Monday, August 31, 2009

And my bathroom's blue.

Moving in Boston is very strange business. Word on the street is that 1/3 of the state moves on Sept 1st, and judging by what it's been like the last few days, another third moved over the weekend. Think narrow streets clogged with moving trucks, sweaty college students hauling boxes and lamps and sometimes chairs and bookcases and couches (!) across busy intersections, and mounds of castoffs lining the sidewalks.

Tonight I was introduced to another piece of moving culture when I noticed women pushing carts and strollers down the sidewalks, digging through the mounds of garbage and claiming what looked good. It's like grown up trick or treating.

While I was moving the last load out to the car, a little girl in a stroller kept shouting "bangBANGbang" and shooting me with a toy gun her mother plucked out for her. When I saw them a little later, she had big hulk gloves on--you know the ones I mean? So I guess it's sort of kids trick or treating, too.

But that's not why I'm posting; It's not why I've paused the mad dash to get out of this place (shhh--don't tell sam) and type out a few paragraphs. The real reason is the woman I met just now, who was driving by in her motorized wheelchair. As I struggled to put a big box in the front seat, she said, "This your trash?"


"You know what this is?" She holds up a plastic grocery sack that could only be the hefty bag of cat litter I'd just collected.


"It feels too heavy to be trash."

"Um, well. I think it might be cat litter."

She drops it. "Well, did the cats get on any of these linens?"

"I don't think so. Just with their fur."

Struggle struggle strruuuuggle. I begin to think the box is too big.

She pulls out a thing to cushion your lap when you use a laptop with a flat surface to rest it, and asks me what it is. I explain and she decides to take that, too. She says her sister has a computer. She's so excited about that. I feel awkward with my car full of framed prints and my ironing board and my books, but she doesn't seem phased at all. She asks me if there's anythinge else she might like in another box, and I think for a moment, tell her there's a scale in there.

She says, "Oh no, honey. I'm a big lady. I ain't got no use for a scale."

For some reason this is making me feel really bad, like I wish I had more for her. I pick up a plunger that's fallen out of a box. It's a big blue plastic one that we found in the basement. Sam said he wanted to toss it, wanted to get a new one he'd feel comfortable licking if he had to.

I say, "How about a plunger?"

Her eyes light up. "I don't even have a plunger!"

"Well, here you are then." And I hand it to her over the boxes.

"And my bathroom's blue!" She says.

I go inside to get my figs out of the fridge. I feel like I've done a good deed. A very strange, good deed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

If You Find My Foodie Ramblings Tedious, You'll Find This Post Tedious

I feel obliged to record some clarity of thought here, but I may just be talking to myself. In fact, I am talking to myself, but it's a self down the road, days or weeks from now, when I'm buried in the semester and not taking very good care of the Deja.

Self: poor, sad, unhappy self: listen up.

Awhile ago, when I posted something about going veganish, my friend Tara asked in the comments what made me make the leap. And I didn't answer, mostly because I didn't know how to answer concisely. I've turned the question over and over in my mind since then, figuring out how to articulate it. And, if you see how long this post is, I've given up on concise.

The short answer is that several months ago I was at the doctor's office, feeling really sick and miserable. I was getting a physical, which turned out to be the most absurdly lame physical I've ever received. I mean, my cat has given me better breast exams, if you'll excuse the image. This was a half-hearted sort of doctor, and when I told her all the things I was worried about, all the things that seemed to be going badly, she literally said, "Mmm-hmmm," and ignored me. I was frustrated, near tears as I put my clothes back on, and I had what I consider to be a spiritual impression, which went something like: They can't help you here; you have to get drastic; you have to figure this out on your own. (Please don't think I mean modern medicine has nothing to offer. I really really don't mean that. I just think this one doctor was a dud, and I've since switched, and medicine has helped me a lot in other areas.)

I went to the temple the next day, and in the chapel, waiting for a session, I read the Word of Wisdom (a set of health guidelines in LDS scripture) and felt very strongly that switching to a whole foods diet, probably a vegan one, was what I absolutely needed to do.

I'll pause here to disclaim: Do I think that's what the Word of Wisdom actually says, as in, do I think that's the only way to interpret what's there? No. I don't. Do I think everyone should be vegan? No. I don't. (Although the scientific research I've seen makes a pretty compelling case for it.) I hope you'll never catch me preaching it unsolicited, getting offended by other people eating sausage, making a big fussy deal of it. For me this has been so personal, so painfully personal at times. This has felt and still feels like direction for me, for my body, which is one of the things I love about it.

Back up 35+ years or so, before I was born. My mother was newly married, she had two babies (I think) and she was sick all the time. My dad was sick all the time. Her babies were sick all the time. And she was desperate. I imagine it was sort of how I felt in that doctor's office: hopeless and empowered all at once. There's something satisfying about taking charge of how you feel from the ground up. But anyway, they got drastic. They switched to a vegan whole foods diet. Over the years, they've gone through various iterations of that, and they no longer strictly follow that path, but pretty darn close. And I guess feeling like I'm following my mom is another reason. I like her. She's the smartest lady I know. And making a similar drastic change feels like home to me, feels like the way I grew up, feels like growing up to be like my mom.

