Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm on a traaaain and I'm taaaaalkiiiiing

Delightful. My commuting experience isn't quite horrific enough. Now it will be.

Actually, it doesn't much affect me, since I take the 503 anyway. There isn't much cell phone use on that bus, surprisingly, but there are a lot of blond girls with Burberry scarves talking loudly. God bless the iPod.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shun the grad student, Charlie. Sshhhhhuuuuunnnnnnn.


In the spirit of attempting to keep this to amusing and interesting life stories and not letting it become Another Cancer Blog, here's something I posted on myspace about this past Sunday, which made me rather cranky. I even took a picture of me being cranky (it's part of a school project if you can believe that.) I fully expect lambasting from Pam, who has decided to forgo all of her spare time and possible spare cash to in fact spend more time in libraries:

(11.11.07) I should have stayed home and had a beer

The end of the term is fast approaching and because I spent a month focused on my dad and not much else, I've lost a lot of time at work and in school. Working crazy hours to catch up has cut into my homework time, and I lost every weekend in October to 90% trips to NH and 10% heavy drinking to deal with trips to NH... suffice it to say this weekend has been crucial in getting my academic act together.

This past Monday one of my teachers lectured the class on how great libraries are, and to be honest, I was a little ashamed as I realized that I used to love libraries, and I still do enjoy going to the Copley library to study, but I don't think of them as useful resources for information any longer. How could I have abandoned libraries, that made advanced reading material available to me much earlier than my parents would have allowed (i.e. reading "Go Ask Alice" when I was 10)? Libraries, that have such great sales on the first Saturday of every other month and let me find such classics as the now-out-of-print "Preppy Handbook" and only charge me 25 cents for it. How could I have forsaken them? So today I declined a second bloody mary with Melissa and headed into town to make my peace with the library.

Except apparently the library is still pissed at me.

The only BPL branch open on Sundays is the Copley branch, and it's only open from 1 - 5. I entered the building at 1:08. By 1:20 I was storming out, empty handed and furious. I had found the correct floor, found a few helpful items in the electronic catalog, and a reference librarian had pointed me in the right direction. Except when I got to that area, all of the books on RFID (the topic I'm researching for not one but two papers) were gone. And not checked out, because they were in-library use only. And not being used, because there were no empty spaces in which to re-shelve the books. Just GONE. Not a single one of the four books I had expected to find were either there or in neighboring sections. No matter, I had written down some more call numbers in another section... but the same story waited for me there. Weird, right? So I went back to the reference desk and explained the situation.

REFERENCE LIBRARIAN: Do you have a call number?
ME: Yes, it was the one I showed you about four minutes ago when you pointed me in that direction. None of the books are there.
RL: (blank look) I don't know.
ME: (pause in disbelief) Um. Well. OK. Are any other branches open today?
RL: No, we're the only one. (pulls out sheet with branch information to show like 4 billion other libraries listed, all closed on Sundays)
ME: Um. OK. Um.
RL: You should try a bookstore.
ME: A bookstore? Really?
RL: Yes, bookstore.
ME: Bookstore.
RL: Bookstore.

In a day when libraries are fighting to stay open and get people in the door, their big selling points as far as I can see are A. knowledgable and helpful staff; B. a wide selection of old and new materials; C. they're free. A bookstore is none of these things. But to a bookstore I suppose I shall go, shunned by the library as I have shunned it.

Farewell, library. We had some good times together. But I guess the day has come for us to both move on.

***written from the Simmons College library, where the very few books on RFID they do have are actually e-books and accessed through an e-book website, once again defeating the purpose of my being at a library, particularly when there is a girl on the designated quiet study floor eating rice cakes like Peter Griffin eating potato chips in Anne Frank's attic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stupid cancer

I wanted this to be a blog about my adventures in Boston. Unfortunately, I'm starting to have adventures of a different sort - the sort that involve many drives to North Conway, NH to visit my dad who has just been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. I didn't want to make another cancer blog, but there's a danger of this turning into one simply because it's a rather life-consuming situation. Here are a few observations I have made in the last week and a half since the diagnosis was made:

1. People don't know what to say when you tell them your dad has cancer. It helps to share this news in the proximity of alcohol - when in doubt, take a swig. Applies to either party.

