Block

 

When I started this blog back in 2010, everything about it seemed easy and fun. I had just started my first year of full time work in a mental health clinic, and felt like I needed a light-hearted creative outlet to balance out the heavy content I was beginning to process with clients. I also missed the act of writing everyday (my previous job had been in magazine writing) and wanted a place and a reason to get back into that groove.

But lately… hmmph. The well has really gone dry. I open up the screen every morning and have a staring contest. My mind turns to mush and my eyes fixate on the screen, or my chipped toenail polish, or the unmowed lawn at the edge of my chair. My fingers? They just drape themselves over the keyboard–limp, useless–waiting for my brain to send them a signal to do something purposeful.

It’s the biggest cliche in the book to write about your writer’s block and writers are supposed to avoid cliches at all costs. But sometimes the only way out is through, so today I’m just going to try to work my way through it by essentially talking to myself. If you’d like to come along and listen, you are more than welcome, but I must warn you upfront that my motives are purely selfish and this post is more for me than it is for you.

I’ll treat you to ice cream next week. Of course by that time, it might be more appropriate to go out for soup.

I can think of a few reasons why I’m having a harder time writing these days. A change in season means a change in routine, and sometimes I have a hard time adapting to one. Maybe I’m not writing because I’m so drained at the end of my work day that the mere idea of trying to complete a few interesting sentences seems an impossible task. I do SO much sitting all day that it feels particularly lazy to do more sitting and navel-gazing at home. I’m having a hard time writing because I’m absolutely awful about editing myself as I go along, which leads me to a bunch of false starts without ever really finishing anything. Many times I’ve written something perfectly acceptable for this mom-and-pop writing blog with a puny readership and I still can’t pull the trigger because I feel it’s not good enough. There are also a million great and interesting subjects that I’d like to write about, but won’t, because they’re too personal to share in this space. Sorry internet–I don’t always trust you with my secrets. So I write nothing instead. And the longer I write nothing, the drier the well becomes. It’s like all those Spanish classes I took for years–if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Or maybe I just don’t want to write anymore. Maybe I find the act of writing a bit pretentious. Maybe I consider it boring. Maybe I find it too tedious and would rather do something where my brain doesn’t have to work as hard. Maybe I should watch more reality TV or spend more time surfing the internet. I don’t like to brag, but I’m pretty awesome at checking Facebook compulsively. Perhaps that’s my true calling. That, or it’s another one of my downfalls.

Maybe I’m just going through a phase–like acne or awkward bangs–and one day I’ll wake up, turn on my computer, and my fingers will make sparks again. I hope so, because I can think of a few reasons why I think it’s important for me to keep writing these days.

I have a day job that can be an emotional siphon, the kind where you spend 8-10 hours listening to others share stories that can be alternately sad, scary or stressful without always having the time to check in with yourself about how you’re feeling about life. Right now I can say I’m feeling a little bogged down by it, and I’m going to need to make a few changes–including finding my own therapist–to get some of my balance back. When you look outward all day long, it’s not pretentious to look inward for a measly hour or two a day. It’s essential. Writing has always been a preferred method for processing my feelings, and without it, they’re starting to build up and wreak havoc. My dad asked me how I was doing the other day and I nearly burst into tears.

In the wise words of one of my clients: “Pressure busts pipes.”

Time to make some changes. Time to fill the well. I’m ready to clear the pipes.

 

 

 

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A Note About Trends (This post though!)

 

Last Sunday morning Vin and I went out for brunch, as is custom. We’re trying to stretch our wings, so we journeyed to a really cool Mexican spot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The tables were basically all two-tops running down the length of a wall so it was the perfect place for eavesdropping and checking out other peoples’ food. I was happily enjoying my chilaquiles when the couple next to us had their meals delivered. As the waiter approached them, the male patron seemed especially eager, and was carefully watching his plate of huevos rancheros as it made its final descent to the table.

When the food finally made touchdown, the man rejoiced with a hearty “BOOOOOOM!” loud enough for us to hear, and of course, ridicule. He also used both hands to enthusiastically gesture that his eggs had arrived.

Vinny and I glanced at each other and almost choked on our chorizo. Doesn’t this guy know that BOOM! is like sooooooo 2013?

People of Crown Heights and beyond, I think it’s time to retire BOOM. In my opinion, boom is not clever or funny because it’s tired and overdone and has been used in every crappy commercial for the last two years.  (See also: amazeballs, totes adorbs, keep calm and blah-blah-blah). Plus, if you check Instagram or blogs or Twitter or FB or whatever else the kids are updating these days, there are clearly a whole new slew of trendy catchphrases to latch onto. And here is where I try to integrate as many of them as possible into one blog post without completely blowing out all my brain cells. Please, to enjoy.

