Friday, December 31, 2010

Last post of 2010

I don't have much to write about today and will soon be dressing up for work (NYE at Lineage = we can wear fancy stuff as opposed to our usual uniform), but ending the year with 74 posts (when 75 is such a nicer, rounder, better number) seemed wrong.

I've already done my 2010 recap post (scroll down to check it out), so let's look ahead into 2011....the year when:

-- I will turn 30;

-- I will finish my M.F.A. in Creative Writing and complete my thesis in poetry;

-- I will possibly leave Boston (and the East Coast), if I find a job somewhere awesome like Chicago

So 2011 is shaping up to be a big year of change, hopefully for the better. And I can't wait to write about it here.
Happy New Year, everybody!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry: St. Louis edition!

Hello readers! Today's poem was written by a poet who has largely been forgotten/overlooked: Sara Teasdale. Teasdale was born in St. Louis (!) in 1884 and published her first collection of verse in 1907. At 23, she had already published a book of poems. Bitch.

Just kidding!

Anyway, Teasdale is on my radar because of the book I'm currently reading -- The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. It's a novel narrated by a poet struggling to write an introduction to an anthology of rhyming poems. And Teasdale is one of his favorite rhyming poets. Like me, she's into forms. And she's from my hometown. We have so much in common, except that I am hoping to not kill myself by overdosing on barbiturates at age 49 like Sara did.

This poem appears first in her 1917 collection Love Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. I think it has a refreshingly positive/hopeful message, one very appropriate for looking ahead to a new year.


Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

(Emotional) Baggage Claim

I like everything organized and in its right place. That does not make me an anal control freak. I just think everything should be neat and tidy at all times. Is that really so much to ask?
I just like to let it all hang out. I'm a little all over the place.

Ok, so maybe I'm a little on the small side. Size isn't everything! Just give me a chance. Once you go carry-on, you never go back.

I'm fucking indestructible. Hard as a rock. Impenetrable in every way. Try to hug me and you will hurt yourself so BACK OFF.

I've been used a lot and I'm worn out. And if that's a problem for you, well, fine, why don't you just get some shitty shiny thing on wheels. I don't need you anyway.

I like to blend in. Black is the new black. Maybe I'm a little boring and safe, but you know what? Actually, I don't know what. I'm a dime a dozen. Love me?

I'm so hot and sexy. Tell me how sexy I am. Really, don't you think I'm sexy? I'm sexy, right? RIGHT? Oh, and did you see my Dolce & Gabbana tag? Just making sure you noticed that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Report Card/Best and Worst of 2010

One of my favorite annual issues of
People arrived last Friday -- the Best and Worst issue, where you get to re-experience all the best photos/stories/gossip/gowns from the past year ALL OVER AGAIN. I also recently completed teaching my first year at Emerson and got to do something I've always fantasized about: grade people. And this is college, so my grades count, bitches!

In honor of these two exciting events, this blog post will be a hybrid of superficial ratings and photographic highlights of the past year. 2010 was an odd year, to be honest. Not awesome, not awful. So here we go!


Pretty much solid developments in this category. I upgraded from back-server to server at Lineage and landed a competitive teaching position. And I actually genuinely love both my jobs. I really enjoy expanding young minds and telling people what arctic char tastes like (a more delicate, flakier salmon). And I think I'm pretty good at both, though we'll see if my instructor evaluations confirm or refute this. I don't know if I'll teach another year at Emerson or not, but I think I will definitely continue to teach...somewhere and in some capacity.

Oh, and on the writing front, I picked up some freelance work from Time Out Boston. Because like 2Pac, I have "ambitionz az a ridah" [sic].


I had bronchitis for basically all of October and mysteriously contracted
strep C, which is rare in humans and common in horses (!), in June. And I gained 5 lbs. But hey, I didn't have a kidney stone and my belly button remained infection-free!


I mean, it's still a passing grade. After a significant relationship ended in February, I dabbled on and began what I thought would end up being a significant relationship, but it flamed out quickly. My feelings on this relationship are best captured in this Rosemary Clooney song:

(p.s. I want that dress big time)

The year is ending on an upswing though, with a new gentleman in the picture. For fear of jinxing it, I'll stop there. It may not be love, but for now, it's nice and that's enough for me.


Once upon a time, I actually would put some of each paycheck into a savings account. That time is...not now. I have no emergency nest egg and I'm tired of living hand-to-mouth. Being broke is cute and charming when you're 20...not so much when you're 30, as I soon will be. I need to be better at budgeting and have more discipline when it comes to eating/drinking out. And my rent eats up way too much of my income, so if I stay in Boston, I think I need to suck it up and live with roommates. Sorry, studio :(


I went to Holland and Belgium in July! Read all about it here. I also made it to St. Louis, New Haven, Chicago and New York.