2. I didn't realize so many people were going to online medical school. Everyone, it seems, is an expert on all matters cancerous. Which is handy since every person's cancer is exactly the same and reacts exactly the same way to treatment... oh... wait.

3. It's hard to know what to say when people assure me he will be fine. He has a better chance of getting hit by a bus in the parking lot of the hospital than of the chemo shrinking the cancer... this is a direct quote from one of the doctors and I promise not as horrible as it sounds when in context of the conversation we were having.

4. My sister-in-law is a flat out, cold-souled bitch. If she caught on fire and were pushed off a cliff, the only way I would be sad is if I hadn't had a chance to participate. I don't use the word hate often. I use it every way possible about everything she is and stands for.

5. My biggest fear (besides my dad dying, but that seems a little wasteful to fear now, yes?) is that I will lose people in my life. I won't be around as much. When I'm here, I won't always be as fun. I will sometimes cry for no reason. More than I do now. I will need attention and ego stroking. More than I do now. I will not have as much energy to devote to being good to the people I love. I will be different. I'm scared people won't like me anymore, or as much. This is a silly fear given how amazing my friends and my boyfriend have been thus far and in every other crappy situation I've found myself in, but in the end we can all agree no one wants to hang out with a party pooper, and no one poops on a party more than cancer. Pun sort of intended.

6. I hate subcultures, but I find myself inexplicably drawn in. I hate ribbons, but I posted one on my myspace page. I hate that communities and support groups and entire societies with their own trends and language sprout up for every characteristic a human being can have. People with red hair, Catholics, red-headed Catholics... and I just wouldn't understand because I'm not in the group. Well, now I'm welcome to be part of the colon cancer culture, and as much as I don't want to be I'm also sort of curious as to what information I can find out that way. I wonder if it will offer support and a haven or if it will just piss me off to always have to talk about cancer there.

7. This sucks.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Restaurant review: Aegean Restaurant

Monday was a perfect September day - hot in the sun, cool in the shade, and the day off from work. Because my boyfriend and I have such different schedules, we don't get many days to be lazy and we certainly don't get many nights to go out to dinner. When I suggested it, we were waiting at a light near the Home Depot in Watertown and he looked around for the first suggestion he could find which turned out to be Aegean Restaurant. "Greek food tonight?" he asked. Well... er... um... sure. I'd never been in, but imagined a diner ambiance with the kind of greasy, heavy Greek food you buy at a state fair stand. But, you know, I like greasy food, so off we went.

The parking lot was packed, and filled with Cadillacs and elderly people. We looked at each other with raised eyebrows and contemplated going somewhere else, but we opted for an adventure instead. Once inside, the crowd was slightly more diverse although we were easily the youngest people there by about 10 years. We also felt slightly underdressed in shorts and Tshirts. I was reminded of the days when my parents and I would go out to dinner in South Jersey - even when we went to a diner, there were efforts made to clean up first. Slacks were often involved. While I don't think you should always have to dress to impress, and I'm generally a fan of high end food in a casual atmosphere, I like signs that our civilization is not entirely lost by efforts made to look nice before leaving the house. (Don't even get me started on what people wear to the symphony. I've seen sweatpants. SWEAT. PANTS. Do a lot of sweating over the oboe, do you?)

The restaurant was nothing like a diner. It was very clean, lots of blue and white giving it a crisp but warm feel. The lighting was soft and welcoming, and the glass fireplace in the middle of the dining room I already guess will be one of my new favorite destinations on a slushy day this winter. There was a lovely bar area, bright and clean with a flat screen TV, separated from the dining room by a wall. It has already been suggested that our next trip there involve the bar and a constant stream of olives and grape leaves and feta.

Oh the feta.