#NO FILTER

*******

Sooooo this just happened.

I was so hungry I literally thought I was dying, so I walked to the grocery. True story– our grocery store is so close to our house we call it “the pantry” (LOLZ for dayz) and I live in Queens so not only is it open 24 hours, but it also carries E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. including lots of really cool stuff from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Latin America and the Middle East, so… winning! You can get an entire lamb’s head (complete with eyeball) if you need it, and their selection of farty lentils and empanada wrappers almost makes up for the fact that 75 percent of the produce looks like it’s been thrown against a wall. #whaty’alldotomypeaches? #groceryfail

I’m a total foodie, so when i go to the store I have to make a list because I walk in and suddenly i”m like “I NEED ALL THE THINGS!”.  Srsly,  I get totally hangry and then I can’t. even. stop. myself from throwing everything in my cart. Except it’s not a cart, it’s a basket because UUUMMM HELLOO, I live in Queens and we don’t even have room for carts here. The struggle is real, y’all.

My first stop is the cheese aisle because, duh–it’s cheese. I’m obsesssssssssed with cheese. Cheese is my fave. Cheese is EVERYTHING. I need more cheese in my life right now. Then I remember I’m lactose intolerant and literally start crying. Okay, I didn’t literally cry. That’s silly. I’m a grown woman.

(I definitely got emotional though.)

I move back over to the fruits and veggies to load up on stuff for green smoothies. Everything looks a-maze. I throw a pineapple in my basket. It’s super heavy but WANT. I move over to the kale. It’s gorge and I LOVES IT. I grab bananas, and fresh ginger and quinoa and lemons and parsley and chia seeds and everything else that falls under the category of vegan- healthy- paleo- clean eats- organic- gluten-free- veggie porn. I’m going to make the freshest, healthiest, most drool-worthy green smoothie everrrrr and I’m going to live for it and it’s going to taste amaaaaaaaaazzzzzzzzing. Ah-maze-ing.

Still.

That puffy white bread though…

That sexy can of Pringles though…

That Ben and Jerrys’ Triple-Caramel-Chunk though…

I am crushing on them. HARD. I can’t even. I caaaaaaaaan’t. STOP IT. Gah. OMG. I DIE. I am completely dying. I’M TOTALLY, 100 PERCENT DEAD. Not even mostly dead, but DEAD. Like, as a doornail.

And then I see it.

THIS. This exactly. This right here. This right now. Ummmmm, are you even serious??? This stuff is my jam!!

Oh wait, this is jam. Nom-nom-nom, strawberry. And with a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good. Into the basket it goes. Right next to my farty lentils. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! (i hate myself. i can’t help myself.)

I make my way to the freezer case for a really big bag of ice so I can dump it over my head and film it. OMG It’s gonna be so cold, but it’s for a great cause and I look pretty good wet and YOLO FOMO YOKO ONO. But before I head home to drench my blowout, lemme take a selfie.

me in grocereee

#greasy hair, i sorta care #dear mom, send chapstick #no filter #hahaha, just kidding– in our mid-30s we use all the filters #grocery shopping rules #this is the widest aisle in the whole store #ootd secret–the initials on this monogram necklace aren’t mine cause i bought it for $2 at a flea market # i had no idea what ootd meant until i wrote this post #an old man caught me taking this picture  #i felt really stupid taking it

Totally winning at grocery shopping. EPIC trip. Time for champs!

 

Sorry. I’m not sorry.

 

 

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15 Years in New York (and I still can’t tell you which bridge is which)

 

It just occurred to me that this month marks fifteen years since I moved to New York City.

No friends, no family, no job, no furniture…just three hockey bags stuffed with clothes and a key to a $500 room in a shared apartment across the river in Hoboken. It’s a good thing I did this at 22, because I can assure you I would never pull this shit at 37.

At 22, I wanted adventure. It felt like I was on a tourist visa and my time here would someday run out, so I treated the early years like one long vacation. I knew I’d eventually move away and I did. I made it a full two years before I came running back. But why on earth would I do that? This place is crazy!

I came back because without great fanfare or ceremony, New York very quietly became home. Over the years, I acquired a lot of friends, family, jobs and furniture (most of it crap from Ikea, but whatever). There is no longer a push to finish up all the fun I’m going to have before I settle somewhere reasonable. Fifteen years ago I stretched my limbs and ended up here. Now my roots are tucked firmly underground, buried beneath a mound of cold gray concrete, deep with cracks and littered with sun-dried chewing gum.

