Friday, February 29, 2008

Sandbox Perspective

For exactly 24 hours, I had the pleasure of having a childhood friend visit me in DC. For certain folks - mi studio, su studio. In between jobs, Jori had an enviable 3-week winter reprieve from her residence in NYC that translated into a cushy stay with her mom in our former stomping grounds of South Florida. Palm trees and fresh squeezed orange juice galore. Well, yes, a recent major power outage in Miami, but we hailed from the far nicer locale of Ft. Lauderdale. You Miami’ans want to prove me otherwise?

Jori is a unique name, yes? Poor thing has spent her entire life spelling her name for teachers, new friends, registration personnel, and inquiring minds who just want to know how she got a name like that. A phrase that ran through our past was, “It’s like ‘Lori’ but with a J.”

Even my own father couldn’t get one of my best friend’s name’s right. I’d come home to a note on the kitchen table that read, “Your friend Rory (or worse, Drory) called.”

While pregnant, Jori’s mom read a book by an author named Dorian Gray. She switched out the “D” for a “J” and so was born Jorian. Jori for short (or torture, at all graduation ceremonies and when she was on The Today Show). Watch the video, yo.

Upon meeting in 3rd grade, I had glasses and braces and Jori was carrying some excess weight. Together, we coped with life as any two dorky kids would – we banded together.

From age eight to 22, we fell most places on the friendship continuum – friends only because we had friends in common, acquaintances, best friends forever (BFF!), and silent strangers passing in the hallway.

Only two or so reunions since college, I was thrilled when Jori said she wanted to come visit en route back to New York. On the day of her arrival, we text messaged back and forth about train times and when I could pick her up. I was dealing with a crisis (Jackie-defined) at work, I conveyed in abbreviated abuse of our fine English language.

It hit me how weird it was to be saying something so adult – crisis at work – to my friend who I remembered most vividly as someone sitting next to me in the backseat of one of our mom’s cars, or at an assembly in our elementary school cafeteria. I felt like I was playing dress-up; how could I be talking about work with Jori? Studying, maybe, but work?

I met her at the train station – a stunning knock-out and excess-free. She was having lunch at a café when I arrived (salad…where’s the PB&J, Jor?). In between bites, she told me about leaving her first job post-college after three years, taking a new job that proved disastrous after just three months, and how she was looking forward to leaving the recent quarter-life crises’esque feelings behind her to start fresh at another job. And we thought AP exams were rough.

We made our way back to my stu-stu studio, a room embellished with what some might consider an illegal amount of pink. Jori loved my rosey abode, though. I thought to myself, “How is she visiting me in my apartment, that I pay for?” So weird.

That night, I brought Jori to the language school where I volunteer teaching English to non-native speakers. As I told the class, she was our very special guest. Indeed. From there, we headed back to where I work for a lecture by Richie Roberts (the real person behind Russell Crowe’s character in the film American Gangster).

Into my office we go. Jori, this is my desk.

Then we met Richie Roberts and took some photos. Jori enjoyed the lecture and even asked a question during the Q&A period. “That’s my friend,” I thought proudly.

From there we went for an indulgent dinner at Acadiana, gourmet Southern cuisine. Not a minute after sitting down did I unintentionally knock the silverware off of the bread plate, with the result of a loud, clanging noise in a nearly empty restaurant. DC goes to bed early. I also got butter (again, not on purpose) all over the cloth placemat.

“This is why I don’t date,” I told her. We seemed like kids in a grown-up world, eating our biscuits and halibut. Story of my life.

Back to my pink paradise and then to bed shortly after. Before passing out (feeling young and old simultaneously), we talked about mutual friends, what we’d do tomorrow, traveling, guys and sex. Ok, ok. She talked about guys and sex.

We awoke to a cold and rainy DC day. “Ok, go shower," I told her. “I’ll go when you’re done.” Aren’t I a gracious host?

The 3rd grade duet needed coffee to get their bearings. When did we evolve from chocolate milk? Maybe I should get a mocha, I thought. Maybe then this would feel less surreal.

We had brunch and walked around Georgetown. I remember when it was a huge deal for our parents to let us go to the mall alone. We’d try on bras at Victoria’s Secret, even though we really had nothing to put in them. Jori does now. Boy does she.

And then it came time for her to go back to NYC, back to the friends who didn’t have their first sip of alcohol in her living room with her older brother.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Justice Stephen Breyer’s Nuts

And the beat goes on. I ate Justice Breyer’s nuts tonight – before, during, and after a program he gave at work. Each time I passed through the green room, I couldn’t help but reach out to grab one (or three) of his nuts and pop them into my mouth.