We sat down and were promptly delivered a basket of bread and large bowl of feta in warm olive oil. I like feta cheese, but in moderation - I hate the mouth-drying saltiness after too long. But this feta was mild and smooth and amazing, and the olive oil took the edge off a little as the flavors blended together. We quickly devoured the entire bowl. Salads were next (cheese optional, which was a nice touch, but we were all over getting some more of that feta. Pile it on, sister!) and I'll pause here to say that I know this review will sound redundant, but the most suprising thing of the night in every aspect was how light everything was. I expected such heaviness in everything and it was all light and flavorful and fantastic. I left completely stuffed, but still with just a hint of taste in my mouth - you know those meals where you feel like you need some sorbet or tea or gum to lighten the load in your body? I didn't feel like that at all.

But back to the salads.

I'm not a huge fan of what I have come to know as Greek dressing - too heavy, and too oily. This was quite light and tart, more tart than the feta even, and we both ended up soaking up the leftover dressing with bread. A vinegary hint, but without the tooth-squeaking vinegar consistency. They were a perfect predecessor to our meals.

I ordered beef souvlaki. I toyed with the idea of the Greek platter, in order to try many foods at once, but I'd remembered having souvlaki at a diner in Jersey once and really liking it. I seem to remember, however, the meal coming with a creamy sort of herbed sauce. Not so this night. The beef was perfectly medium rare, moderately tender, and lightly herbed. I know, I say light a lot in this review. You were already warned. The green beans were fresh, with a bit of snap to them and a wonderful dill overtone. The roasted potatoes were huge and toasted a slightly crispy brown, mushy but not mealy on the inside with an amazing tart taste that I thought at first was lemon, but it was too sweet to be lemon, so maybe a viniagrette of some kind, or an herbed vinegar? Maybe the salad dressing? No idea, but they were fantastic.

BF went with mousakka which sounded fun and tasted fantastic. Sliced eggplant on the bottom was topped by ground beef (I couldn't help thinking how great this would taste with lamb and/or sausage as well) and some sort of cream cheese layer that was whipped and creamy like really really good mashed potatoes, and a sweet tomato cream sauce over the whole thing. It came with a side of rice that was buttery and blended unbelievably well with more of the tomato sauce on top.

We were so hungry when we sat down that we ate quickly and were stuffed at the end of the meal. I'm still kicking myself for not considering saving room for baklava when I had the chance, although it's certainly a great reason (not that I needed another) to return to Aegean and soon. The portions were perfect, the food delicious, the service quick, and the bill came in around $30. Another successful dinner adventure!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bittersweet

This makes no sense.

I drink dark roast coffee because I like the slightly bitter taste it provides. I like that twenty minutes after I've finished my morning coffee, the taste still lingers on my tongue. Probably not my colleagues' favorite thing about me, but let them drink their Dunkin' Donuts! I like the bite that comes in strong, slightly bitter foods. Pam and I were having a discussion about this recently (by discussion I mean leaving blog comments and by recently I mean July) and it made me think about how my tastes have changed as I have become and adult or reasonable facsimile thereof. I take a certain pride in enjoying distinctive tastes like dark chocolate and dark coffee. There was a Williams-Sonoma tasting incident with an ex-boyfriend once where we basically dared one another to try darker and darker thimblesful of coffee. I think I made it to three or four from the darkest. Imagine a quad latte (I had one of those Friday morning and my hands shook for an hour) without the milk and pressed into a little cup of coffee. Attempt only if you wish to be awake indefinitely - and before you say decaf let me remind you, gentle reader, not to blaspheme whilst reading this blog. Decaf indeed. I don't think it's not good, I simply don't believe it exists.

You know you're making a Princess Bride reference in your head right now. Go ahead. I'll wait.
So back to the point - why on earth would you identify what makes dark roast coffee bitter simply to eliminate it? It's like discovering why we have thumbs, only to take them away. No, maybe dark roast coffee isn't as important to you as a thumb, but maybe it's that important to me. Just maybe.

Part of the beauty of variety is that there's something for everyone. If you don't believe me, go to the Starbucks on the corner of Boylston and Berkeley any weekday morning between 7:30 and 10:00. Fourteen million people (when you are already 20 minutes late for work, that number is not an exaggeration) with fourteen million kinds of orders - things even I, a 'bucks regular, can't identify. Topic for another blog: how on earth do people know how many pumps a drink takes and how do they know how many to ask for, i.e. the six pump chai? Now they want to give everyone another choice - bitter dark roast coffee or mild dark roast coffee? Or maybe just do away with my beloved dark roast altogether to make it more suitable to the palates of wimps?

