Archive for the ‘burgh’ Category

Take me to the desert!

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I can’t stop talking about/thinking about/reading Lonesome Dove.  I have always been daunted by its size, but I shouldn’t have been–the characters are immediately engaging and the plot is literally thrilling.  I should have read this years ago.  It might be my favorite book of 2010 (this is premature, surely, as it’s only May, but I don’t care.  I love it!).  My horse fever is back and all I want to do is read it.

I did take a break from the cowboys this weekend to go visit the agave at Phipps.  This thing is equally thrilling, so if you love plants that grow one foot a day, get yourself to the Cactus Room.

In other desert/cowboy-themed news, I leave for Panama in 24 days!!!!  I am already dreaming about what books and dresses I will take (obviously).

Like a bad neighbor…

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

For the third year, I’ve underestimated the gumption of Pittsburgh’s youth.  (I’ve also frankly just forgotten about Halloween all three years, but all the same.)  I didn’t expect trick or treaters any of these years because I live in a building I can only describe as dark and intimidating.  Like, if I were a little kid and I saw the weirdness on my downstairs neighbors’ front porch, no way would I be ringing this doorbell.  But, ah, yinzer children, you are fearless, and I keep breaking your heart.  Our doorbell rang a little after 6 and I slunk down the stairs to crush Princess Leia and a monster’s hearts.  Our exchange went something like this:

(Laika barking incessantly)

Leia and monster: TRICK OR TREAT!!!!

Me:  Oh…no.  We kind of don’t have any candy…

Leia and monster: (sad little frowns appear) Oh.

Me:  Geez, I’m really sorry.  Uh?  Happy Halloween?

So now I feel like I have burnt down a Christmas tree or kicked a puppy or something.  I keep breaking little witches’ hearts.  I checked in the pantry for candy but all I could find was some Tofutti Cuties, 3/4 of a pack of gum,  and a box of Nerds from like two Easters ago.  If only children wanted my cowboy boots or Andy’s records.  Those I could give away pretty easily.   Alas, now I am hiding in the dark listening really quietly to Lady Gaga (by the way, listening quietly to Lady Gaga?  Not that much fun.) hoping no one can see the glow of the computer from the front door.

Since I am being held hostage by my Halloween recalcitrance, I should at least say a thing or two about the new Sherman Alexie, War Dances.  Not my favorite thing by him, but not my least favorite either.  The title story is drop-dead perfection (there is an exchange about Trader Joe’s that I think Alexie might have even stolen from inside my brain), but the rest pales in comparison.  Alexie is a wildly talented poet, but his short stories in this just aren’t what I’ve come to expect from him.  I will probably read this again before I return it, but consider me 25% disappointed.  I am following War Dances up with In the Name of Salome (Julia Alvarez)–also not the greatest thing I’ve ever read.  Alvarez consistently makes me hunger for a deeper understanding of the history of the Dominican Republic–more specifically, Trujillo’s reign of terror–and this book is no exception to that.  Half of it (1960s Poughkeepsie, NY) bores me and the other half (1860s DR) thrills me.  I am tempted to skip the sections from the 1960s but I’ll probably just read it all and be grumpy about it.

Buffy & sweater knitting await me.  Ah, the perfect Halloween.

My Fledgling love of sci-fi (bad pun)

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Sometimes when it’s insanely nice out I get a little depressed, because I would secretly rather be inside reading. This weekend was one of those times. It pained me to do so, but I forced myself outside. I went to the dog park numerous times. I went on many walks. I went to a barbecue. I sat on the fire escape. I drank beer. I obsessed over knitting lace WHILE drinking beer WHILE sitting on the fire escape:

Lace ribbon

Lace ribbon

This pattern is so fun and joyful to look at while working on it. It is like a magical surprise of happiness with every new row.

It finally turned gloomy yesterday, and I was able to sit around doing nothing to my heart’s content. I finished all of Preacher. I am sort of crushed to be done with it. I really, really savored volumes 1-6, but I FLEW through the last three because I was so excited to find out what was going to happen. I was like a little kid with this series.

