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.


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.