Like any long-term relationship, it hasn’t been all cakepops and roses, and for all her architectural glory, culinary splendor, retail majesty, and theatrical glitter, New York City also kicks its occupants right in the shins with a melange of discourteous odors, robust armies of mites and vermin, hideously scary ROUSes (rents of unusual size), and dangerous tidal waves of human currents. Walking through certain streets in New York City is like being swept into a violently rotating tornado, a delirious funnel spun out of smog and bus exhaust filled with tattered newspapers, expired metrocards, crushed coffee cups, cheap broken umbrellas and paper sacks filled with barely-burnt sugared cashews. There are areas in Manhattan that feel like they’ve been set on fire, where the constant flicker of light and color make your eyes tear and the clamor of honks and blares thump in your temples like a steel drum.

But then you turn a corner onto a narrow street paved with crumbling bricks and spot a community garden you’ve never noticed before. You look skyward and catch an utterly bizarre installation peeking behind the glass of a local artist’s window. The wheels of your car tip onto the Queensboro Bridge and the skyline unfolds like a subway map to welcome you into the mouth of a postcard. You feel the first chill of rain on your forehead and, like magic, a man appears with fifty umbrellas.

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There is a reason New York City is photographed, filmed and rhapsodized to death. It can dropkick your spirit and swallow your soul, but if you have a high tolerance for frustration and confined spaces, you will be rewarded a multitude of inimitable quirks and charms found almost nowhere else. It can be daunting, and callous, and occasionally unkind, but one thing this city will never, ever be is boring.

In exchange for occasionally breaking your back and crushing your heart, as payback for pushing through biting winters and sticky summers, as pennance for small closets and very little kitchen space, you will be rewarded the guarantee to experience, witness, feel, taste, hear, smell or do something interesting every single day. Some days it’s spying a group of young shirtless men doing flips over groups of tourists in Washington Square Park or a man strolling casually around the East Village with an enormous yellow python draped across his shoulders.

Sometimes it’s walking outside and catching a movie crew filming on your stoop or watching a long-limbed model shift and contort herself for a team of photographers, right in the middle of a busy street. There are women here who push their dogs around in Maclaren baby strollers and men with buckets on their heads playing didgeridoos outside your subway station. It is a city shared by oddballs and outcasts, starving artists and superstars, executives and refugees, sometimes living only a block or a building away from someone living an entirely different kind of life.

You can go to the Bronx and ask an old Italian man to roll you a handmade cigar or a young shopgirl to pipe fresh mascarpone into a cannoli shell so crisp it immediately shatters under the weight of your teeth. You can head to Harlem and have your hair braided on the street for 25 dollars, or drive around parts of Williamsburg to witness dozens of Orthodox men in long black coats walk so slowly and calmly it’s like they’ve figured out the secret to life. You can take the 7 to Jackson Heights and have the most authentic dining experience outside of Pakistan, Colombia, or Bangladesh, or take a cab to midtown, Gramercy or Brooklyn and have the most memorable and extravagant dining experience of your natural born life.

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You will hear every language.  You will find a store for every need. You will smell a thousand different cuisines being cooked every day. You will never see, do, or experience everything New York has to offer because it is constantly, fearlessly, endlessly changing. If you live here, you’re never done. There’s always more.

You either love living in New York City or you begin to hate living in New York City. You either learn to accept its curtness, or you grow to resent it. People have strong opinions about this town. It’s not an easy place to live, but it’s also not an easy place to leave. There will never be a market for an “I feel ambivalent about NY” t-shirt.

This city is loud, grimy, ugly, beautiful, strange, sophisticated, sexy, exciting and just straight up weird. It’s a wonderful place, it really is. It is to me, anyway. At 37, I guess I still want some adventure. And so I stay.

Happy 15th anniversary to you and me, NYC. Loving you hasn’t always been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it. You’re my first, my last, my everything.

 

PS: You need a shower.

PPS: And where is that 2nd avenue train line you promised years ago?

PPPS:  Enough with the parking tickets already. We get it.

 

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About Jenn.


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Kindly ignore the "food/friends/fun" part on the top of this page. It no longer describes this blog; I just don't know how to change it. Pretend it says something more accurate like "Stories of my Life", or "For a good time, read Jenn". The deets: I'm a 30-something Texan who moved to New York, became a therapist, and married a guy named Vinny from Queens. I delight in observing the world around me, and write about it here.

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