Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Life with Food: A Journey from Fear to Love

Terribly pretentious title, I know. And in my first (and probably last) post for sometime. I kind of figure that no one's really reading this any more and this is just an exercise in obnoxious public journaling, so really, why not be pretentious as hell? I'm sure it will fit in nicely when I one day find my angsty entries from my misspent youth.

I've recently taken a job in San Francisco. I was given three weeks between accepting the offer and my start date (which I'm sure I could have negotiated, but financially it would have been imprudent), which has left me packing up the apartment I've lived in for three years while serving out my notice. I've been less stressed before. Anyways, to help this little process along, my mother has kindly agreed to drive up to DC, lending her car, aggressive nature and monetary contributions to dinners out to this process. (By the way, if you're in DC and in the market for a couch, a bed, or glassware, do let me know.) Mommy dearest is bringing with her my niece and nephew because slave labor is what summer vacation should be all about, at least from this aunt's perspective.

So, a little bit about my background, which I think that actually very few are privy to: I grew up near Atlanta, Ga. and went from being an only child to the youngest of 8 step brothers and sisters when both of my parents remarried before I was six years-old. I started going to Christian school in the third grade because that's what you do in Georgia, where the public schools are failing, but no one much cares because only racial minorities and poor whites attend them. By the time I was in middle school, I'd come to realize that I was an atheist and a liberal, neither popular positions either at home or with my classmates, so I graduated as a junior and hightailed it as far away as I could get both ideologically and physically to university at Berkeley. When I reveal that I'm from Georgia, my accent long gone, most people find it shocking.

Not so with my siblings. Despite a couple's brief stints in such exotic locations as Manhattan and glamorous Columbus, OH, all of my brothers and sisters have wound up in the south. Most are still in Georgia, the oldest sisters live in North and South Carolina. No wonder my mother forcefully packed and sold the contents of my Berkeley apartment and practically forced me cross country to DC when I began to look for jobs--I was (and still am) the only one whose doorstep one can't show up on in an emergency. (To her credit, she's being very sweet about my moving back to SF.) My niece and nephew live in South Carolina with their parents.

Growing up in Georgia, well, not to traffic in stereotype, but your food options are pretty much fried and sides. When I got to Berkeley, a roommate was once ordering Chinese delivery for the dorm suite and asked me what I wanted. My reply of "chicken teriyaki" was met with peels of laughter. Georgia doesn't so much differentiate between Chinese and Japanese, and Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean--these cuisines are almost unheard of. Point being, diversity: lacking.

To make matters of taste even worse, I have had, for most of my life, a fear of food. Not of becoming fat, not a body issue, a legitimate, visceral fear of foods that look or smell a certain way or appear to have a certain texture. This will surprise anyone who is aware of my longstanding love affair with restaurants, but it is absolutely true. When I was four, just as my parents were getting divorced, I went through a phase that many children experience--I refused to eat pretty much anything. Shrimp, pasta, cheese, peanut butter and bacon. That was all I wanted. Not together, of course. It's a wonder that I'm not 400 pounds. Few vegetables, a violent rejection of most meats, by all reasonable measures a prohibitively limited diet.

The pediatrician told my parents to let me be--that all kids go through this phase and that I would resume eating more food naturally. My mother took this advice to heart. My father had grown up in a "you'll eat whatever I put in front of you" household and would have none of it. Threats, spankings and lies were all tactics that he employed to get me to eat what he wanted me to, the last being the most damaging. After Scott's refusal to differentiate between meat sauce and marinara, I gave up tomato sauce all together. In fact, I became more and more suspicious to the point that, if I couldn't immediately identify what was in it, I wouldn't eat it. This precluded many of the best things in life--rich sauces and curries, anything baked inside a pastry shell...