Yesterday, listening to records and drinking copious amounts of coffee, I also finished Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. It’s kind of like Twilight’s sophisticated grandmother. Butler is obviously an established writer and has a greater grasp on, say, coherency and language than Stephanie Meyer can ever hope to. I don’t ever read science fiction (and I don’t really know why not–I would probably like it), but I enjoyed this immeasurably. Butler is a really sparse, meager writer, but her grasp on storytelling is phenomenal. In Fledgling she has created the fantastic, scary world of the Ina (like vampires, only not) and I was extremely sad to have left it. My finishing of Fledgling coincided with the end of the weekend: the saddest time of all, multiplied by two because I am now bookless. I don’t know where to turn. I feel empty and a little naked.

What next?!

When Pittsburgh will be loved

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I am a total fool for a good book review. When Dwight Garner (NyTimes, 3/31/2009) AND Sally Kalson (PG, 4/8/2009) loved Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s political memoir, When Skateboards Will be Free, why, I thought I would love it too! I love a good memoir, after all, and when Garner mentioned that Sayrafiezadeh GREW UP IN PITTSBURGH, why, I dashed immediately to my public library and requested the book immediately.

I found myself feeling immensely lukewarm towards this book. I read it in the backseat of my parents’ car, going to visit my brother in Toronto and while returning from said visit. I also enjoyed part of it in the immigration detainee office at the Buffalo border crossing (this is the second time in two trips to Ontario that I have been detained. Do I scream “criminal” or something?), which was deeply ironic given the subject matter. Maybe my dislike of this book was colored by my mother incessantly asking me what I was reading, or how again to make a purl stitch (the woman is apparently incapable of learning to knit). No, that couldn’t be it. I have been reading over my mother’s questions for two decades.

My love for Pittsburgh is so great that it is sometimes a little sad and scary. My love for Pittsburgh can sometimes overwhelm my sense of reason. However, when Sayrafiezadeh wrote that his house on Ophelia St. was one block from the Monongahela River, I cringed. Um, try three blocks, one major highway, railroad tracks and at least one mile from the Mon, yes. When he wrote that the Mon was untrafficked and empty, I cringed. What?! Are barges invisible?! Likely much of his memory of Pittsburgh has dulled in 20 years. Sure. I can accept that. Likely some of of his writing about Pittsburgh is hyperbole. I can accept this. I like a nice non-fiction device as much as the next James Frey. But a portrayal of Pittsburgh this inaccurate, this ugly and deceitful, this I cannot accept. I demand accountability from those who dare to write about Pittsburgh.

I would only recommend this book to: Browns fans, haters of Pittsburgh, socialist wannabes, and people who are not related to me because my relatives love Pittsburgh far more than me.

I took this picture last summer. It is South Oakland, the dirty ghetto that Sayrafiezadeh once lived in (apparently within view of the Mon river). I love this view, I love this neighborhood for what it was, and I love this city. Aspiring memoirists, you can stay in Brooklyn.

South Oakland

South Oakland

Let me hear you sing.

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

My very sweet, hunky & oft-mentioned manfriend (OMC) summers in Panama and a myriad of Central American countries. This sounds more exciting than it is. In reality OMC is an archaeologist. And digs up pottery shards and puts pictures of white-tailed deer in his dissertation and talks about the emergence of hierarchies in Central America. And blows me away with his genius. This means two very important things:

1) You want him on your trivia team (seriously)

2) He knows how to cook (once I mentioned that he couldn’t make sandwiches and while that is true, he honestly can cook very, very well)

I had a dumb, grumpy day yesterday, which was why I was thrilled to come home to some Costa Rican goodness on the stove. OMC whips up gallo pinto like it’s his job, and while it is simple to make, it’s insanely delicious. I think you basically make some rice (we prefer brown rice, the rice of champions), add some black beans, tomatoes, garlic, red onion, and cilantro and call it a day. I am told that OMC, when in Costa Rica, likes to eat it for breakfast. Whatever floats your boat.

gallo pinto


Additionally, he surprised me with Kat Von D’s new book (which I have been secretly salivating over). My love of trashy television shows is nothing new to my legions of devoted readers, nor to OMC, and thus I have already started happily leafing through it.