Where do people get the money for these studies and from where will they find the money to do the necessary testing on beans, in labs, and in focus groups to mess up my coffee? *looks at pay stub where $400 should be and list of taxes taken away is instead and scowls*

It starts here, and it ends with people barricading themselves in their homes with a bunker full of french roast. I'm just saying.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Inconvenience of Art

I picked a terrible time to begin a new blog, apparently. I am working on a highly confidential project at my job which is not as high-powered and intriguing and James Bond as it sounds, and despite all of our denial about it, it's in complete crisis mode, or as close to crisis mode as one can get without literally melting down. I am busy at work and exhausted at home... so much for my nice relaxing summer.

Also, sadly, so much for my attempt to work on my writing. And running. And dieting. Yeah, that's all left to occasional spurts of motivation. I know this would all work better if I set a schedule for myself, but when I have to write "update to do list" on the to do list, and then put post-its over the to do list to highlight the things I have to do each day... well... that's about as much scheduling as gets done around here right now. Staying flexible is key as I enter into a week where at least three if not five major, organization-changing projects come to a head. Within days of one another. Really.

I'd love to be the sort of woman who still manages to get up at 5am to go for a morning jog and credits her cool head under stress with said runs, eating lots of leafy greens, and REM cd's. I am, instead, the sort of woman who credits the fact that everyone around her continues to live with snack food, Sarah Silverman, and sobbing on the floor of a cold shower with a beer on the edge of the tub. Alliteration unintentional.

To my mind I've nothing interesting to write about, and this is the blog where I post interesting things, not self-indulgent rambling, so I'll leave you with this tidbit to mull while you wait for my next post:

Friday night I had a few friends over to enjoy the front porch. When it is perfectly still everywhere, there is always a lovely cool breeze on my front porch. It is positioned directly above one of the most entertaining intersections in Brighton Center. My roommate and I have become somewhat of a Statler and Waldorf of Brighton. My friends, of course, love to enjoy this show with a few beverages and light refreshments, which often turn into long nights of both philosophical and nonsensical conversation. Friday was no exception, with the talk running late into the night and early into the following morning - early enough to see the start of sunrise as The Boyfriend and I walked back to his place. I was surprised that we had no interruption from the neighbors, as we were quite loud at times, although we did get the attention of a passerby around 4:00 AM. He said he had a weird favor to ask and we thought that he, as many drunken pedestrians before him, would ask us to throw down a beer or cigarette. Instead he asked for a butter knife, explaining a bit vaguely that there was an apartment he needed to get into, and he didn't have the key, but then as he kept talking it changed to his key broke in the lock - the only thing that was certain was that he was continuing to ask for a butter knife to get in somewhere that he couldn't. Odd that he seemed to know a butter knife would do the trick, and not a screwdriver or other flat tool. Odd also that he called a friend as he walked away without the butter knife (one of the boys told him we didn't live there and they didn't want to give away the utensils of the sleeping tenants) and couldn't have called a locksmith.

Which begs the question - could it be possible we thwarted a robbery simply by refusing to toss this man silverware?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Ina Garten would be proud

Since I moved to Boston in 2000, I have rarely enjoyed the luxury of having my apartment all to my self. A non-profit income and high rents dictate that my housing situation involve at least two other people, often more. In June, though, my friend Karen and I decided we'd played enough den mother to our peers and gave up crowded living situations to move into a two-bedroom apartment.

Living with only one other person comes with its own set of pros and cons, but it is certainly less stressful and invasive than sharing freezer space with three women. I enjoy Karen's company and like coming home to a friend every night. I also like being alone in the apartment, a situation I find myself in much more frequently now.

This weekend, Karen went home to Pennsylvania to sell her Jeep (seems no one in Boston is jumping at the chance to pay off her lease. Shocking.) and I have been home alone for three days. I jumped at the chance to spend some time uninterrupted in the kitchen, although the humid weather hasn't left me exactly itching to play with the stove. Instead, I hit Haymarket for lots of cheap vegetables and citrus and tried my hand at ceviche, something I can't do when Karen is home because she hates fish. Loudly.