Only through friends, loved ones and one particularly sympathetic sister's incredible ability to describe food and relate it to experiences that I could understand have I come, in the last 10 years, to be an adventurous eater (though to this day I have trouble with most meats and won't eat red meat or anything ground or sliced). Indian and Thai curries, sushi, all kinds of fish, asparagus, recently brussel sprouts, even pizza (which I had eschewed because of it's tomato sauce) are now all parts of my school girl crush (nay, obsession) with food. Where I once dreaded going to a friend's for dinner, I now choose restaurants for business lunches with gusto. Some friends have called me their own personal Yelp.

So when my niece and nephew arrive, aside from needing them to paint my bright blue apartment walls back to the institutional off-white that the building management prefers, I also have a desperate need to expose them to a world where "a nice dinner" doesn't mean Olive Garden. But in my desire to do so, I'm also tormented by my memories of "no thank you bites" and admonitions against leaving the table before my plate is clean. Clearly I can't throw them into the deep end right away. Sadly on this trip, there will be no Lebanese Taverna, no Indian food and probably no Vietnamese.

I'm starting small. The first night I'm showing them what pizza should be--not Domino's, 2 Amy's. The second night I'll play by ear. After all, I'm taking them to trapeze, they don't need to be scared of their food, too. But the third night I'm taking them to Dino. Dino is my favorite neighborhood gem--almost too reasonably priced, local, sustainable, fresh real food. Nothing processed, nothing fake. Accessible for them with pastas and simple fish, chicken and meat dishes, but everything a step above and beyond (complimented by my dear friends on the staff, one of which has consented to pollute his carefully selected craft beer menu with a Coors Light for my dear mother). And when the prosciutto wrapped asparagus arrives at the table, there will be no "no thank you" bites if my niece and nephew are reluctant to try it--that just means more for me.

Overall, food is one of the most purely enjoyable parts of life. It can be decadent, refreshing, emotional, soothing and life changing. We're lucky to live in a place where eating is an experience, not just an often unmet necessity. And our body knows what good food is. When you spend enough time away from fried, processed crap, you lose a taste for it, and your body doesn't want it any more. I'm glad to have come to a point where I eat what's good for me without effort, based almost entirely on craving, and my emotional response to the prospect of eating is delight, not terror. I hope that I can give some of that to my niece and nephew...ya know, before I run away across the country again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Inner Teen Is Disgusted with Me

About a month ago, I did something that shocked my friends and family: I attended the NKOTBSB concert at the Verizon Center. My inner teenager has locked herself in her room and is refusing to come out lest she dies from embarrassment.

I sent an email to my wonderful friend AL (initials for anonymity – her name isn’t “Al”), because we hadn’t hung out in a while. She replied with an offer too good to resist: a totally free ticket to see NKOTBSB with her. It was an invitation to spend a Friday evening with one of my best friends people watching at a concert combining the goofiest boy band of the 80s with the goofiest boy band of the 90s.

How could I refuse?

I don’t exaggerate when I tell you it was one of the best experiences of my life. First of all, the Verizon Center clearly knew its audience that evening. It converted several men’s rooms into ladies’ rooms – with urinals.

After arriving (and lots of pre-gaming beers), I decided I needed a tee shirt with all the faces of the Backstreet Boys and the New Kids on it. I thought it would be hilarious. Well, $40 later, I think the joke was on me…

The show started the second we walked into the Verizon Center (and I am not talking about the concert). There were so many middle-aged women with homemade tee shirts professing love for one or another band member. Seriously, there was enough puffy paint to cover the floor of the Verizon Center!

I was really hoping to see a 40 year old with a bad perm cry as NKOTB or BSB sang some sappy song that repeated the word “girl” or “babe” so many times it lost all meaning. Much to my dismay, while there was a lot of screaming (especially during “Please Don’t Go, Girl”), there were no tears.

We finally left when NKOTB stopped singing to repeatedly reference how “hot” DC is. Of course the crowd ate it up… But before I end my post, a few observations from the concert.

1) Donnie Wahlberg looks like Mark Wahlberg plus 10 years of really, really hard living.