I saw Peewee Herman on Broadway. Loved Black Swan, Catfish, and The Social Network. Listened to a lot of Florence + the Machine and Robyn. Saw a Puccini opera and a burlesque version of The Nutcracker involving a gigantic candy cane penis that sprayed snow. Watched some shitty reality television. Spent too much time on YouTube. Should have seen more live music.

And now, some photos of BEST moments from the past year. I don't think I will include photos of worst moments, because come on, when I'm crying and drinking alone in my apartment, who wants to take a picture? Maude can't operate a camera.

At a black-tie wedding at the Harvard Club

My first Red Sox game

With my best friend Jon in Chicago

Boarding the train to Bruges

Celebrating my Dad's 65th

On Cape Cod for Labor Day


at the Lineage holiday party

Ok, 2010....maybe you weren't so bad....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A shout-out to Emerson undergrads

After a semester of teaching the Emerson class of 2014, I have to say, I'm impressed with their creativity, humor, and resourcefulness. A while back, my alma mater Yale put out a musical admissions video. It was well-made, but kind of too slick for my taste. The Emerson equivalent, I think, is much funnier and more likely to actually appeal to potential applicants. The video has gone viral and was featured on Jezebel this week -- in case you missed it, I'm posting it below.

As a final project in the writing class I teach at Emerson, I asked my students to "take an approach" (i.e. update/subvert/twist) a classic fairytale. I gave them the freedom to use any medium they wanted and many chose to make videos of some sort. One group turned Goldilocks into a modern-day BU sorority girl blogging about her romantic conquests; another made a satirical indie film trailer that I find very amusing -- click here to watch.

We had our last class on Monday and toward the end of the period, I asked students to share their favorite memory from the semester. One student spilled the beans that at one point, they all discovered my blog and several of them were looking at it during class, unbeknownst to me. I apparently kept asking them what was so funny. I mean, I'm not at all surprised that they found my blog -- when you Google me, it's the first hit -- but I do think it's funny that they were so secretive about it (and proud of themselves for not letting on that they'd found it).

I'm looking forward to meeting a new crop of Emerson freshmen in January and hope they are as awesome as my current group. If any of them are reading this, YOU RULE and I hope you keep me posted about your performances and achievements.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmastime is here

...and my apartment is DECKED OUT. I have a lot of decorations, none of which I purchased for myself. Such is the benefit of having a holiday-obsessed mother who has sent me about three boxes worth of Christmas stuff, ranging from semi-creepy Dickensian carolers...

to vintage bottle-brush trees:

As for my tree this year, well, there's really only one way to describe it: FIERCE.

I mean, it's fucking beautiful, right? It fits perfectly between my desk and shoe rack. I bought and decorated it on Sunday, while sipping Trader Joe's chocolate-flavored eggnog. Then I watched Holiday Inn and cried at the end, like I always do.

I own three Christmas movies: Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and a very special film that I have never seen, but plan to watch this year. Christmas Evil.

It's about a serial killer who dresses up like Santa and wants to "give everyone the presents they deserve...even if that means giving the gift of MURDER!"

Very excited to watch this. I mean, I love Halloween and I love Christmas. Clearly I will love this film. Maybe even as much as I love this:

As one YouTube commenter noted, "Gotta love the Muppets for recognizing that this song is about attempted rape."

Monday, December 6, 2010

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

I'm pretty swamped with end-of-semester odds and ends, but wanted to post a poem I was recently introduced to by my workshop instructor, Gail Mazur. This piece originally appeared back in 1999 on Slate, a zine that deserves a shout-out for posting poems and generally acknowledging the existence/cultural relevance of poetry.

I am in awe of this poem. After reading it, I immediately filed it in the "damn, I wish I had written that" file. The final simile, in the last three lines, is especially amazing.

The Round-Up
by Karen Fish

What happened--old as the hills, ancient as the ax,
the horse, water in a clay cup, dirt under the fingernails.
The river forgets the fish and the winter sun slides
beyond the far hills. All of them had mothers, and all
the mothers sang while swimming and as the women sang
the birds left the trees which ringed the water
for the clouds where the distance whispered a different dream
than the dream dreaming this

dark afternoon. The men were boys not that long ago--
delicate, confident paddling alongside their mothers
through the hot afternoons.
The water dark green with splash and shout--
summer just a whistle and gone.
Of course, the night will still hold stars,
the moon's journey, the planet's orbit. There will
always be nests, branches, the swaying and the saying.
They have names and are men exactly like you
lined up in jackets, boots and caps--
cold with the waiting.

