Archive for January, 2009

Spirit animals

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I checked Louise Erdrich’s new book Plague of Doves out of the library for two reasons. One: her ex-husband was Michael Dorris, whose writing I loved immensely (although research into his life reveals he was kind of a big nasty creep). I figure if I were a great writer, I wouldn’t marry someone whose writing sucked, and based on this, since Dorris was so fantastic, Erdrich can’t be too shabby herself. I know this is a bad reason to check out a book. WORSE yet is my second reason.

The cover. It’s so good. It’s so birdie and nice and a little Escher-y. I am no art critic, but hell, I would hang this on my wall. (This isn’t even really a compliment, in retrospect, coming from the person who hung a south-western themed TRAY on her bedroom wall merely because it had a cactus on it and was turquoise and purple). The more that I look at this cover, the more I am thinking about how much I love birdies. This is making me think about spirit animals, which is making me a little bit sad because I know doves, and their other feathered cousins, are not my spirit animals. I think about spirit animals a lot. I am 99% sure that my spirit animal is the humble otter. I like to swim, and lay on my back in the water, and stand up on my back legs looking curious, and have endless energy, all of which I share with otters. My brother recently told me an anecdote about how he left a party early, and right after he left, his friends were assigning spirit animals to everyone at the party, and without his presence, they were fumbling for a new animal and assigned him THE FANCY CHICKEN. He is no fancy chicken, you fools. Also I have been told before that rats are my spirit animals, and I reject this emphatically, although I do have rodent-y features (i.e. Really Big Teeth). I also have to give big, big props to T. for breaking spirit animals down a lot better than I ever will.

This is basically all to say that last night I started reading Plague of Doves. Mountains out of molehills, people. That’s my thing.

Musings on Melt

Monday, January 26th, 2009

OMC and I made a trip to Ohio on Saturday to, amongst family visitings, eat at Melt.  Preface: this is kind of a disappointing story.  At Melt, they told us it would be an hour and 45 minute wait.  While I am not opposed to waiting many hours for delicious food (I have done this for Ethiopian food more times than I can count), add to that a 2.5 hour drive in the snow and we were looking at a 1 am bedtime.  I can barely keep my eyes open past 11 pm, and OMC collapses without hourly infusions of caffeine, so this was obviously Not Going To Happen.  As we were leaving, totally defeated and dejected, destined to eat Shmuffins and Shmiscuits, I noticed a Take-Out sign.  Thank god.  We got beers and sat there for awhile while they made our food, which provided for ample gawking at Cleveland-ites.  This restaurant has the weirdest clientèle.  1/3 hipsters drinking tall cans of PBR, 1/3 normies straight outta Shadyside, and 1/3 people who looked like my parents.  Their popularity was a good sign for us.  A place this “diverse” and busy must be tasty, right?  Our food was finished, and I was a little drunk, so we ate in the car.  In every picture OMC took I have copious amounts of food in my teeth, so they will never see the light of day.  But believe me this, it was good.  Worth the hype, and the drive, and eating in the car with no napkins.  Also they have vegan cheese, for vegan readers.

I am 20 pages away from finishing Apples & Oranges, and am dreading finishing it.  Lots to say about it.  I am going to miss my brother terribly.  Etc.

Also, a federal agent came to talk to me while I was writing this post, which might explain the disjointedness of it.  As I said to ol’ snags, “i was mid-blog when the feds stopped by.”  Weird.

On brotherfriends

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Those of you who know even one teensy iota of information about me know that my brother is my dearest, bestest friend and my most favorite person on the planet. This might not be reciprocal. I think he’s a riot but he might think I’m a lame-o. Our relationship is not one built on questions, or personal insight, though. Never would I ask: “Do you think I’m great? Do you love me? TELL ME.” This would be silly. This would result in me getting punched. Really hard. Our relationship is based on FUN, food, beer, making fun of people, doing yoga, being competitive, making bets whose winnings include either Dairy Queen cakes (those ones with the crunchy chocolate pieces inside) or pizzas, me imitating either women from Kentucky or yinzers or our mother, and primarily, my brother asking me to net him babes. It might go without saying that we have a goddamn blast together. However, should you not believe me, this picture should aid in convincing you:

Knowing all of this, imagine my consternation at learning that my beloved brother is moving back to Toronto next month. I am crushed, I tell ya. While I learned of this information weeks ago, is it ever more poignant as I have begun reading Marie Brenner’s memoirish book, Apples & Oranges. Brenner and her brother had one of those childhoods that seems utterly mysterious to me: siblings that don’t like each other? Siblings that fight and mean it? Siblings that aren’t fighting in traffic just to piss their dad off? Who’d have thought those actually existed!? Ever more mysterious to me is that Brenner and her brother continued this relationship until adulthood, ultimately and sadly, until her brother died. I will report back on this book, as it is really quite good, and so very well-written (thanks Michiko Kakutani! Your top ten list of ’08 was the shit!).