2) If one band member removes his jacket to give the ladies in the audience a (very) cheap thrill (Aaron Carter – and it was the jacket from a white suit), then the other band needs someone to remove his wife beater (Donnie Wahlberg – see previous observation for my opinion on that matter). Otherwise, all sense of order is lost in Boy Bandlandia.

3) The decade(ish) that separates the ages of the NKOTB and BSB really showed when it was time for a dance number (but NKOTB did do that pendulum leg thing during “The Right Stuff”).

4) At our core, us women are forever those teenage girls we used to be. Whether that means we are horribly insecure or that we have an incurable crush on some cute celebrity at 13, not much changes - even after 30. And that’s why my alternative-loving, moody teen self is still pouting and rolling her eyes over my decision to spend a Friday evening worshipping at the boy band alter.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Search for Kimmy (Update)

I found her! I had the correct number for her mom, and it took a while to hear back, because she is spending the year in Japan. We've managed to reconnect, and it's pretty awesome. I hope when she gets back to the country that we will be able to see one another (for the first time in more than 15 years).

Thanks to all for the suggestions about how to find her!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Search for Kimmy (a rare, non-bitchy post)

When I was in preschool, I made a little friend named Kimmy. She was my best friend in preschool, kindergarten and most of elementary school. But, as I got a little older (and when we stopped going to the same Jewish day camp), Kimmy and I grew apart.

We talked a few times in high school, but it became increasingly hard for us to relate to one another. Eventually, the friendship just died out completely.

I have thought about her a lot over the years. I have wondered what became of her. I have tried to find her on Facebook numerous times, but never to any avail. I was home recently - well, visiting my parents in the home I grew up in - and as I was cleaning out my childhood room, I ran across old cards, photos and other mementos of my friendship with Kimmy. And, trying to find her has been on my mind ever since.

I have tried Google, Spokeo, White Pages and any other free tool on the internet I can think of. I managed to find a listing for her parents with a number I remember dialing hundreds of times as a kid (back in the day where you dialed a number from a key pad on a phone that had a cord in it - now I can barely remember my own phone number). After two weeks, I got up the courage to dial it. Unfortunately, all I got was a generic recorded message saying "Sorry. We are not in right now. Please leave a message after the beep." So, I took a shot. I left a message. And now I wait.

If anyone has any other ideas about how to locate long lost childhood friends, I would really appreciate the help. If not, at least hope I had the right number and someone calls me back.

Sorry for the sentimental, schlocky post. I am feeling intensely nostalgic and pensive lately. What good is it to have a blog if you can't write about what's on your mind? That being said, I promise to bring the bitchy back with a frivolous, snarky post very soon!

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Used to Like People

I used to be so gregarious, so social, so interested in other people - so much like my mother. But, as I get older, I now find my self turning into a serious misanthrope - much more like my dad. Lately, I have started to really listen to myself as I go on and on about the stupidity of this person or the irritating qualities of that person and I wonder, "what the fuck is happening to me?!"

I mean, I have friends and a relatively active social life. But, I find that increasingly I just don't like people anymore. The more I think about the problem, the more I realize that it all started when I began taking mass transit/commuting to work.

When I was growing up in Phoenix (a city but not a real city), I didn't mind crowds. I loved chatting up strangers and being places where I could meet new, interesting people. Then, after college when I began working in San Francisco, my interest in these things waned. And then I moved to DC.

DC is a really cool city. It's very young - very alive. But, it's also very full of self-important, self-aggrandizing tools. You hear it all the time on the Metro. People (especially those just out of college and working on the Hill) love to name drop. They tend to think they are literally the most important, most irreplaceable person on the face of the planet. Dare I say, many of them feel they are as (if not more) important than the politician they work for.

And because DC is such a cool city, we are infested with tourists for 9 months of the year. When Winter ends, two plagues descend on the city: the bugs the size of small vermin and tourists who have never seen the following:

Light rail or subway systems
Malls with more than four stores
Homeless people

How do I know they have never seen these things? Simple - they take photos of them. And they always seem to manage to be in the way while doing so.