Remember when I ate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nuts? She had requested a special variety of nuts, but Justice Breyer made no specifications. I selected Planters NUT*rition Energy Mix, comprised of almonds, honey roasted sesame sticks, peanuts, dark chocolate covered soynuts, walnuts, and pecans. I love dark chocolate and I’m on a soy kick, so why not introduce Justice Breyer to a few of my favorite things?

I first met Justice Breyer’s head security guard, Mark, of the Supreme Court Police (I’d love to live a day in the life) in the late afternoon to show him around and explain the flow of the evening program. I made no mention of my intention to eat Justice Breyer’s nuts. He didn’t have a clue (and hopefully never will).

Before the program, two (male) co-workers were going out to get dinner and asked if I wanted anything.

“No, I’m ok. I’ll just eat Justice Breyer’s nuts.” Then they blushed. Red cheeks over almonds, who would have thought?

Alerted by security guard Mark calling my cell phone, I was in place to open the door for Justice Breyer. In he came wearing a bright reddish-orange jacket, with his wife close by. I didn’t tell her that I had and would continue to eat her husband’s nuts throughout the evening. Story of my life.

The Justice had actually gone home early from work because of flu-like symptoms but still made it to the program (don’t you love insider details?). Major PHEW since I was responsible for the event. We put out cough drops for him in the green room (diagonal from his nuts) and he had one; the wrapper now sits on my kitchen counter. The remainder of his nuts – those that I didn’t eat – are in a jar, also on my kitchen counter next to the jar labeled “Justice Ginsburg’s Nuts.” I also brought home the remaining water in his drinking glass. I find this hilarious (insert evil laugh).
You may think I’m weird (sick), but you’re still reading this. And you’ll continue to. Yeah. Yeah you will.

I was lucky enough to get a photo with the Justice and his wife, Hon. Joanna Freda Hare, a member of the British aristocracy (a Justice and he gets to ascend the throne). Perhaps I’ll print it on a label to affix to the jar containing his remaining nuts, suitably capturing the significance of meeting one of the most powerful men in the country.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I’d Dish Him

Last night at work, we had a French pastry cooking class with Fabrice Bendano, 1789 Restaurant’s Executive Pastry Chef. He was sweet, no pun intended. This food lovin’ friend o’ mine would have been in heaven.

Fabrice had visited the office days before the class to check out our kitchen supplies (a mish mosh due to the crazy world of Kashrut). Upon first glance, I decided that I wanted to be his special helper come class time. So when I went into the kitchen last night as Fabrice was getting organized (measuring cacao chips), I said, “Hi. I can help if you need it. You know, like be your sous chef.”

Fabrice smiled and then we were in business. I was a good little helper until he told me to measure out sugar – “5 times, 2 cups” for the five groups the class was divided into. I was making my third measurement of regular sugar when Fabrice said (read with your best French accent), “Ohhh, no no no. The con-feCK-shu-nurr’s shoo-gawr.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said. When am I ever that quick to apologize (especially to a guy)? When there’s a lovely French man – Paris born – wearing a becoming chef’s jacket and proving that he can satisfy my most dire need in life – varied styles for chocolate consumption.

Fabrice moved slowly and wasn’t the least bit concerned that he was ½ hour late starting the class. Man I love me a European hedonist with no sense of urgency.

Class began and instead of teaching everyone at once, Fabrice went around and taught each of the five groups separately. Completely impractical, but the man can do no wrong in my eyes.

He came back into the kitchen at one point, where I was melting chocolate in a microwave (only for a French man would I stand in front of a microwave for an extended period of time) and said, “Ahhh, do you have any vA-tir…I’m sir-stee.”

Fabrice, I’m sir-stee for your love (I did not just write that).

I quenched his thirst.

The aftermath of crunchy chocolate truffle cake and diamond butter cookies? Me and my co-workers washing countless dishes until 10:00 pm. A 9:00 am – evening day, story of my life.

“I don’t wash dishes at home. I have a dishwasher,” I said for no purpose to my co-workers who were distracted, licking remnants of chocolate off of spatulas and out of mixing bowls. Overtime brings out the hungry in people, I suppose.

My farewell with Fabrice was bittersweet (again, no pun), because the chocolate king is married. Of course he is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Listen to Your Butt

Ever since I signed up for the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer, I’ve elected for metro-abstinence and have been walking the 4 mile distance between my stu-stu-studio and work. I love this new element to my mornings, so much so that I elected to walk to work today, when the average temperature was 19 degrees.