It is unbelievable, even some of the soldiers
begin to sob. Trucked out to no-where
are doctors, lawyers, plumbers, builders, bankers.
It is winter, snow rides the collapse of clouds.
There are just shades of brown and grey,
a line of trees--a dark scribble
like markings done by a child.

As each man is shot,
whether he drops backward
or to the side
he forgets us, his own name, this place,
like the kiss
in the evening at the lit threshold
whose intent was to swear return.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What did we do before YouTube?

Sometimes I use this blog to reflect on the great issues of the day, the unique challenges of being human in this complex modern era. And sometimes I use it to post silly videos featuring cats.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Thanksgiving, in statistics

Number of relatives that flew in from the West Coast: 5

Number of happy hours my brother and I hit before seeing our relatives: 2
Number of different pies baked: 4

Number of fights I had with my mom: 2
Number of fights she remembers us having: 1
Number of lines of bad dialogue in "Burlesque": 4, 387

Number of plastic surgery procedures Cher admits to having: 3
Number of Broadway shows seen: 3
Number of Broadway shows seen that were directed by Alex Timbers: 2
Number of drunk/high adults in the audience at the Peewee Herman show: 497
Number of glasses of wine consumed: more than 5 and less than 50
Number of times the woman next to me on the train to New York got up to pee: 3
Number of times I was asked about my love life: CRANBERRY SAUCE
Number of years my grandmother has been awesome: 92
Number of sticks of butter in my mom's stuffing: unknown

Number of regrettable drunken texts sent: 6
Number of tablespoons of Johnny Walker Black added to my chocolate pecan pie recipe: 4
Number of minutes I waited in line at Starbucks on Thursday morning: 25
Number of children with nicer winter coats than me spotted in aforementioned line: 3

Number of pairs of socks borrowed from my ex-boyfriend (at whose apartment I was staying) because I forgot to pack socks: 2 (sorry, Noah)
Number of times the word "number" appears in the blog post: 19!

And one bonus, non-numerical piece of data: for the best story that may or may not be true and/or grossly exaggerated told by a family member, it's a tie between

-- my aunt describing the time she met Cher and Cher appeared to be wearing a bedspread
-- my mom talking about seeing Stevie Wonder open for the Rolling Stones and falling off the stage

Ah, the holidays. The fun is just beginning.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble, gobble

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I have already engaged in one angry/tearful discussion with a family member about politics, so for others who may be in similar positions, I recommend this helpful article from Slate about navigating those tricky topics.

The turkey: equal parts regal and ridiculous. All parts delicious!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yelping about blogging, I mean, blogging about Yelping

I remember very clearly when I first heard about Yelp, back when it was first launching just as a site for New Yorkers to write reviews about local businesses*. It makes sense that Yelp originated there -- New Yorkers have high standards and love to complain loudly and publicly. I was at a party in Hell's Kitchen and my friend Sam was telling me about his new job with a brand new website.

"It's called Yelp," he said, "and it's a site where once you set up an account, you can review restaurants and stuff. Anyone can write the reviews and the businesses can't take them down, even if they're bad."

"Wow, that sounds really cool," I said. "I'll have to check it out." In my head, I thought it sounded retarded. I was sure it would never take off -- I mean, who wants to read reviews written by ignorant people?

Fast forward to the present, in which I am now not only a Yelp member, but a member of the Elite Squad. I applied and was granted Elite status in the summer of 2009; basically, in exchange for Yelping frequently (and wittily), I get invited to some special events with free food and booze.

And speaking of witty, I thought I'd share one of my favorite Yelp reviews ever, written by my friend, Jon. Jon lives in Chicago and had a "conflict" with a tailoring business. Here is his review of
Without a Trace Weavers:

A small hole in one of my favorite sweaters precipitated my search for a good reweaver, and Chicago Magazine recommended Without a Trace, with locations on the Gold Coast and in Chicago's North Park neighborhood. I dropped my sweater off at the Gold Coast location and was told they would be in contact with me when the repairs were completed. Fast forward several weeks later, and my sweater was ready for pick up.

Without a Trace's strange hours (open only until 4:30pm) did not make it easy for me to return to collect my garment, as I had recently begun work in the suburbs and it had become difficult for me to be downtown before they close. I did not pick up my garment until a few weeks after the repairs were completed, and only after several increasingly frantic and accusatory phone calls from the business. For the benefit (and entertainment) of all Yelpers, here is an excerpted portion of the most psychotic voice message:

"I don't know why you're refusing just to come pick up your sweater. . . um, this isn't right. . . I don't understand why you'd bring something in and not pick it up or return any calls. . . I just. . . it's something. . ."

