Friday, February 22, 2013

Marmalade thighs and Maxwell House eyes

Truj wrote this morsel tonight: "Tom Waits is like that girl in high school who never knew she was pretty, but then went to college and realized she was beautiful just the way she was."

As a 19-year-old musician at Emerson, Truj is the only human I personally know who plays the ukulele—as in seriously plays the uke—in a classical fashion, not in a Tiny Tim demeanor. She appreciates soulful music that makes you think, that makes you feel, that makes you feel about a thought, as Yip Harburg would say.

Well, her post made me think of you, Mr. B., and how you once looked at me dreamily on a second-story moonlit porch that faced a narrow alley and mothy windows of other $300 a month city apartments. We sat on well-worn wicker with gaps of missing teeth. Candle nubs flickered citronella, and Tom played on a cassette player in your naked living room. (Furniture marked the effects of commitment, just like owning a car, and you were not ready for either.) You looked at me through thick lenses and charmed me with lines of how I symbolized the siren in Ghost of Saturday Night, and this here—this wooden balcony of escape—was Napoleone’s Pizza House.

As he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes /
And marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair.

How could a girl not fall for such charm that deftly masked a bad complexion, an Army desertion, and a college walk-out? You guided me through the intricacies of investigation, of manning up to cover South Philly, to call Vince Fumo and ask tough questions -- even though I had not yet established credentials. You were a writer, one in a series, who would take me beneath your wing and convince me that I, too, would grow to love language, to make it my own. Awards littered your career, but clearly you were no Mr. Pulitzer, nor were you a Stephen Fry.

Fry’s words speak to me like no other: Language is my mother, my father, my husband, my brother, my sister, my whore, my mistress, my check-out girl... language is a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-up wipette. Language is the breath of God. Language is the dew on a fresh apple, it's the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning light as you pluck from a old bookshelf a half-forgotten book of erotic memoirs. Language is the creak on a stair, it's a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, it's a half-remembered childhood birthday party, it's the warm, wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk of a charred Panzer, the underside of a granite boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of a Mediterranean girl."

Luring me like Tom Waits came rather close to the dew on a fresh apple.

But like the apple, it too evaporates. And the next week when she walked into the newsroom wearing the Temple sweatshirt I forgot on your porch, I shook my scrambled yellow hair as the core of my fruit turned to rot. I had already known I was beautiful; I simply was someone else’s muse.

People will come and go, but language remains my doxy with Maxwell House eyes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Occam's razor cannot trim a toupee

As I sat in the pew at St. Elizabeth’s, my eyes rapidly shifted--from the narrow stained-glass windows reaching a dozen feet to the earthy rich beams stretching across the ceiling to the silver urn perched upon the altar where my aunt’s remains stood.

It was here—this faded grandiloquent church from my childhood—where I was to marry Mr. Pulitzer in 1999. I had not been back to the village parish since then—“then” which was a consultation with the toupee-wearing monsignor who was to conduct our nuptials. I hadn’t personally known the high-haired priest other than through reporting assignments, community engagements.

But Monsignor Toupee and Mr. Pulitzer had forged a bond over a two-year period when the church leader shepherded a pilgrimage to Kosovo. Mr. Pulitzer had accompanied the missionaries, chronicling their work in the war-torn republic where poverty and hopelessness held ground in what was deemed the first humanitarian war. His startling photos of vacant orphans left shell-shocked in shelled buildings dotted my walls. Through our years together, he developed strange ailments of pained limbs, sore joints, and jarring headaches that he blamed on chemical fallout and polluted waters.

Yet through this experience, Monsignor Toupee and Mr. Pulitzer became friends on some level, and even though I didn’t entirely trust a member of the clergy with a head rug, I agreed to have this man marry us.

Of course, this exchange of vows would never happen, and my life is better for it.

But returning to St. E's for Millie’s memorial reminded me that life moves on, that we sometimes make things out to be bigger than they are in the whole scope of existence. A funeral, as her priest suggested, reminds us that we not here solely to mourn, but to celebrate the spirit, that we are passing through to the unknown and shouldn’t get caught up in the trappings that foolishly define us on this leg of the journey.

Afterward, in the receiving line, I spoke with my cousin, Nick, an accomplished runner. My aunt was his grandmother, my cousin his mother.