I finished the child soldier book last night, and kind of sat there sniffling at my kitchen table feeling like a big baby because of the ending. I don’t often get all writer-jargony anymore, but Beah had a terrific grasp on the narrative frame, and this made the book fly by for me. I continued to feel like an awful bitch when I was complaining about having cramps and he was writing about having a bullet wedged in his foot for three weeks, watching his uncle die, being addicted to cocaine, etc. I don’t often learn much about myself anymore from books, but this book truly did make me want to shape up and be a better version of me.

Perspective: what a bitch

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I have been in the worst, meanest, crabbiest, most sensitive mood this weekend. Sometimes I am so irritating that I irritate myself. I was listening to the inaugural coverage on NPR this morning and they were all “omg history is being made here!!! Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving at the Mall for HISTORY!!” and I was like “grumble grumble why go to D.C. when I can just observe history from MY DESK grumble grumble I hate everything grumble if I were there I would be so complainy and miserable.” Can’t I just admire a remarkable, good thing like most of the country (all my skepticisms aside, it is a remarkable day and achievement)?!

Last night I started reading A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier, by Ishmael Beah. Beah grew up in Sierra Leone, and was a child soldier there in the Civil War of the 90′s. His descriptions of warfare are utterly, unfathomably horrific–I’m actually surprised I slept last night. I feel like such a terrible, awful bitch for being such a waste of life this weekend, for taking endless naps, complaining about walking the dog in the cold, neglecting the dishes and my laundry so I could sit and be grumpy. Beah lost his entire family–two brothers, his father, his mother, his grandmother, most of his friends. Because I only read about a quarter of the book last night, he hasn’t yet become a soldier–thus far he has just run and run and run and miraculously, miraculously, escaped rebels again and again and again. This book doesn’t need my acclaim or my praise–everyone in the world has already praised it. It is making me think and reflect and cry and want to be a lot stronger & better than I am. This is all that I can say for it yet.

Also, go Steelers. This is all.

Good ideas that I didn’t have first.

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Two summers ago I went, amongst many other beautiful places, to Hamburg.  There I promptly caught a cold and largely sat in cafes reading, scowling, trying to order decaffeinated tea in my terrible German, and sniffling pathetically.  It was one of those colds that wouldn’t be so bad if you were at home in your sweatpants with season one of the O.C. and an acceptably close proximity to Pho Minh.  In Hamburg, though, it kind of sucked.  It kind of tainted my Hamburg experience.  I will always associate Hamburg with “that week I got sick and didn’t want to do anything but be grumpy.”  Nonetheless, something wonderful came of my Hamburg vacay.  I discovered, on a morning stumble from my hostel to the subway, a restaurant whose sign consisted merely of a potato, wrapped in foil.  A restaurant whose menu advertised in German AND English.   A restaurant whose menu advertised, in two of the loveliest and weirdest languages I can imagine, EXCLUSIVELY baked potatoes.  Holy shit.  This was magic to my crusty eyeballs.  Later that day, I ate dinner at the baked potato restaurant.  It was one of the best meals I can ever remember.  I ate there several more times, tissues clutched in my lil hand as I sadly sampled every ‘tater on the menu.  I can’t remember where this place was in Hamburg, or what it was called, if it was really as delicious as I remember, but alas, I am still hooked on the idea of baked potato restaurants.  Potential restaurateurs of Pittsburgh, let it be known: if you open a baked potato restaurant here, I will be there.  I will pay your bills with my appetite.

I have to go to Cleveland a lot.  Like, an ungodly amount of my life has been spent in Cleveland.  My grandparents live near Cleveland, and my grandma is a frequent visitor of the Cleveland Clinic (it is here that I once discovered how delish Au Bon Pain is when you cannot look at another nurse and another IV, etc.).  There are plenty of restaurants in Cleveland that I sincerely adore.  There is a lot about Cleveland, also, that I seriously love.  Hear that!  A Pittsburgher who loves Cleveland!  Hah!  I was recently planning a visit to ol’ granny and grampy, googlin’ restaurants in Cleveland and stuff, when I landed on a blog entry writing of a GRILLED CHEESE RESTAURANT.  My little heart went pitter patter.  Oh my god.  This is such a brilliant idea.  Lazy people like me LOVE grilled cheese, and sometimes (often) are too lazy to make it!!  Sometimes lazy people even like gourmet toppings on our grilled cheese.  I salute this idea, and vow to visit this establishment ASAP.