I had never before received as bizarre or manic a voicemail before. Not from any ex after a bad breakup, or from any crazy member of my family. Now, this voice message may lead you to believe that I'm one of those sick people who gets off on dropping off garments for dry cleaning, alterations, or repairs. and then leaving them there forever sticking the company with the bill. Ha, the joke is on you, reweaving company! Reality? A too-long turnaround time and inconvenient hours of operations made it difficult to pick up my sweater, only one of several that I own and that provide me warmth and comfort on a regular basis.

When I returned to pick up my garment, I asked the nice young man working at the time if it was he that left me the aforementioned message. I told him that it was the single most psychotic, unprofessional voicemail that I had ever received. Without hesitation, the employee told me that it must have been the owner, Michael. This leads me to believe that I am not the first customer to suffer the indignity of dealing with the business's proprietor.

If you're looking for a healthy dose of abuse along with your garment repair, might I suggest Without a Trace? If you happen to be reading this, Michael, might I suggest for you some time on the couch with a good psychotherapist? It's not terribly professional to work through your obviously complex emotional issues on your customers' answering machines!

Sometimes when you write a negative review, the business will respond and apologize/offer an incentive to give them another try. Usually, if this happens, it will happen within a month or so of the review being posted. I, however, recently received a message from
Sandella's, a place I reviewed over a year ago. Here's my review and the subsequent message -- I suggest doing a dramatic reading to get the full effect:

Neither tasty nor healthy, Sandella's has little to recommend it. My ham, spinach and swiss "panini" was greasy and measly (seriously, like one slice of ham) and lacking the promised "mango habanero salsa." Also, it wasn't really a panini -- kind of like a sad, deflated burrito. I will not be back.

13 months later.....

Hello Katie. I know you had a bad experience at my restaurant and I appreciate the feedback. The reason why I have taken so long to write back is we have done an extensive menu change and have worked hard over the past year to make the food experience much better.

Since your review and taking into consideration some of your valid points we have hired a chef and worked with her for several months and redesigned the menu. I took the spinach and swiss product off the menu and now offer a choice of Iggy's foccacia along with our flatbread as a panini option. I too agree that what we were serving before was not good. We have also brought in brown rice, avocado and several other ingredients to update our products. We also offer a make your own option for rice bowls, grilled flatbread pizzas and the salads. You can also feel free to design your own panini if you so desire. I understand that you may not wish to give us another try and even worse we could disappoint you a second time but I assure you that we have tried to be a better establishment and many people do like what we are doing now.

So I appreciate the valid review and I hope there are no hard feelings. If you ever do give us a try again I really hope we do a better job this time around. We have really, really put a lot of effort into making things better. However we still are a moderate food establishment that tries to serve a decent product as quickly as possible so there are no miracles here!

Thank you for the input.
Sincerely, Nick M.

I am amused and touched by Nick M's response. He really took my comments to heart, it seems, but acknowledges the challenges of trying to serve "a decent product" in what's basically a fast-food venue. I may just give Sandella's another go.

*Apparently, Yelp actually started in San Francisco. New York was added soon after.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The ghazal: my white whale?

So this week I'm posting an example of a form that I have attempted, but failed miserably at completing:
the ghazal, pronounced either "huzzle" or "guzzle," depending on whom you ask. For those of you familiar with my work, you know I love form and don't shy away from a challenge. But the ghazal makes all other forms --pantoums, sonnets, even villanelles-- look like nursery school Dr. Seuss bullshit.

The ghazal is very old, with the earliest examples in Arabic verse dating back to the 6th century. It's also incredibly difficult -- there is a refrain repeated at the end of every other line, as well as internal rhyme. And as if that wasn't hard enough, the poet is also supposed to "name" him or herself in the last couplet. Because of the formal requirements, ghazals rarely are narrative poems; the repetition makes it almost impossible to move any kind of story forward. Many operate associatively through images or rhetorical word play.

This ghazal takes some liberties with the rules -- the internal rhyme is inconsistent -- but it's still, I think, largely successful.

The Ghazal of What Hurt
by Peter Cole
Pain froze you, for years—and fear—leaving scars.
But now, as though miraculously, it seems, here you are

walking easily across the ground, and into town
as though you were floating on air, which in part you are,

or riding a wave of what feels like the world's good will—
though helped along by something foreign and older than you are

and yet much younger too, inside you, and so palpable
an X-ray, you're sure, would show it, within the body you are,

not all that far beneath the skin, and even in
some bones. Making you wonder: Are you what you are—

with all that isn't actually you having flowed
through and settled in you, and made you what you are?