We talked about my training and his training—well, mostly his. I no longer see him at area races because he has moved to Colorado Springs to run in higher altitudes and better prepare his body for competition. For a while, he had been trying to break his marathon PR of 2:58—which he hit twice both at Marine Corps and at Boston—and he figured he was ready to do so in 2011 at New York. 

However, something went wrong. He crashed, burned, crossed the finish line in a miserable 3:18.

He thought of retreating, throwing in the towel. But the move to Colorado inspired him to try once more. This past October he hit Chicago and finally landed it with a 2:53. Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to know some incredible runners, and I’ve heard enough stories from people with much more impressive results. But my cousin is my cousin, and while he’s not going to make a top racing team, he’s a pretty cool guy.

So I asked: Are you doing Boston?


No? Why not? You’re more than 10 minutes ahead of a 3:05…

It’s overrated. You do it once, and you move on. There is too much left in life to worry about one race and whether you qualify or not.

And so now he’s training for Ironman. Why?

To see how far I can push myself.  To see what else is out there because life is about so much more, it’s so much more than wearing a Boston jacket.

As I left, I thought about what he said, about how he—at such a young age with a promising career as a doctor and a decent corporate sponsorship for something that is “fun”—has become a man before those old enough to be his father: humble, down-to-earth, honest. He is real. He is someone that Monsignor Toupee—king of embellishment and master of fa├žade—could never be.

He hasn’t set out to impress other people. He doesn’t wait for approval. His ideals, as uncomplicated as Occam's Razor. He is the salt. He is my kind of people, he is my family.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hive Girl

After three dozen years, I have decided that allergy-induced hives really aren't so bad.

Granted, they infest your scalp. They make wearing a bra somewhat unbearable. They prompt you to scratch your biscuit in public, to swell up inside your throat, to twitch your shoulders without warning. But sometimes I think any of those symptoms are worth eating shrimp or crab or tomatoes or oranges or -- in my latest case -- ginger.

I've decided to become part pioneer in my own health to rid myself of allergic reactions to these foods by introducing them more regularly into my diet. I've read studies that suggest this works. In fact, they say it has been successful for those with peanut allergies. Provide the patient with minute amounts of the toxic food and slowly, over time, the body will build up a resistance to its effects. Eventually, the patient can eat peanut butter to his or her heart's content.

Lately, I've been eating a lot of sushi as part of a nutrition plan, and it seems somewhat wrong to eat all of the wasabi but leave the pickled ginger. So this is partly of why I've decided to regularly inject these foods into my diet.

So I started with ginger. Usually, I discover a dish has ginger immediately after I taste it. It takes less than a minute to detect its presence. But this week I made pho and intentionally used ginger. Risky, I know. But in a controlled manner, it may just be manageable.

Pho and Ginger = Itchy and Scratchy

Let's see how the next several weeks go. Either I will grow immune to the root, or I will wear a constellation of red welts across my biscuit and beyond--scratching my way to foolish failure.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Today is a day to celebrate, for today I bow to the humble nectar of a wonderful legume: the peanut.

January 24 is National Peanut Butter Day, and I rarely travel without a small container of creamy satisfaction when I’m training. It is my daily protein go-to while rebuilding my training plan, particularly for an Ironman. For a while, I had eschewed peanut butter on the paleo model, for the peanut is considered more of a bean than a nut. But I caved. It’s difficult to avoid something so simply wonderful, and almond butter just doesn’t do an apple justice.

 However, I hadn’t realized that it was NPBD until after I had already started to prepare the sweet and sour chicken dish that resulted in a cornstarch nightmare across my counters. Had I known, I would’ve made the peanut butter chicken recipe that’s sitting atop my bookmarks, waiting its turn as I continue my streak of a new dish every night.  

(While I lingered with the flu for 10 days, I came up with a new stretch that didn’t feature working out—make a new dish every night for a month, courtesy of Food Network magazine.)

But anyway, I decided to observe this holiday by having a tablespoon of natural wonder, accompanied with two Hershey miniatures. Divine.

Out of curiosity, I searched for some interesting tidbits on the most loyal of foods and was duly impressed. The National Peanut Butter Board (How does one secure a position with this organization?) provided a most impressive list:

·      It takes about 540 peanuts to make one 12-ounce jar. (Sounds rather believable.)