So what's a girl to do? I can't move, and even if I did, I can't go back to suburban city living. I could drive to work (thus avoiding the throngs of humanity I must interact with on mass transit), but the car takes premium and gas is more than $4.00/gallon. I guess I have no choice. I just need to resign myself to the fact that I am turning into my father (but hopefully without the mustache).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


As is well-documented, Elle and I love the CW schlock – especially the 9-0 reboot and the prematurely canceled Melrose revisited. But, perhaps sadly, it runs deeper for me. I almost have a maternal attachment to the show. I feel invested.

Let me explain. I had such high hopes before the show premiered. I was like a proud new mama that thought her baby could do anything! Be anyone! Go anywhere! And then the terrible twos set in. The show was horrid. Anna Lynn McCord was wooden, Shenae Grimes confused emoting with the look one gets on their face when constipated, and they revealed how poorly the beloved Brenda Walsh had aged. But then there was hope. The show grew into a precocious child, renewing the sense of promise it once had. The story lines were interesting. The acting was better. Sure, it was still a sudsy ridiculous soap, but it was fun!

And now, we appear to have hit the teen years. Those dreaded teen years. The once fanciful implausible plots have become dark, moody, and just plain stupid. For example, on a recent Spring Break trip to Mexico (on a private jet?!), Annie got bit by a monkey, Ivy realized she didn’t need pot to surf (seriously, WTF), and Adriana replaced Silver’s medicine for her bi-polar disorder with Tylenol.

I have watched a lot of soap opera villains do a lot of crazy shit, but I don’t even get to what end one would replace someone’s medication for being manic-depressive. Does she want her to commit suicide? No, that’s too dark. Does she want her to go manic so her boyfriend breaks up with her? Probably, but in what real world situation would someone break up with their bipolar girlfriend (when he knows she is bipolar) for having a manic or depressive episode? I mean, wouldn’t one of her dozens of friends and loved ones who all know about her condition just intervene and suggest she see her doctor to readjust her meds?

There is always hope that the post-teenage years will straighten out this wayward TV show. But, what I guess makes me the most nervous is that perhaps it isn’t the show. Perhaps it’s me. Maybe it is finally time to stop watching shows whose target audiences get the appeal of Justin Bieber. Could it be that it isn't the shows growing pains but my own that I am reacting to?

Nah. It's the show.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Adventures in NOLA

This bitch recently spent a glorious long weekend in NOLA. I got some sun, gained what feels like 5 pounds, and experienced a few things worth blogging about!

Things I learned in New Orleans:

1) The Ritz Carlton Hotel has the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” on a seemingly endless loop

2) Bourbon street smells exactly how you think it would – a combination of spilled drinks, urine, vomit and hot dog cart (and vomit that has an air of eau de hot dog cart and hurricane)

3) You do not want to work at Café Du Monde

4) Nicholas Cage doesn’t know his own address but apparently knows Dog the Bounty Hunter

5) Delta has the world’s rudest flight attendant in its employ. Her name is Ashleigh, and she literally berated my husband for requesting another soda (politely mind you). The exchange was as follows:

Mr. Bitch: Excuse me. May I have another Coke when you have a minute? (No, I am rewriting history to make him more polite).

Ashleigh (an actual bitch): I can’t just give everyone another soda. I already gave you the full can, which I am not supposed to do. We can’t just give everyone multiple cans of soda.

Mr. Bitch: Okay…

Ashleigh: Walks off to the back of the plane in a huff

As soon as we landed, I promptly tweeted about the incident: @Delta rudest flight attendant on #3410 MSY->DCA. "Ashleigh" berated my husband 4 requesting another coke. U condone rudeness 2 save soda?

To Delta’s credit, I did receive a prompt reply from @DeltaAssist. But, I am uncertain anything came of it. And, it isn’t enough.

First and foremost, when did it become obnoxious to ask for another soda (literally the only free thing on a flight anymore)? If it is a supply issue (which, this was a commuter flight so it might have been), then just say that. Don’t berate a paying customer for a simple request – one, I might mention, that is complied with on ANY OTHER major or budget carrier than flies the friendly skies.