The pain was never replaced, nor was it quite erased.
It's memory now—so you know just how lucky you are.

You didn't always. Were you then? And where's the fear?
Inside your words, like an engine? The car you are?!

Face it, friend, you most exist when you're driven
away, or on—by forms and forces greater than you are.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Memoriam: Allston Cafe

Friends, it is with great sadness that I announce the closing of one of my favorite neighborhood haunts: The Allston Cafe.

Since moving to Boston a little over two years ago, I have frequented the Allston Cafe (formerly known as Herrell's, when it was under different ownership). On Yelp, I gave it a rare five-star review. It was really a unique place, beloved by Allstonians, and very popular. On weekends, it was often impossible to get a seat and the wait for their amazing breakfast sandwiches was sometimes epic, but always worth it. I always overheard people discussing their art shows, band tours, and latest tattoos. The wifi was free and the coffee was strong. And they served breakfast all day, every day. What genius created the Tiny Mighty, the eggless breakfast sandwich for only $2.14? What giant among men (or women) figured out that grape jelly would take the Meg Muffin (egg, cheese, sausage) to the next level?

Apparently, Allston Cafe was forced to close due to a dramatic rent increase to the tune of $1700, or roughly 794 Tiny Mightys. I recorded my final visit this past Saturday; I hope you enjoy my photographic tribute.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Kim Kardashian and I have in common

Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd write. And for those of you keeping track, no, it's not that we've both been linked to a pro-football player or star in a reality show on E!

It's this:

Hey Kim, you and me both, sister.

As I approach my next birthday, which happens to be one of those decade-milestones, it's hard not to reflect on what I've accomplished in my life. I've never had a strict timeline of events in my head, and yet when I graduated from college, I did have vague ideas about where I saw myself 5, 10 years down the line. If you had asked me, back at the tender age of 22, where I thought I'd be now, I would have speculated that I'd still be acting in some capacity, hopefully at a professional/respectable level. And that I'd be married. No kids yet -- I would have figured that for the early chunk of my 20s, I'd casually date before finding my soul mate around the age of 26. We'd date for a couple of years, be engaged by the time I was 28ish and right around now, I'd be walking down the aisle.

Ok, so maybe I did kind of have a timeline. But it's not like I wrote it down or anything.

Actual recap of the post-college years goes like this: give up on acting after 5 exhausting years of doing bad plays in New York, decide to move to a new city and get my MFA in poetry, have a slew of serious monogamous relationships that ultimately fizzle, largely for reasons unknown (i.e. not for lack of love or basic incompatibility).

Now, this next statement is going to sound, well, snotty: historically, I tend to get what I want. This is due to some combination of luck and stubbornness. But the truth is, I got the lead in the high school musical, went to prom with the guy I wanted, and got into my first choice college. I usually get offered jobs I go after. In short, when I want something and decide to fight for it, I often get it. Hate me, call me a lucky bitch, but it's the truth.

Finding someone with whom to share my life and raise a family is something I want. Doesn't have to happen now, but as the years tick by, I get increasingly nervous that it will never happen. I know, 30 is not exactly over-the-hill. But it's also not 25.

Of the 6 girls in my 6th grade class at Wilson School, I am the only one that is not married. Three of them have babies already, too. The high school stats are equally staggering -- I am definitely in the minority as a single woman with no offspring to pose with in my Facebook profile pic.

I know, it's not a race. It's not a contest. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce, blah blah blah.
And I consider myself a feminist, so I HATE admitting that these "traditional" things, these 1950s housewife-sounding things are things that I covet. I do want professional success as well -- if I didn't, I wouldn't be accruing thousands of dollar of debt to go to graduate school. I'd just join e-harmony and spend all my time/effort/money on trying to "settle down." I don't plan to stop working and pop out babies.

But I hate feeling guilty/old fashioned about wanting these things. I hate admitting that I want them. I wish I had a "it''ll happen if it happens" philosophy, but that's not how I'm programmed. I have a very good life and I have a lot to be thankful for -- good friends, a supportive family, enough money to pay my rent and occasionally eat at a nice restaurant. But I guess I buy into that cultural fairytale that until I find a person to share it all with, I can't be completely happy. Partly, I do blame my genes -- both of my parents are terrible at being alone. Within a year of divorcing, they were both remarried. So I can blame them, I can blame society, I can blame myself. It doesn't really matter.