Hi, I’m a Floridian by birth, and I get the chills from ice cream to prove it. It wasn’t the cold that bothered me most. What really turned my mood sour (and dark) was when I slipped on what is known as "black ice."

Black ice forms over black pavement so you don't see the threat to your life that easily. I sure as hell didn't.

In what felt like a mili-second, I went from walking (in my new Brooks) to lying flat on my back in a pedestrian walkway on Connecticut Ave. My hat fell off.

Getting back up took more than one attempt as I was on black ice, and it seemed to enjoy keeping me close. A woman witnessed my audition for making a snow angel (though there was no snow) and asked if I was ok. I think she alerted me (oh no, do I have amnesia?) to the fact that my hat had fallen off. I stood up (eventually) and saw my hat (straight off the set of Blossom) lying in the street. And my ears went cold fast.

I looked around to see if there were any cars and then retrieved my hat (carefully).

Back to safety, via the sidewalk, I put my coffee cup (no spills!) on a ledge so I could wipe off my pants and utter “Oh my god” repeatedly. Was that my mind or my butt speaking?

I felt like I did something wrong. I felt ashamed. Even dirty (thankfully black ice doesn’t stain). Once a goodie-two-shoes always hyper sensitive to unintended consequences. Story of my life.

I started to walk again, thinking about how my back stung a bit, wondering if my lunch spilled in my backpack, and contemplating the likelihood of a sore bum for days (you know how bad that hurts). I thought about getting on the metro at the next station, but I’m determined to walk to work.

“You’re an idiot,” says my tush. My mom will repeat my rear’s sentiments later in the day.

As I continued walking, it hit me that no matter how much I try to (gain) control of my life by depending on (waiting around for) gut feelings of direction, the reality of what to do when – in a larger sense – you don’t know what to do, is listen to what your ‘arse can tell you: don’t lose sight of the minor navigations needed to successfully make it through the day, like paying attention to the road if you’re walking/driving, checking expiration dates on food in your fridge (spoiled tofu detected this evening), and monitoring your online bank statement if the print copy still goes to your parents’ house (am I alone on this one?).

Truth to be found in the details? I sure hope so because from this point forward, I’m going to give some TLC (tush lovin' care) to the still frames that collectively deliver us (me, fingers crossed) to the bigger picture.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Smarty Pants Only

I further assimilated as a Washingtonian with some recent digestive activity at this place. A friend told me I shouldn’t mention it by name if I wrote about the experience (everywhere I go, everyone I know, everything I touch – all possible material, so beware) because the DC institution could have people monitoring any and all mentionings of the place.

I’m not scared, but for the sake of faux suspense, I’ll keep the name to myself and just let you click the links above. Click it, click it now (in the spirit of whip it, whip it good).

It’s a private (read: elitist) social (read: if you’re deemed worthy of socializing with) club (read: intellectual’s treehouse). Gracing the who’s who and who knows how much social scene since 1878, the club only began allowing women to join 110 years later (!!). Membership is reserved for those kids (gray haired big boys and now girls) “in virtually every profession that has anything to do with scholarship, creative genius or intellectual distinction.”

For some reason I feel the need to say, “checkmate.”

Why did I attend this old boys club? My boss (whose husband is a member and therefore has the right to bring guests) took our office there for a co-worker’s birthday.

Anticipating this lunchtime field trip, I projected that my feminist feathers would be ruffled by the experience and in turn felt compelled to dress in defensive mode (wearing a feather boa and fishnets). Alas, though, I wore pants and a cap sleeved sweater in mild defiance. Pant suits are for Hillary.

Not to ruin the ending before I give you the middle, but I had one heck of a lovely time there. The club was formerly a mansion, so entering each room felt like opening a jewelry box; you just didn’t know what you were going to see. Some rooms had gold leaf trim, ornate interior accents, and masterpieces painted on the ceiling. A library hosted a shelf marked, “books recently published by club members.” Alright then.

Lunch began with a waiter toting a carb-infused basket, gracing each of us with a popover. Yowsa. That was the best roll I’ve ever had. Memorable in my heart and on my inner thigs. Story of my (edible) life.

No prices on the menu because the cost of anything consumed just goes on the member’s account. I have one gem of a boss, believe you me.

The use of cell phones and electronic devices is prohibited in the dining area. These people are down-to-earth hedonists. Who the hell would have thought? Meals void of technology – bravo. And no note taking (not even a vowel) allowed either. This proved irritating as I planned to blog about the adventure and wanted to jot notes between bites of my popover(s).