Beyond that, when did it become acceptable for flight attendants – the customer service representative on the flight – to hate their customers so much? No, we weren’t in first class, but if you hate serving people, FIND ANOTHER LINE OF WORK.

And finally, why do we as paying consumers stand for asinine policies and rudeness? The airport is enough of a horror show without being treated like scum once on the plane.

So, readers, if there are any of you left due to the infrequency of recent posts, help me. I need to craft a complaint letter to Delta, and I am open to suggestions! Please submit your comments and help me take a stand for every mistreated coach passenger on any flight!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Overheard on Metro

I think it's time for a new segment on 2B1B: Overheard on Metro (or heretofore to be called OOM). This week I feel as though I heard an inordinate amount of inane chatter.

So, for as long as this amuses me, a new feature: OOM

In response to a story about a home burglary: "I leave my door unlocked at night just hoping someone will try to mess with me. It's like that time the guy with the gun tried to rob me, and I dared him to shoot me. I said, if you're gonna do it, do it!"

Please comment and share your overheard on metro moments!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another Brilliant Tumblr

I was once a cat owner. I lost her in my "divorce." (And I gave her my super rad cat name that I'd been saving until I was an adult and had a pet and my mother couldn't be like "that's so mean, why don't you name her after a season or something." Actually, my mother did say that, but I named the cat Trouble anyway, because they're mischievous and there's nothing you can do about it. And now my ex-wife has my awesome pet name for all eternity and I write little plays in my diary about a weird cat custody scenario where I'm the total dad in the situation and I'm like "Look, it's not that I don't love you, it's that your mother's an unhinged bitch, and noooow she's asking me to pay child support, can you believe that? Oh, sport, you know I'd love to have you come stay with me, but I'm in the one bedroom now, ya know, and work's keeping me really late. As soon as I get a bigger place and another promotion, I promise." Ok, I don't have a diary, but I just made that up for you all right here and now.)

Tami continues to be a cat owner because her marriage is more stable than mine was (because no one in the scenario is batshit insane), so I am now a cat aunt. Anyways, anyone who has ever had a cat and a sexual relationship at the same time knows to shut the door or suffer the fate documented on Cats Watching You Have Sex, which I am honoring as the 2B1B Tumblr blog of the week (a semi-recurring award).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If You Aren't Watching Pretty Little Liars, It Is Time to Start

It’s no secret that I love me some stupid TV. I like to think of it as brain candy or the antidote to a stressful day. Thankfully, one of my (and Elle’s) favorite guilty pleasures is back: Pretty Little Liars.

For the uninitiated, PLL is the story of five best friends, one of whom disappears and is found dead a year later. The actors playing the title little liars are largely nobodies (with the sort of exception of Lucy Kate Hale, who has had a failed show every televisions season up until now. I was starting to think she was cursed considering both Privileged and the Bionic Woman reboot failed with her in a starring role), but two of the moms are played by Laura “Sydney Andrews Mancini” Leighton and Holly Marie Combs of Charmed fame. Anyway, the liars are tormented by a mysterious person named “A” who knows all their secrets – and tells them. “A” also seems to know who killed the 5th friend, and the other four can’t resist trying to find out who both “A” and the killer are. But doing so puts them in a compromising situation – especially considering they all seem to make pretty horrific personal choices.

Now that you have a brief background, allow me to give you a list of reasons to watch:

  • The title doesn’t lie – the show is full of pretty people
  • If you miss Melrose as much as Elle and I do, this is your replacement for campy, totally off-the-wall story lines (e.g. Laura Leighton’s character actually sleeps with a police officer to keep her daughter out of trouble and steals from the bank where she works to keep her and her daughter in designer goods)
  • It’s on ABC Family, so it repeats like 1000 times per week, making it easy to stay up-to-date without DVR conflicts
  • It’s way less infuriating than Gossip Girl
  • Because Elle and I say so!