Kim K. came clean in People; I'm coming clean here. I'm not married and I'm a little disappointed about it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Insight into the mind of a poet

Like many writers, I keep a journal. Several, actually. One for banal observations and whiny ramblings expected for the diary genre and then two others that I use for poetry/teaching/whatever else I need to write down when I'm at my desk (directions to restaurants, confirmation numbers). It's sometimes fun to flip through these hodgepodge notebooks and discover random things that I have no memory of writing. I recently came across this, well, list for lack of a better word. I'm guessing it was from a free writing exercise wherein I was trying to jumpstart my creativity. The "list" is as follows, verbatim:

rosebuds touching
a lonely harmonica
a patch of dead grass
unforgiving mailbox
where the wrist meets the hand
the second to last kiss
a church parking lot
flowers with the dirt still on them
zodiac sign language
selling individual balloons
a ballad, oversung
the worst sunset
a cracked pocket mirror
the Sunday newspaper
pewter souvenirs
not enough drum lessons
forgettable family dinners
steering wheel, too hot to touch
Tabasco sauce on everything
crowded aquariums
renting ice skates
one matinee too many

What does any of it mean? No clue. I really like "not enough drum lessons" and "unforgiving mailbox," though. And maybe I'll use "The Worst Sunset" as the title of my memoir. A lot of these would make great memoir titles (tell me you wouldn't buy A Ballad, Oversung: The Life and Times of Katie Vagnino). I don't think I ever wrote a poem or story incorporating anything from this list and the journal supports this: On the opposite page is a recipe for shrimp tacos that I remember copying from Real Simple.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Halloween kind of snuck up on me this year. In fact, the whole month of October snuck up on me. How is it already November?

At any rate: Halloween 2010. It was fun, perhaps not as memorable as past years, but maybe I'm just finally reaching an age where Halloween is less fun for me. That's a depressing thought. Not going to unpack that at the moment.

This year, I had a little impromptu gathering at my house, featuring pumpkin-flavored beer and homemade "spooky snacks": Sriracha-spiced deviled eggs and curry/cayenne roasted pumpkin seeds.

We watched a few scary movies (Little Shop of Horrors, Alien), then went to the obligatory costume party. My costume was I think funnier in concept than in execution. But really, it's all been downhill since my costume zenith from Halloween 2001: The Taco Belle.

I spent the whole night speaking Spanish with a Southern accent. Damn, I'm clever.

Last year, I went as Baby from Dirty Dancing. I carried a watermelon around all night. And told people not to put me in a corner.

Tonight, I did little to celebrate -- no trick-or-treating, no parties. Ate take-out Thai food and orange and black M&Ms. Maude looks way more festive than I do, but she's sort of perpetually in the Halloween spirit due to her coloring. And her worship of Satan.

Too much candy for Maude?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

For this week's selection, I decided to go with two short poems I admire that happen to be very far from what I understand to be my own poetic style. One is by current Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, a woman known for her concise, almost Dickinsonian lyrics; she writes very small, condensed poems that are deceptively simple. The other is by Wendy Cope, whom many liken to Ryan as well as Gertrude Stein. Her poem has a lot of repetition and a risky rhetorical strategy, one that I think pays off.

by Kay Ryan

If we could love
the blunt
and not
the point

we would
almost constantly
have what we want.

What is the
blunt of this
I would ask you

our conversation
weeding up
like the Sargasso.

Some More Light Verse
by Wendy Cope

You have to try. You see a shrink.
You learn a lot. You read. You think.
You struggle to improve your looks.
You meet some men. You write some books.
You eat good food. You give up junk.
You do not smoke. You don't get drunk.
You take up yoga, walk, and swim.
You don't know what to do. You cry.
You're running out of things to try.

You blow your nose. You see the shrink.
You walk. You give up food and drink.
You fall in love. You make a plan.
You struggle to improve your man.
And nothing works. The outlook's grim.
You go to yoga, cry, and swim.
You eat and drink. You give up looks.
You struggle to improve your books.
You cannot see the point. You sigh.
You do not smoke. You have to try.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why I Don't Watch Jersey Shore

I went shopping for my Halloween costume today and was, as always, blown away by how costumes are marketed to women. I always intend to have a funny, conceptual costume (freshman year of college, I dressed up as Static Cling) and yet, when I gaze on the multitudes of slutty outfits, I feel the pull.
Maybe, a small voice in me says, I should just try to look hot. But then I come to my senses and stick to my original plan. This year, my costume will actually comment upon the slutty-girl costume phenomenon, as I am wearing a hybrid of all the cliched costumes that otherwise intelligent women decide to debase themselves in every October. I'm dressing up as a naughty nurse/French maid/cowgirl/she-devil/cat. Judith Butler would be proud.