Post-spicy & tasty dinner eatings and a nice trip to the dog park with my beloved and extremely fast mutt, we went with neighbor-pal Andu to see Dan Higgs at Morning Glory (in Morningside, my old haunt). I am so disappointed that this place wasn’t here when I lived in Morningside. It is lovely and cozy and warm, and Higgs was a fucking maniac (which is my highest compliment) and made us sing aloud. Last night reaffirmed my love of Pittsburgh. So often I fall out of love with this place and want to claw at my face to escape, but geez, leaving the house and seeing old friends sometimes does make it all better.

Bean enjoys spring-time

Bean enjoys spring-time

My own personal brand of heroin

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Yesterday I grew tired of doing mountains of tedious library school homework (and visions of imperfect dresses danced in my head) so I begged OMC to drop his extremely interesting writings on Chiefdoms in Belize, or whatever, and go on a superfun date with me to West Mifflin, haven of all things cheap.  “We could even,” I suggested, with flirtatious eyelashes,” see if TWILIGHT is playing at the Dollar Theater!!!” (which of course it was, because I’d already checked).

Very much against his will, lured in only by the promise of popcorn and a Coke all to himself, OMC succumbed to the beauty that is Twilight.  I say that thickly, with a heavy sense of sarcasm, because unless you are 12, a girl and foolish (or, well, 23 and a girl and still pretty foolish) this movie is Bad.  Capital B Bad.  That didn’t stop me from loving it.  I loved it for a myriad of really embarrassing reasons, but for the sake of maintaining any coolness I might appear to have, I will say that I also loved it for these reasons:

  • Edward has THE BEST wardrobe.  I don’t know anything men’s clothing, but he wears a coat that is dreamy and grey and tweedy and fitted and fabulous.  Bella’s wardrobe sucks.  She dresses like the bulk of her clothing came from Gap Body (essentially what I am saying is that she wears pajamas, or some incarnation of pajamas for the majority of the movie).  What does Edward see in her?  Find a woman who can dress like you, boy.
  • Edward’s bedroom is practically the essence of awesome.  I know even less about furniture than I do about clothing, but holy hell, his day bed/couch/Eames thingie: I want it.  I need it.  And a cuddly vamp to share it with.  His bookshelves!  SWOON.
  • (Library dork time) Bella’s information-seeking habits pleased the nerd in me to no end.  She perfectly demonstrated what a gazillion boring SPEC Kits and ARL papers took pages and pages to “show” me: teenagers like Google!  They use it for everything!  Shock!  The.  End.
  • The scenary.  Hello, Pacific Northwest.  You are gorgeous.  You are full of moss, and fog, and rain, and moody teenagers.  Sign me up!

An armful of imperfect Anthro dresses, a bellyfull of Dollar Theater popcorn and one grumpy, bored OMC later, I was satisfied.  In case I wasn’t clear enough (I wasn’t), OMC is the best, most tolerant, kindest boyfriend ever.  I owe him at least three viewings of Mad Max and maybe even some terrible choose-your-own-adventure Dragon Lance viewings.   An excellent Sunday of postponing so much schoolwork.

Things to come

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Here in Inconsistent-weatherville, PA, sometimes the prospect of glorious spring and summer days to come is all that keeps me going, trudging through the cold. Yesterday I seriously had boogers frozen to my scarf. Gross. I like winter. I really do. But, there comes a time when I am like, “Yo, enough’s enough. Give me one day without socks. JUST ONE DAY.” In honor of this feeling (which I will likely forget the moment I start accumulating sweat in the place behind my ears where my glasses rest, making them consequently fall off), I present you with a list of things I look forward to in the months to come:

  • short shorts (I am a huge fan of really short shorts)
  • popsicles from Shur-Sav
  • farmer’s market openings & subsequent produce goodness
  • wearing dresses/skirts without tights (also pretending that I own this anthropologie dress because it is straight out of Clueless)
  • lazy days at the Bloomfield beach
  • river swimming/canoing
  • sitting on park benches for hours with my dog, reading trashy magazines
  • maybe playing frisbee (MAYBE)
  • hikes/walks/camping
  • getting frustrated with how long, hot and heavy my hair is and trying to cut it off daily
  • OMC defending his dissertation and resembling a human being again (no offense)
  • sitting on the porch for hours with my dog, reading trashy magazines & drinking good beer
  • nurturing my little potted plant babies
  • etc
  • etc
  • March Madness

Please remind me of this list in 5 months when I am bitching incessantly about not owning an air conditioner. Seriously. Link me back here?