I couldn't find red snapper - to be honest, I didn't look very far because I wasn't up for a citywide trek - so I used cod, which turned out quite well. I am surprised at how good this is. I'd never heard of it before trying it at Eastern Standard this winter, and once the bartender told me the basic idea behind it, I'd been wanting to make it. I don't remember the ceviche at ESK being this sweet (I don't think they use orange juice) nor having avocado, and although delicious, I definitely prefer my own for taste and cost.

I had some for lunch today - just a big ol' bowl of ceviche. I don't know that it's how I'm supposed to eat it, but I did anyway because it's delicious. Tangy and crisp and fresh, it's the perfect thing to eat on a summer day when your friend Matt has gotten drunk and broken the knob on the air conditioner.

I was on a roll, and I was also swimming in fresh mint, which I had bought for the ceviche but hadn't needed much of. I actually overbought on every item save for the fish, and now my kitchen boasts a huge bowl of lemons, limes and oranges, and my refrigerator looks like an herb jungle with mint, flat parsley (which I grabbed quickly, thinking it was cilantro) and cilantro. Not wanting to spend the next six hours making pitchers of mojitos, I turned to a recipe on Cave Cibum that caught my eye last month. I used real sugar and ground ginger since I didn't have Splenda or fresh ginger, and a little more vinegar than was called for because I really love vinegar, and the results were not only beautiful but sweet and spicy and pungent. Deeeelightful.

Coming soon to a kitchen near you: cilantro pesto.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Saturday night's all right for offending

Saturday night, my roommate and I ventured over the river to the Middle East to see my friend Rob perform with his old band, Pure Fiction. We were pretty psyched because A. we dig Rob and B. anything breaking out of the "let's see how drunk we can get" weekend cycle is always welcomed.

We often talk of wanting to do new things, but in the end the lack of cover charge and transportation obstacles keep us at or near home. Karen isn't as used to this because she has a car and is usually willing to drive and attempt to park; I don't even have a car and the thought of trying to park makes me feel like I have ants in my pants. Literally - it makes me jittery, anticipating driving around the block for 20 minutes when we're probably already late because we hit traffic on Storrow. Score one for optimism. Anyway, Karen is selling her car next weekend, so this was good practice for what her life will be like as dictated by public transportation schedules. I don't think she was a huge fan - it took us an hour by bus to get somewhere a car could have brought us in about 15 to 20 minutes.

As we got off the bus in Central Square, a young-ish man, probably in his mid-twenties, held out both his arms as though to bear hug us and said, "Laaaadiiieeeeeees." I know this spiel already. I get it every day in Back Bay, from college kids or underemployed recent graduates who are still naive enough to think they can pay rent in Boston without having some sort of crappy office job. They answer ads that promise them $600 a week, and enjoying their summer, and helping the environment - really what they are doing is the emotional equivalent of standing on a street corner in a hot dog suit. I have done jobs like this before, and they are horrible and humiliating and the entire time you're doing it you feel like a sucker for having believed the ad in the first place. But you smile and harass people because you have to eat. I get it. What I don't get is how on earth these kids justify being so rude when they do it.

I dislike being approached by a stranger as though I am his/her best friend. It makes me wary immediately - why do you want me to trust you right away? Why do you want me to feel chummy toward you so soon? Is it because you're going to reach for my wallet? Not sure where this paranoia came from: city living, growing up with a conservative veteran father who was (and is) convinced that the world is out to get him and his family, or my own neuroses. At any rate, I dislike the approach some of these people take, and I've noticed Greenpeace and Oxfam are the very worst of the bunch. They approach with the bear hug stance, which I happen to find sort of threatening, or they say some horrible thing akin to the slimy sayings of a washed-up lounge pianist. "Now there are some environmentalists!" "I know you want to save the world today!" Blech. The more aggressive the person, the more angry my glare. So when I stepped off a bus and was immediately accosted, one can imagine I was less than thrilled. I didn't much bother with a glare, but rather walked well out of touching range of the bear-hugging hippie, and up the street toward my destination. Polite enough, I thought. And apparently racist.