It shouldn't have surprised me to see a large portion of the store devoted to Jersey Shore costumes -- this year, the streets will be overflowing with Pauly Ds, the Situations and Snookis.

And I, for one, am not pleased.

Have I seen the show? Of course. I haven't been living under a rock. And many people whom I respect watch it regularly. I tried to get on board, I really did. But at the end of the day, I just find it utterly sad that we as a culture are celebrating idiocy, no matter how entertaining it may be. There's also an undeniable self-congratulatory, Schadenfreudic appeal: while we laugh at Snooki falling over drunk at the club, we pat ourselves on the back for being more self-aware than she is, or at the very least, more competent at holding our liquor.

But what disturbs me the most is the fact that the Jersey Shore "cast members" make, according to The Hollywood Reporter, $30,000 an episode. That's more than some public school teachers make in a year. And Vinnie and Sammi earn it by living rent-free in a beach house and picking fights with their roommates. And if you want Snooki to make an appearance at your birthday party? That'll cost you $50,000. Just for her to show up.

I used to take issue with celebrities like Paris Hilton, who were famous just for being famous. But Paris seems downright hard-working in comparison -- at least she pretends to design handbags or something. All the Jersey Shore cast members have contributed are some handy acronyms, such as "DTF" (Down to Fuck), and the inspiration for unnecessary iPhone apps that locate gyms, tanning salons, and laundromats. As if the Situation is still doing his own laundry these days.

Anyway, I'm not trying to be a sourpuss -- I'll admit that the few episodes I've seen have had their amusing moments. But I'm simultaneously appalled. I'm not against reality TV in general and I certainly have my guilty pleasures (I subscribe to People Magazine!). But something about Jersey Shore just rubs me the wrong way. The Real World is boring, but somehow less offensive to me. When it comes to reality television, I guess I'd rather watch people with actual skills compete for something, whether it's a record deal, a chance to show a collection at New York fashion week, or even just a shit-ton of money. Call me old-fashioned, but that's how I feel.

Now, if someone wants to pay me to get drunk on national television, maybe I'll change my tune....
America's Next Top Grad Student, anyone?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meet my new hero, Katherine Chloe Cahoon

Stealing these videos from Dlisted, but I can't help myself. This woman has a book. And I'm pretty sure she's functionally retarded. She also clearly adopted the presentational speaking approach of fellow animatronic bimbo Brenda Dickson.

Mind. Blown.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Big Girls Do Cry

I am a crybaby. There's no point in lying about it -- I cry pretty often. And here's what's weird: I like it and actually think it's healthy, the amount that I cry. Yes, you read that correctly-- I
enjoy crying.

I don't necessarily like what leads up to the crying, the situations and/or people that trigger the crying. So don't go out of your way to try to upset me, please. But the act of crying itself? It shouldn't have such a bad rap.

It was first pointed out to me that I cry a lot by my ex-boyfriend, Noah, who remains a close friend. I immediately denied it -- what is he talking about, I thought. Yeah, ok, I cry sometimes, but doesn't everybody? The answer A lot of people rarely cry, as far as I can tell. And I'm going to argue that THAT is strange -- not that I have a good cry pretty much on a weekly basis, but that others do not.

The problem is, people don't like to see other people cry; it makes them uncomfortable, even if they are not the source of the tears (and especially if they are). I understand that raw emotion on display can be unnerving. For me, though, tears are a release mechanism that I've grown increasingly reliant upon -- if I can cry, I know I'm not, well, dead inside. I've gone through dark periods where I felt apathetic, unable to be moved by anything. And believe me, that is way worse than feeling sad or overwhelmed. Newsflash: life is really overwhelming! And sometimes, you just need to cry about it. Eventually, you stop crying and that feels even better. But to get to the "I'm not crying anymore, things are looking up" part, you have to first let it out.

So I'm coming out of the crying closet. I'm a crier and I'm proud!

If you see it happen, don't tell me to stop. Just hand me a tissue, maybe rub my back, and let the crying take its (natural) course. I'll be fine momentarily, I swear.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inner monologue: Sleeping with someone for the first time

No, not the sexy time part, the actual sleeping part. Or rather, the "sleeping part," since let's be real, the first time you share a bed with someone new, ain't nobody doing much sleeping. My inner monologue usually goes something like this:

1:04 a.m.: Wow, that was fun. Being naked is good times. And apparently, he likes to spoon -- score!