Weekend readings!

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Sometimes I finish a book and am totally relieved. Done! Done! No more of whatever nonsense irritated me about the book. Sometimes, like on Saturday, I finish a book and am immensely depressed. I woke up ultra-early on Saturday and finished Plague of Doves. Upon finishing it, I immediately thought, “I will never read a book this good. Ever again.” This is a sad notion, because I obviously love to read, and have like 176 books in my mental queue of things to read. It took me awhile to piece the book together, and honestly, at first I wasn’t into it at all, but was giving it a chance based on the praise from several people. HOWEVER. I am so glad I finished it. Louise Erdrich is, and I don’t really need to tell you this, a master wordsmith. The level of detail in this book is phenomenal. It kind of blew me away. My only complaint is: what the hell do I follow this up with? Nothing will be as good, as delicate, as arresting. I tried to start Lady Oracle (by her majesty, Margaret Atwood [I realized last week that I hadn't read this book, which was surprising, because I've read everything else by Atwood in a quasi-serious attempt to understand the genius that is her brain]), but I just couldn’t get into it. I keep thinking about Pluto, North Dakota. You should too.

Because I can read comics/graphic novels when nothing else stays in my brains, this weekend I resorted to an old friend: Paul Hornschemeier*. I adore Hornschemeier, and while we’re not actually friends (I tend to call my idols/celebrities “friends” or “lovers” or “boyfriends”, which they obviously aren’t, although, hey, wishful thinking), he’s wise and funny in the most droll (and pretty) way. Mother, come home will make you cry if you have a heart, and probably even if you don’t. Yesterday I re-read Let us be perfectly clear, which can simultaneously make me giggle and want to bawl. I can’t claim to be an art critic, but the breadth of his drawing styles is almost unbelievable. Next up: I must re-read the three paradoxes.

I must also beg my brain to let me read fiction again. Where to start, though.

*BTW: I quickly googled Hornschemeier to double-check a book title, and found his blog, which had a side-link to his myspace, which I looked at it because a small part of me is a creeper, and there is a picture of him on Penn Ave out front of the Brillobox. My entire being just shriveled up and died. I’m not sure why. SMALL WORLD.

My accidental hangover.

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I had a shitty day at work yesterday. This is nothing new. Libraries are hurtin’ and things are weird at most workplaces, I’d imagine. I tried to go shopping to cheer myself up, but it didn’t work. I got a new yoga mat, but was otherwise TOO DEPRESSED TO SHOP. This is a painful declaration.

Since shopping didn’t work, I thought, “Oh, I’ll get a fancy six-pack from D’s. Fancy beer always cheers me up.” OMC picked 3 beers, and I picked 3 beers, and we were high-tailing out of the cave when I noticed a big ol’ jug of Dogfish Head Fort. I’ve never had the Fort, and I am mysteriously a sucker for fruity beer (I know, I know, pathetic), and the label art was kind of tempting, and the promise of raspberry beer was oh so exciting. I made puppy eyes at OMC (he HATES fruit beers) and we bought it, deciding we’d split it when we got to his house.

Once home, in my sweatpants, making scrambled fucking eggs for dinner (the dinner of the depressed), half a glass of Fort in my belly, talkin’ the “how was your day” talk, OMC looks at me and says “Lainers, are you DRUNK?” This couldn’t be! Half a glass of beer making me drunk? I don’t claim to have the stomach of a frat boy, but I can kind of hold my own in the drink. Convinced that I couldn’t already be drunk, I kept drinking the Fort. The thing is, I wasn’t even really enjoying it, but it was like $12 and in these tough economic times there are children in Asia who would kill for my beer, so I kept drinking it. And drinking it. And on top it, a Bell’s Best Brown Ale (which was, for the record, great, and also, did you know that you have to claim to be 21 to look at their website? Dumb. A toddler could push “yes” and gain access to this website. What a joke). Around 10, standard bedtime, I am thinking “Sheesh, I’m wiped out. Bedtime.” So I collapse into bed, thinking nothing of it.