Bear-hug said as I passed by him, "Ooooohhh someone's scared of black guys." And as I kept walking without looking back he started yelling at me about how scared I was of black people, and how racist I was.

Seriously?

I don't dislike you because you're black. I dislike you because you are an aggressive hippie, who should probably have gotten an internship this summer instead of this crappy job because I hate to break it to you, but harassing people for Oxfam doesn't look as good on your resume as you think it will. And now I dislike you because you are screaming judgments at me as I walk down the street. I wish he was wearing an easily identifiable logo, or that I had looked for one, because I really want to contact some organization and just let them have it. Based on my past experiences, I'm guessing it's some kind of environmental group. I want to find CFCs and release them into the air; I want to eat lots of steak and fill the atmosphere with cow farts; I want to find a copy of Al Gore's Powerpoint and stomp on it. I want to, in fact, do the complete opposite of what this guy was hired to ask me to do. And I want to do it because he's such a jerk.

What makes people think this is ok? Did he think I would come back and argue with him? The tricky thing about racism is that you can't prove you're not racist any other way than to just not be a racist. To try to explain it in words makes you sound like a jackhole. "My best friend is black." "I dated black guys in high school." "My mom's best friend was black and she practically raised me." I wasn't about to give him any more fodder. And what if the situation was reversed? What if he was white and I was black? Would he have even thought to call me racist? Would he have dared?

My dad is retired Army. My mother is a teacher who can't work because she's been declared Too Crazy to Work by the State of Pennsylvania. Although my parents struggled on and off welfare until I was a toddler, I don't remember life being particularly uncomfortable or comfortable. We were what I consider the average American blue collar family. We drove to our vacation destinations because we couldn't afford to fly. My school clothes were from KMart. When I got older and wanted something over $100 or so, my parents would agree to split the cost with me. I earned the money and paid for half of my class ring, prom dress, field hockey stick, and my senior class trip. Now I live paycheck to paycheck and am wondering if I can use some excess grad school loans to pay off some of what I owe on my undergrad loans.

Given all of these things, I can barely express in words how frustrated and furious it makes me when, simply because I am a white female, it is assumed I am also rich, racist, and all the horrible attributes that accompany the Beacon Hill socialite sterotype. To consider that someone would feel comfortable making these assumptions aloud makes me absolutely enraged. And to realize that there isn't anything I can do about it makes me absolutely exhausted.

But Rob was a total rock star. So, you know, I had that going for me.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Farmer in the (Copley) Square

There are many perks to working in Back Bay. I can blow off steam by crossing the street and taking a walk around the Public Garden. There is a Starbucks on my commute route. I am never far from the Schlesinger sandwich at Parish. And every Tuesday and Friday, I can visit the Copley Square Farmer's Market for lunch.

There is nothing that speaks to summer more (nothing that doesn't involve gin, anyway) like being surrounded by aromatic herbs and flowers while poking through fresh baked goods, brilliant tomatoes, and the ever famous goat cheese picnic from Crystal Brook Farm. If you've ever been to a farmer's market in Boston, chances are you've seen them - a sweet paper lunch bag with a stamped sticket on the front, and inside slices of baguette, a tiny box of raisins, and a small container of goat cheese in oil with Herbs de Provence. When I say small, I mean enough to slather on the bread and still have some left to spoon out with your finger. If you would be so gauche enough to do such a thing at your desk at work. Ahem.

Courtney and I took a much needed afternoon break around 3 and headed to the market. I picked up some organic baby lettuce for dinner tonight, and some Mediterranean goat cheese spread to bring to the beach tomorrow. Mmm. Sun and lactose.

I'm Spicy!

This is fantastic news. I have a deep appreciation for mind-melting pop culture that is self-aware.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The first of many

As a writer, and a rather hip young lady to boot, it seems I ought to be blogging. Aside from the general weekend recaps I post on Myspace, that is. I hope for this blog to chronicle my experiences and observations in creative ways that truly express both my personal style and professional abilities.

So no typing angrily about the intern who hates to wear shoes.