Fast forward to today, which is my 27th birthday. In honor of my day, we went out to eat yesterday (Saturday). Sam had big plans to surprise me with whale watching (what a prince), but there's a huge freezing storm up thisaways, so that didn't happen. And we're literally in the middle of moving--stuff stradled between our new place, our old place, and a storage place--so sticking around here just made more sense. In the morning we decided to go to a little place in Allston for breakfast because they have vegan options. I opted for vegan pancakes with strawberries, and thus re-learned a very crucial lesson: vegan does not equal healthy. Actually, sometimes it means they cram in extra fat, sugar, and white flour to make it taste okay. This was one of those times. They brought me out three pancakes as big as my head: fluffy, naughty, de-licious objects. And I ate too much of them. Not nearly all, but too much. And they leveled me. Literally knocked me flat. They tasted incredible, but I hadn't even finished them before I felt miserable and sick and depressed and exhuasted. Although we had talked about hitting a museum and movie, I had to come home and take a long nap instead. When I woke up I was still sickly, and grumpy to boot.

So this is another reason: I don't respond well to food like that. Which is a crying shame because I love it with all my soul. I adore pancakes and nachos and hotdogs and marshmellows and ice cream and sausage and pizza (oh, pizza!) and cupcakes and and and. But they hate me. I'm jealous of people who seem to get away with eating this stuff. I even sort of hate people who get away with eating this stuff, who can just take a little nibble and be content and upright and slim. I've fought off the realization that I'm not one of those people for 27 years, been dragged away from it kicking and screaming, really. But I'm not one of those people, folks. I'm pretty sure that my reaction to those pancakes was not, well, normal. And Self, to you I say that no meal, no matter how tasty, is worth feeling that lousy.

For dinner I was determined to behave, to find something that would thrill me without killing me. I found a place in the North End I've been meaning to try called Grezzo, which is raw vegan place. Raw means that they don't cook anything above 112 degrees, so rawists are sort of insane but they literally glow with health. (The research on raw food is a little iffy, and it seems impossibly hard to do, but I just wanted to try it out.) Grezzo is a pricey, upscale place, epicurian, fancy shmancy pants, and it's so pretty inside. The food was gorgeous as well, and it's really just incredle what these people come up with. I mean, one of our favorite dishes was this "gnocchi" thing--and all the dish names could be in quotes because they can't really make stuff like gnocchi. They had crafted these clever little nut objects into gnocchi-like shapes and made this in-cred-i-ble creamy sauce (remember--vegan, so no cream involved) and, I don't know how to explain it. We had a bunch of other cool stuff too, but I'll just tell you about Sam's dessert, which was coconut "meringue"--a free standing, exquisite mousse-like object made from young thai coconuts, layered with a berry-basil substance. Holy wow. Not only does raw food feel completely guilt-free, not only did I come home and pack like 5 more boxes because it actually GAVE me energy instead of zapping it, there's the constant awe that accompanies every bite, like, dude, seriously, how are they doing this? I'm in love with that awe. I have had more astonishing, impressive dishes since I've been trying this vegan thing than I can even count. I have made more astonishingly tasty food than I could have ever dreamed possible. So that's another reason: I have a crush on the simple innovation of the whole thing.

But the real point, of course, is how I feel. It's the five boxes I packed, all the meals for tomorrow I prepared when we got home (to make tomorrow easier), the kitchen and front closet and bedroom that are ready to go because of what I did after I ate that meal. Today, of all days, the difference it makes is unmistakable. I have a long way to go, a lot of weird fears to unlearn, a lot of habits and healthy tastebuds to cultivate. But it's all clear at this moment. Perfectly, beautifully clear.

Self, Happy Birthday to you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Dining

It's been hot here. 90 degrees by 10 in the morning, 97 by early afternoon. When we got out of our little yoga class yesterday, I groaned, "It feels like Mississippi." And it was so.

We're without air conditioning in our little place, which makes matters most unpleasant. The kitties station themselves under beds and couches and chairs, lying on their backs with paws tucked to their chests, surrendering. Sam and I sit on the couch, laptops in front of us, sweaty selves sticking to our clothes, writing and working or playing with blogs and facebook, and whining about the heat. Our two big fans make it sound like we're in an airplane, but do little for the actual temperature.

So yesterday we escaped to the only place that makes good sense: the movies! We drove downtown, parked under Boston Commons, and strolled over to the theater on Tremont. We went to that one specifically because it was showing two movies we wanted to see. As in, Sam went to one and I went to the other. He was in the mood for a horror/suspense (Orphan) and I was in the mood for looking at food (Julie and Julia).

(By the by, the movie was fun, but not as good as I had been led to believe. Did anyone else feel this way? Wasn't enough of a storyline or something. And although I wept (inexplicably) during half the scenes where Streep played Child, I was sort of annoyed by the contemporary character. Maybe I'm alone ...)

