August 24, 2009

I'll Have What He's Having

I've decided that I really just need to consult the Food TV program guide in order to plan my meals for the week. It would make things a lot easier.

It's no secret that I love food, probably too much. And I've come to learn that I'm highly suggestible. I'm probably a food marketer's wet dream: Show it and she will buy. The "Lobsterfest" commercials alone have sent me running for the nearest crustacean. But the tantalizing lure of the Food Network, so easily accessed day or night, is by far the greatest culprit.

The worst: Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Unwrapped and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives are perpetual troublemakers. A more recent addition is The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Any one of those can easily determine my latest food obsession. Oh, Bobby, you're challenging someone who makes the best Pad Thai? Yeah, I'll be getting to a Thai restaurant sooner rather than later. Hmm, and the best fried thing you ever ate is French fries at some restaurant in NYC that I'll never get to? Well, golly, I'll just have to go to my favorite place around here and have some! Making it worse: my mom suffers from the same affliction. If we both watch the same show and are taken with the subject, neither of us can rest until we have it. After a Throwdown on pot stickers (or dumplings as they called them) we were both jonesing for them so badly that we had them twice in one week. Good as the ones we found were, I'm quite certain they're not up to the standard of the ones on the I keep searching.

The best: Iron Chef America and Chopped. As much as I enjoy Iron Chef, I wouldn't eat, make it 95% of what they make, so those are "safe" to watch. I can be incredibly hungry and I will never crave maple-glazed veal sweetbreads, no matter how much I love maple syrup, thank you very much.

But it's not just things on TV. A picture that a friend shared today showing what she was making for dinner threw me into a tizzy of "I NEED pierogi and I need them NOW!!" I had to settle for frozen mass-produced ones from the grocery store instead of the handmade ones I feel sure she had enjoyed, but they did the job and I savored them.

However, they were followed with an hour of online research into where I can find better ones locally. For next time, you know.

August 17, 2009

Hey, hey, hey, I like being cool

No, not "cool" in the figurative "Oh, she's so cool, I want to be just like her" sense. I mean the literal "I like the temperature to be cool pretty much constantly" sense. I can't even pretend to be cool in the former sense, although once in college these two young girls took in my car and belongings as I was moving back in to the dorm for a new year and asked me, "Are you cool?" I still have no idea how I was supposed to answer that. (It was a pretty cool car, I must admit, so I guess I had them fooled.)

Alas, no, it's my unquenchable desire for chill that I'm talking about here. It's why restaurants where I'm a regular bring the BIG glass of ice water when I sit down and why other restaurants are pestered by me for "a glass of ice...just ice" pretty much constantly. It's why I have a fan going on my desk at work when other people have a heater going under theirs. It's why the A/C is on in my car more than it's off. It's why I walk around in short sleeves in the winter, while the people I'm with are dressed for the Arctic. It's why driving in a car with my mother, who's always cold, is like a punishment from the gods of temperature control. It's why the windows in my room are open year-round AND a timed fan is going in there much of the time, too. It's why I sometimes think that moving to Alaska is really my only option, eventually. (A certain Ms. Palin and Alaska politics have made me rethink that, but I'll definitely be going back to visit.)

I like to joke that it's because my thermostat is broken. But honestly, I'm not sure what it is that makes me seek out the frigid instead of the fiery, I just know that it extends to all areas of my life. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a complete wuss when it comes to spicy foods (though I have gotten better!) and can probably guess that my favorite thing about Costco is the cold-storage room where they keep the fruit.

The reason this comes to mind is that I just read a post by my friend, Twenty Four At Heart, at her blog of the same name wherein I got to interview her as a part of the Great Interview Experiment started by Neil of Citizen of the Month. When it comes to temperature preferences, Twenty Four and I are poles apart, but somehow we get along just fine. I hope you'll go over and read her responses to my questions and say hi.

August 04, 2009

An Unconventional Memory Lane

This morning as I left for work, I detoured to the trash enclosure to toss a bag in the dumpster on the way to my car.

Because I'm always running late, I've got this chore down to a science and it's a tribute to economy of motion: Flip gate latch, open gate, three brisk steps in, sweep lid up with one hand, fling bag in with other hand as turning around, three brisk steps back out, close gate and dash.

This morning, however, I was brought up short as I was taking those steps back out. There, on the cinder block retaining wall in front of the recycling bins, was an old metal box, open, full to bursting with photographic slides. The old-fashioned kind that almost no one gets anymore, since you need a slide projector and screen to view them.

I could see handwriting on the crisp white cardboard of some of them, so I lifted a few out, one by one, and held them up to the morning sun. Roses, a spring garden in bloom, a pregnant woman in 70s-style clothes grinning at the camera, the view from the top of a nameless tram.

Even though I really needed to get going, I stood, transfixed. Here was a box of someone's memories, left next to -- but not in -- the trash. As though whoever had put them there knew they needed to go, but couldn't bear to actually be the one to throw them away.

Questions tumbled in my head. Who did they belong to? Why had they been abandoned? Had the person who took them, collected them and arranged them so carefully over so many years died? Was there no one in the family who would have wanted this treasure trove of history? Did it upset the person who left the box behind to have to do it?

I stood there and contemplated closing the box up tight against its fate, tucking it under my arm and taking it with me. But I don't have a projector. I don't have a screen. I don't have a clue whose memories were sitting there in that unusual box, one step away from the landfill.

It saddened me to put the slides back, shut the lid, and walk away.

But most days it seems that I hardly have room for my own memories. How could I try to take on those of a stranger?