1:09 a.m.: I bet his arm is falling asleep but he's too polite to say anything. I should probably move or something. But then he might think I'm moving away because I don't like spooning. Dilemma!

1:27 a.m.: Now my arm is numb. Where the hell am I supposed to put this arm, anyway? Above my head? That will look weird and awkward. Is he asleep? How the hell did he manage to fall asleep?

2:02 a.m.: Well, there are entirely too many covers on this bed. I am hot. I wish I could kick the comforter off or at least free up a leg for air.

3:19 a.m.: Hey, I actually managed to drift off there for a while. But wait, I am sleeping in a really unflattering position. My hips must look huge from this angle, my breasts are sagging....need to adjust to look sexy and thin in case he wakes up and looks at me. It is crucial to be attractive, even in the repose of sleep.

3:20 a.m.: I must really be awake to have come up with the word "repose."

3:55 a.m.: A ha! I caught myself dozing off with my mouth open, which might have resulted in DROOLING or SNORING. Crisis averted.

4:02 a.m.: I wonder if his sheets are clean. I mean, they seem clean. But I wonder.

4:45 a.m.: Patrick Swayze really died before his time. I bet his widow is so sad.

4:58 a.m.: Ok, now I'm a little cold and all of the blankets have migrated to his side. I will burrow into his side for warmth.

4:59 a.m.: Oops, woke him up. My bad. Turning away again. Only foot contact for now.

5:11 a.m.: I really should attend one of those neighborhood parties.

6:30 a.m.: Wish I had had the foresight to bring a glass of water to the bedroom. I'm mad thirsty.

7:00 a.m. Seriously? This is his alarm ringtone?

7:05 a.m.: Ah, the male morning erection -- should I acknowledge or ignore? That is the question.

7:25 a.m.: Acknowledged it. And now I'm late for work. Shit.

Of course, I've taken some creative license here....I think it's great when you can finally settle down enough to really sleep next to someone. I tend to think the sleeping part is in some ways more intimate than the connecting-genitals part. Anyone else agree?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

This poem by Robert Pinsky really needs no introduction and I'd be hard pressed to actually explain what I like about it. I like basically everything about it.
It is incredibly simple, yet profound.

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had

No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.

When I had no ears I thought.

When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made

Care my father. When I had

No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made

Quiet my friend. When I had no

Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have

No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune

Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment

Is my strategy. When I had

No lover I courted my sleep.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This job would be great if it weren't for the customers

As previously discussed on this blog, I am fully aware that I don't *have* to wait tables, that I am capable of getting and holding down a more "stable" day job. But I like working in a restaurant most of the time. People behave rather astonishingly when they are dining out. Usually, I'm amused by the oddities I witness and strange requests (such as a martini with a straw) but sometimes my friendly, professional veneer cracks and I want to pour scalding hot coffee over all the patrons in my section. To avoid this fate, here are some handy tips on how to not be an asshole in a restaurant:

1. If you don't want ice in your Diet Coke, the time to tell me that is when you order it, not when I bring it to the table.

2. If it's not on the menu, we don't have it, even if you had it the last time you were here.

3. If you have a gift certificate, you should still tip on the amount you spent INCLUDING THE GIFT CERTIFICATE. If the gift certificate is for $50 and your total before that's deducted is $100, you should tip on the $100 (i.e. at least $15).

4. I heard you the first time when you asked for decaf. Ask again and it might be a looooog, jittery, sleepless night.

5. Please just sit where the hostess tries to seat you. You will get the same food/service no matter where you sit and it throws everything off sometimes if you insist on sitting where you want.

6. I am happy to make suggestions and tell you what I like, but I don't know your life. Chicken or salmon? Mushroom omelet or brioche french toast? It's all delicious. MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY, I HAVE OTHER TABLES.

7. I mean, it's your dollar, but if you're ordering your steak well done and your fish cooked through, might I suggest dining at the Marriott down the street? The chef there is masterful when it comes to overcooking protein.

8. If you order a $75 bottle of wine with your meal and pay with a black Amex, I think you can manage an 18-20% tip, unless I do something egregious. My hourly is $2.65 and your annual fee is $2500.

9. Don't ask me to split the check 5 ways. Unless you're dining with total strangers you will never see again after this meal, I'm guessing you can work it out somehow.

10. Please don't talk to me like I have the IQ of a seared sea scallop. I'm a college-educated, self-supporting professional earning a graduate degree. I also happen to know a lot about food and wine, which is why I'm at your table. And I want you to have the best experience possible, so if you're polite, I promise everything will be lovely.