OMC recently moved out of an apartment with laundry and into an apartment without laundry.  While I’ve offered the use of my own machines, he refuses, and instead visits the laundromat.   While I have a secret love of the laundromat, because it always guaranteed at least 2 hours that I could sit, read, knit and observe passersby, he does not share my feelings.  He hates it.  It’s boring, he says.  I suggested crosswords.  Sodoku.  Writing that little dissertation thing he sometimes works on.  Nah, none of those are good ideas.  SO for those who are incapable of dealing with boredom, I propose a laundromat/movie theater/library/arcade.  I haven’t quite worked out the logistics (I haven’t had coffee yet this morning), but to me, it seems sort of genius.  I can’t even imagine a world where using the laundromat is more fun that it already is, so this idea is revolutionary to me.  Confession: I am also amused and wildly entertained by string, paper and a myriad of other boring things, so what do I know.

Pizza!!!!!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I really, really, really, really, really love reading food and restaurant reviews.  I have love/hate relationships with the ‘burgh reviewers (China!  I love you!  Call me!  I adore Munch on 8 out of 10 days.  Jason & Angelique, you are the WORST and STOP USING THE WORD TOOTHSOME), but my fondness for Frank Bruni is outta control.  I read a heck of a lot of restaurant reviews in a given week, but none of China or Frank’s wonderful, often harsh and descriptive qualities ever really rub off on me.

Case in point: last night, my parents took my brother (who turned 30 yesterday, heralding a subsequent nervous breakdown, I’m sure) and I to Dinette last night for birthday eatin’s.  Everyone ever in the history of the past 2 months has loooooved Dinette (maybe the reason I could never be a food reviewer is because I exaggerate wildly on the regular?), so I was completely prepared to be bowled over with deliciousness.  And, sure, it was good.  I ate some pizzas.  The cauliflower pizza was the bomb.  The ricotta one was good, but sparse on toppings.  As a child, I was schooled in the ways of Vincent’s Pizza Park, where your standard piece of Vinnie Pie is so loaded down with toppings that you can barely pick it up.   Man’s pizza, we called it.  The ricotta pizza, well, it was kind of for wimps.  Four pieces of basil for one pizza?!  Vinnie and I think not.

Pluses: Their wine list is unreal, affordable and excellent.  They sell cans of Iron City for $1, and I have to respect that.  Dinette has an Excelerator air-dryer in the bathroom.  I love those.  They squish all of your hand skin off your bones.  Awesome.  Great big windows.  On a Tuesday, this place was PACKED.  As my dad said, “Tuesday is the new Thursday.”  If you know what this means, feel free to let me know.

China said it best (she always does, damn it!) when she said she can’t wait to see what Dinette will do with a summer menu.  I have to agree.  I will reserve my toppin’ judgments until I try summer pizza.  It’s the least I can do.

2000great!

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

In retrospect, a nice year. Things that happened:

-I moved out of one house and into another, where I got a sweet new roommate

-Went neat places and saw many many old friends! Places like: Texas (where I got red cowboy boots!), Philly, Richmond,  Harrisburg, Ithaca, Cincinnati, DC, the Dolly Sods, Toronto, Ottawa, and countless, countless trips to Cuyahoga Falls, Akron & Cleveland to visit my grandparents

-Worked on making my doggie a better canine citizen (truly, the hardest thing I have ever done. She is probably 75% better than when I got her a year and a half ago, but we still have miles to go!)

-Tried my very hardest to go to yoga at least once a week

-Half of MLIS completed (every day that I don’t drop out of my program is, frankly, a miracle)

-Continued to save money (this is a big deal for me, as my pockets seem to have holes in them)

-Eternal love of Buffy cultivated

-/-Killed a lot of plants accidentally

-Kept in touch with friends near and far

-Walked to and from work a lot, but not nearly enough as would be ideal

-OMC <3

-Read so many books in a variety of disciplines

AND OF COURSE!!, I have millions of 2009 goals. I am so excited about 2009!!

I have 2009 goals like:

-Aforementioned handstand, and accordingly, go to yoga at least once a week

-Learn to not kill plants

-Finish MLIS

-Big trip to either Central or South America (I’m talking weeks here)

-Help pup be best canine citizen she can be

-Save more money, spending hard-earned monies on only very worthy things i.e. not on weekly trips to Gabe’s

-Plan the Great (Potential) Move of 2009 (where’s it gonna be?!?!)

-Sincerely try to read a book a week again & spew some stuff out about it

-Enjoy Pittsburgh, in particular taking walks places

-Many weekend trips places, like: Toronto (this will happen multiple times, as my dear brother is moving back to TO and taking my heart with him), Lexington, Louisville, DC, a longish trip to Quebec City & Montreal, Dolly Sods camping, Cumberland Gap, etc

-Have a lot of fun/stop wallowing/be less anxious in general