August 02, 2009

Finding Balance at BlogHer

I knew that it would take me a while to get around to writing about BlogHer, and now that most everyone has already published their posts, you should be good and warmed up for mine.

The overall theme for me at my first BlogHer was "Balance." Right from the start, it was a trip filled with ups and downs and I had to roll with them the best I could.

UP: Got to the airport on time and sailed through security (even though I forgot to take my netbook out of my purse).
DOWN: My flight was at the gate the absolute farthest from where I went through security (in a new terminal that I didn't even know was open and I was at the last gate of it).

UP: There was a food vendor open in this new terminal (Note: A vendor. One.) so I was able to grab some breakfast.
DOWN: By the time I had, miserly pastry in hand, my group was boarding and I couldn't really enjoy my chocolate milk.

UP: I was able to get an aisle seat in the completely full flight.
DOWN (Big Down): A man I shall forever refer to as The Hick From Hell took the middle seat next to me. Four of the worst hours in my life on an airplane ensued. Before we'd even left the tarmac, he opened his mouth and started spewing the most ignorant, bigoted, hateful, I've-been-hand-fed-by-the-right-wing-rabblerousers-and-I've-swallowed-it-whole crap at full voice. As we were surrounded by a very diverse crowd (hello, you're in San Jose, asshole), I both feared and hoped that someone would take issue with him. (They didn't.) Then he started drinking Jack Daniels at 8:00am (he ordered three, for a four-hour flight) and my revulsion was complete. Thankfully I had my MP3 player, very good earbuds and extra batteries. I ignored him, completely, which annoyed him. So when we were back on terra firma and I whipped out my phone to reconnect with sane people, I was subjected to his "Gee, I'm just a hick" ridicule for being one of "them people" who are pathetic (because we're able to use a cell phone; they are "beyond him") for being connected. Blood boils once more. I get the fuck out of there the moment I can. Oh, except that I let the lovely Mexican family sitting across from us (and technically behind us) exit first, just to piss him off.

DOWN: Waiting a really long time for the car to take me to the hotel.
UP #1: During that time I got to hang out with and get to know the charming Christina, who I'd been introduced to by the equally charming Andrea. She kept me from gnawing my arm off because by this time I was so hungry my head was starting to hurt.
UP #2: When we'd gotten a call from the limo company and moved outside to wait for our ride, we were approached by a woman who asked if we were bloggers, too. We'd walked past a group of women who were also waiting, unaware that they were waiting for the same car. (We should have some sort of sticker or tag to be able to identify a fellow attendee.) We carted our stuff over to where they were standing and I was thinking about calling the limo company again to ask where the hell this guy was, when a woman comes up to me and asks, "Maura?" I looked back at her with what was probably a classic blank stare, trying desperately to place her. I couldn't. Then she said her name and I almost got knocked over by a blast from the past. Linsey and I used to work together when I first moved to California. I hadn't seen her in around 16 years! We lost touch when I left that job, as so often happens, though I thought of her often and wondered what she was up to. I don't know how she recognized me right off, but it was a total trip getting caught up. A trip we took in a stretch SUV limo with neon lights; it felt like a bachelorette party with nine of my newest (and one oldest) friends.

UP: The beds at the Sheraton. (Slept like a dream.)
DOWN: The beds at the Sheraton. (Slept right through breakfast because I was so cozy.)

DOWN: People I thought would want to spend time with me made it fairly clear that they really weren't interested in doing so all that much.
UP: People I didn't know I'd get to spend time with wanted to do so and it made for some very memorable and worthwhile moments.

UP: The swag.
DOWN: The swag drama. Was there too much of it? Yes. Was there some really neat stuff that I'm glad I got a chance to sample? Yes. Did I like being able to bring gifts back to my friends and family since I barely left the hotel and didn't do any shopping? Big yes. (The not shopping thing was kind of weird, but good for the old wallet, certainly.) Did I ever behave in an unbecoming manner in pursuit of any swag? No. I was appalled by the behavior I heard about and was really glad I didn't witness any. There was only one swag bag I really wanted and that was the one from the Room 704 girls, who threw a hugely successful party. (Possibly too successful.) I love those girls like you wouldn't believe and I wanted to have a piece of them...I mean, the take home with me. My bag was long gone by the time I got to the party.
UP: Because they rock, hardcore, I did get a bag from my girls, even though there were some shameless people who took bags that were marked for people. It was classic Room 704 style and I'm grateful that they went out of their way to do that for me.

UP: The keynote address let me hear the words of some bloggers I'd never met or read before, and there were both hilarious and poignant moments. (If you weren't there, you should absolutely go read those posts, or watch the videos of them being read. Some incredible talent there.)
DOWN: Many of those words made me want to put my head down on the table and sob like a child. It was all I could do to keep it together, and if I hadn't been seated between two guys (the fantastic brotherly duo of Ben and Matthew) who I'd pretty much only just met, I very well might have. Then again, pretty much everyone was crying, so I probably could have.

UP: The people. The bloggers and tweeters I knew online and got to meet in person, the bloggers I met (in any way) for the first time, the people I only got to say "hi" to, the people I met and talked to in line and never saw again, the vendors who brought their wares for us and were so kind in talking about them, and the woman I had lunch with on Saturday because she looked like she needed a place to sit and we had such a lovely time.
DOWN: The talk by and about some people.
BIGGER UP: The people I got to spend significant amounts of time with during those four days. Just the best people and I am so delighted that I got to have that experience with you Stacey, Renee, Marinka, Kirsten, Kari, Issa, Heather, Caitlin and all of the individuals linked to above. Thank you for helping me keep my equilibrium at BlogHer.