The place prides itself on having Nobel Prize winners as members. My boss pointed across the room to a former Secretary of Defense (or something along those lines). At that point I looked around the room of accomplished men (plentiful) and women (scarce) – each a surprise achievement unto himself/herself – and announced, “I think I should just plant myself at the bar and hope for the best.”

When my boss and I went to the loo, she showed me what had been the women’s entrance during the time (110 years!) when women weren’t eligible members (perceived as worthwhile, unless when horizontal and near a mattress).

I wonder how they felt (feel?) about Jews. Just wondering. When I saw a portrait of an African American club member in another room, I felt an internal, hearty Mazel Tov surge through me.

Upon entering the “Powder Room” (verbatim the door’s plaque), my boss said that this is where she gets all of her nail files and proceeded to take a handful and put them into her purse. Alright then.

The one and only disappointment of the afternoon was the skimpy size of the desserts. Bottomless popovers prevented me from getting too angry over the rationed key lime pie and mud pie (quick to melt).

As a Floridian, I have to say that the Cosmos Club (oops!), while not the happiest place on earth, is a northern rival to Disney World. I drank their kool-aid (and their iced tea).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My Wonder Walk

I woke up today lying next to my sister. Story of my life.

I was ready to face the day at 8:00 am but snuggled under my beloved down comforter until 9:00 am, knowing that she is a late riser. Yeah, sleeping until 9:00 am on the weekend is late in my pink-n-brown universe.

We went for brunch with a friend of my sister’s and, instead of going somewhere that has the
best oat bran muffin in town, we went to a European bakery & café where I succeeded in paying nearly $20 for coffee and an omelet (egg whites cost extra). No matter how grand (and mine isn’t) your financial situation, that’s a mornin’ no no.

My plans for later in the day were cancelled and, with the Superbowl an imposing reality on the planet, I felt bored for the first time in a long time. Post-thievery-brunch, my sister opted to nap while I emptied the dish washer and then developed cabin (studio) fever.

She left (after my proclamation that she was “delaying my life”) to get her nails done and go shopping (how are we related?). I opted to do my new favorite thing – WALK.

I chose to leave my iPod (and the song mixes I’m so tired of) at home and just walk with the confusing thoughts swirling in my head. The sound of my early 20s made alert company for my trek down Connecticut Ave., toward Georgetown, past The Kennedy Center and to the National Mall.

I went to see Abe (Lincoln that is). I ascended the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial, passing attractive European tourists (likely 17 year old boys) on my way. I looked at Abe and thought, “Maybe he knows what I should do next.”

Next being a new zip code, grad school, volunteer program – something to solve my desire to wrap my utterly fantastic DC experience in a nice memory bow and try something new.

I’ve got oats in my kitchen cabinet and in my adventure-seeking heart – both need to be cooked.

I hoped for the same feeling I relish when I go to the movies solo and feel like the actors are performing just for me (am I selfish or what?). I wanted to believe that Abe, sitting in his gigantic chair, would raise one of his finely carved fingers hanging over the edge of the arm rest in the spirit of “Aha! I have the answer to your self-imposed deluge of wonder.”

And then I’d think I was really honing my silent communication skills because Abe detected my question – What should I do with my immediate life? – as if I had whispered it into his ear.

His fingers (not a one) didn’t move, and I didn’t sense that we were alone. We were surrounded by cameras and fanny packs (when will they face extinction?) and people who couldn’t read the Gettysburg Address without moving their lips and uttering every fourth word.

I turned back to the
Reflecting Pool and started jogging along Independence Ave. (metaphor?) toward the Washington Monument. I continued jogging and walking until I reached Whole Foods (14th and P St.) and met the dumbest decision of my day – grocery shopping before the Superbowl started.

I ate my evidence-of-inflation fruit cup while standing in the long checkout line. Then I felt like a schmuck for not having my reusable grocery bag with me (the Flour-themed one) and asking for plastic, when the chalkboard outside said plastic bags are going away (for good!) and Whole Foods is only using up the remaining bags in stock. Ok, so I’m helping to mitigate a problem.

I walked the three miles home to my petite abode and talked to the person who makes me believe life is unfair.

Who? My grandpa, Poppa Jerry.

Why? Because my grandpa is also my soul mate. Go solve that one.

12 miles traveled.

No more answers then I had at the start of mile 1.

Still bitter about unrequited amore.