·      There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches. (Sounds rather impressive.)

·      The average kid eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school. (Sounds like a boring diet and perhaps why so many kids are obese.)

·      The average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year. (Sounds like I’m below average.)

·      Women and children prefer creamy, while most men opt for chunky. (Sounds like I’m objective because I relish both.)

And my favorite statistic of all: Peanuts contribute more than $4 billion to the US economy each year. (Sounds like we need to find a cure for peanut allergies. Imagine how we can help stimulate the economy.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Soul patch-less

Thank goodness--he decided to finally leave the '90s and shave off his make-believe beard. As partners, we try to be supportive of those in our lives--even if it means holding back what you really know to be true. 

"I don't need to donate my Oxford shirts. They're still in."

"Jean shorts are fine for yard work."

"Yeah, earrings on straight guys are cool."

"Sure, this soul patch make me a hipster--even if I'm AARP qualified."

Honestly, the soul patch needs to be filed away with the red and black flannel shirts, the worn-out ball cap, the gold necklace, with Russell sweat pants. And so when the razor returned him to the right decade, I silently cheered. I had already shared this excerpt that I shamelessly stole from someone's blog to prove my case:

"A soul patch is that ugly tuft of hair that grows above your chin and under your lip. Legend has it that the soul patch covers (or patches) the hole from which your soul was extracted, which is why most people with soul patches are soulless bastards.


99% of all soul patchers are douchebags, not because of the soul patch, but because douchebags, by design, have incredibly powerful urges to grow that little bastardy tuft of hair right under their lip. So if you have one, be careful, because some people might be under the assumption you’re a douchebag even if you’re not.
The soul patch is evil manifesting itself into facial hair!
The only people who should have soul patches are talent agents, baseball pitchers,  grungy musicians, and those who are active in the art of douchebaggery.
Like the Hitler mustache is associated with Hitler, the soul patch is synonymous with being a douchebag. I can’t stress this enough.
Patches are for elbows, knees, and flat tires, not your face.


A soul patch in conjunction with any other type of beard or thick stubble is acceptable and is NOT a sign of being a douche. It’s not even a real soul patch.
If you’re covering up a scar, mole, or other facial deformity, like a baby toe growing out from under your lip. It happens, it really does.
The exceptions are few and far between, so shave the soul patch before the soul patch engulfs your heart, mind, chin, and of course, soul."

Honestly, soul patches are for boys trying to look like men, or for men who aren't confident enough in their stand-alone face. And he is neither. 

And thank goodness I shared it, for life is too short to be a douche.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

One run down, many more to go

Today, I finally ran.

It’s been 15 long days, thanks to a needed rest and the subsequent flu. My friend JZ scared me when I told her that I was going to take my lungs out for a spin.

“You’re going to feel like dying.”

Nah. I’ll be fine.

“Seriously, you’re going to feel like you’ve never run before.”

She was correct.

The anxiety walked between us as I headed to my car. It jumped into the passenger seat and eventually trudged upstairs where I donned my tights and shoes. And then I was off, like a school girl headed to her best friend's sleepover.

First run. Two weeks. Steroids done. Z-pack done. Tamiflu done. Nebulizer put away.

Three miles. Twenty-six minutes. 8:40 pace. Run done. Anxiety put away.

I returned home just as the girls emerged from the bus.

JZ was right.

I felt like I had, indeed, never run before--and in the most rewarding fashion.

“You ran? But you still sound like a crocodile! Let me take your picture.”

And so she did.


Today, I finally ran.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Year

It's been a difficult transition into the New Year. And I simply choose to not go into detail.

However, I continue to feel blessed to be surrounded by some people who appreciate my oddness. They remain loyal, steadfast, resilient, understanding. And so when I do feel the blues tapping on the window, I have a solution.

I simply dress my squirrel.

Or shall I say, squirrels?

My older brother (really old since he will soon turn 50) gave me one of these for Christmas. Oh, the beauty of SkyMall.

But then I returned to school from the holiday break, only to be greeted by the sweetest of little birds: Maura. And for me, she offered a bag. And what did it contain? Yet another one!

How bad can my day be when I can dress a squirrel at home and dress an entirely different squirrel at work?

Pretty cool, I know.