Here’s where my story takes a nasty turn. At 4, I woke up to pee. I have the bladder of a baby and pee constantly. Deal with it. Maybe I’m diabetic. Who knows. Point is, I staggered to the bathroom with the room spinning. While getting up to pee is not unusual for me, STAGGERING IS. SPINNING SURE IS. Oh my god. I was drunk. I didn’t mean to be drunk. Oh my god. I got back in bed and kind of giggled to myself. Whoopsie.

So, now, I have a killer hangover. I accidentally got trashed and didn’t know it. A little careful googling and I discover that that frickin’ Fort was 18% alcohol, and is best enjoyed in SMALL FUCKING DOSES with dessert or in a hot tub or something. What a let down. My gray sweatsuit is so not romantic.

Also I kind of want this book but Sam Calagione edited it and he also made that beer that got me staggerin’ to the bathroom. So we’re not really on the best of terms, even though I adore every other Dogfish Head except for the Raison d’etre, which is disappointing, although fun to hear “Snaggletooth” pronounce (sorry!).

The items contained in this entry might forever shatter your perceptions of me. And I’m okay with that.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

When I think about why I have no free time ever, I consider the fact that I have many unmistakably shallow pursuits. A few weeks ago, I changed my Facebook About Me to say: “I’m kind of really into unicorns, trashy vampire books, obnoxious accessories, Lisa Frank and gossip. AKA: I am 9 years old at heart.” This is my About Me, people. My public face to the WORLD, or the 600-some acquaintances I once deemed important enough to be my “friend.” My sixth grade boyfriend (who I never technically broke up with, and have therefore been committing adultery on since 1996) knows that I like VAMPIRE BOOKS. Trashy ones, at that! My logic professor from sophomore year (self-proclaimed “sexy logician”) might be aware that I like unicorns. I can’t say that I’m embarrassed people know that I like Lisa Frank, because I seriously have no shame whatsoever (and Lisa Frank is, excuse the pun, frankly kind of awesome), but I am a little aghast that this is what I spend my free time on. GOSSIP. Things I should have stopped liking in the 8th grade. Pony websites! Puppy websites!

I have been both a bad blogger and reader in the past week. I took two sick days last week and laid on my couch feeling pathetic, and desperately wishing that the New Yorker that I’d left in OMC’s car wasn’t so far away (aka in the car, two flights of steps away from his third floor apartment). I tried to get back in the reading game over the weekend, but there was a lil football game occupying my time and my mind. BTW, go SIXBURGH. I wanted to get some reading done last night, but when I sat down to read I couldn’t stop touching my hair. I have any number of bad, harmful habits that I won’t disclose for the sake of preserving my integrity to anonymous readers because these habits make me look absolutely batshit crazy. I will disclose, however, that when in class and while reading, I constantly touch my hair. I twirl it into little loops and try to tie it in knots and little twisty things and I try desperately to braid it. I am growing my hair out, and am in the dangerous state of growth that I fondly think of as “mad-scientist hair,” and as a result, I cannot stop touching the new length. Then I sometimes imagine, while reading, that I’ve stumbled onto some new fabulous hairstyle that I need to examine immediately in the mirror, and as a result, well, I can’t get any reading done. I want to tell you about Plague of Doves, because it’s GORGEOUS, but I cannot stop touching my goddamn hair.

For that aforementioned football game, I made banana cupcakes with dark chocolate icing (get it, black and gold?!). I probably ate too many of them. I didn’t take a picture because my camera is dead. I need to get back in the baking game, but school + work + being shallow can be really time-consuming.

Can I add, too, that now that football season is over, it is time for some motherfucking NCAA hoops? Holy shit. I am torn in two with love for both Jermaine Dixon and DeJuan Blair. My passion for Pitt basketball: it’s out of this world.

OH MY GOD. How could I forget. My newest shallow pursuit: Gossip Girl. I have only watched four episodes, and I kind of HATE IT, but I am completely unable to prevent myself from watching it. It’s like a terrible train-wreck dressed in amazing clothes, and I want out. It’s not good! It’s disturbing and horrible! But alas, I am hooked.


Shallow Girl.