Anyway, when we got home it was just as hot, and although I fired up the oven to make these tasty items, I couldn't bear to be in the kitchen any longer. Sam, bless him, rigged up this little dining set up outside. Isn't it pretty? That's our back porch, which we should certainly take advantage of more often.

And here was dinner: big wooden bowl full three quarters of the way with spring mix, then the chickpeas, guacamole, Costco mango salsa, yellow peppers, chopped tomato. It was, if I do say so myself, so tasty.

Also, breakfast this morning. A bowl full of fruit, the ultimate summer dining. Kiwis, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple. And the husband suggested perhaps I bought too much fruit as Costco. As if!

(Okay, I did buy too much fruit at Costco. But look at how pretty! And I'm doing my best to gobble it so I can prove him wrong.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Poem I Wrote This Morning, Yo

Not polished, but pretty. I think.

Upon Attending a Yoga Class with My Husband

It’s a basic class, involving blankets and a dozen grey heads
on pillows, and soon he’s asleep, snoring slightly. I reach over
and tap his ribcage, and we giggle in the back of the room,
our bellies trembling, the lights low.

When we reach to twist our imaginary lightbulbs on and off,
I watch his hands, concentrate on them instead of my breathing,
how long his fingers seem, how deep his palms, how shocking
that he has a body, that he exists separate from me,
from how I think of him as husband, from his laugh, his job,
his methods for loading the dishwasher and taking out the trash,
even the way he touches me when I sleep.

We’re on the floor moving like elephants, like cows, like our cats,
like the very deliberate and slow. His left hand stutters
when he realizes it should be his right. It feels like kindergarten,
like somehow the two of us, who are eleven years apart,
have skipped backwards for an instant, joined each other
on the magic rug for stretching and naptime.

Then we’re standing and lifting our arms high-high over our heads
and I can see his belly button, his small belly button, and he is
so young and I am so young and we’re both imagining we’re floating
in shiny bright bubbles of light.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Movie

Tonight I went and saw (500) Days of Summer. Sam was more interested in hanging out at home, and the friend I called (check me out, calling friends.) couldn't make it, so I just went on my own. I've gone to a movie on my own once before, but that other movie made me feel crazy, and this movie made me very happy. I loved the music, the clothes, the insides of their houses, the wacky formal stuff they did (split screens and, well, I don't know how to explain it. it was cool.), and the story.

After it was over I walked several blocks to my car. It was about to rain so the air was sort of heavy and cool and flashes of lightning lit up the street. I remembered why I love seeing movies at the theater: when I leave, I always feel like I'm in the movie. I think that's particularly true when I watch them by myself, so it's good that the movie was so happy (sort of--I cried at the end) and full of gorgeous details that made you know everything just by the way the light flickered on the girl's face.

Tonight I was clearly the hero, the star, and when I walked down the street the camera noticed my little smile, that I seem to have a terrible habit of looking slightly to the side to see my profile in the store windows, that the wind blew my hair just so, and my sandals made a pleasant flapflap sound, and pretty runners and couples passed me, heading for restaurants and bars and the ice cream shop. But they were just my extras. What mattered was me, my paisley green skirt, my little red car which I would drive through the rain back home to our little brick house and the Sam and the cats. And everyone watching my movie would have known that I felt very happy walking down that street because I couldn't help reaching up to touch a red awning with white trim, and I couldn't help running my fingers through the leaves hanging down from the summery trees.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My New Most Favorite Summery Treat in the Whole Wide World

Strawberry Lemonade.

Check it. All you need: blender, some water, juice of two fresh lemons, 15-20 small frozen strawberries, a bit of stevia.

You do the thing and you make the thing and you put the stuff in the thing and then you blend the thing and then you drink it and then you are glad.

Watermelon? That works too. It's all summer in the tummy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ghosts in the Trees, Wearing Nightgowns

We went to the Forest Hills Cemetary yesterday, the same place that did the lantern festival. It's huge and full of trees and sculptures and they let you drive around and park wherever you want and have a picnic. We didn't picnic, but we did drive around looking for the contemporary art stuff. I'm not sure that Sam liked it as well as I did, but I certainly fell hard for a few pieces, for the whole place really. I made a mosaic of my pictures in Picasa, so that's what you're seeing here. I had too many pictures I was in love with to just post them one by one, and as it is this represents a severe butchering of all the others I wanted to show you.

My favorite was probably the one that looks like the trees are wearing dresses. In fact, the trees are wearing dresses, delicate-ish wire ones. I think you only see the mama dress here, but there was a whole family--one for mother and father, an older sister, and a child. Man, they're spooky and gorgeous. While I was hanging out with them, Sam headed back to the entrance for another map, and I ultimately got spooked enough to go back and try to find him. There was something just too real (or unreal?) about the dresses. Too close to what I imagine it would look like if a ghost family came to visit in the forest.

After the ghost-trees, we wandered past a village of tiny houses, set up in the rocks. The "Poet" house is what's here, but there were a half dozen of them--very strange and lovely.

And the stone pillow comes from a piece with a few tiny stone beds.

I should have written down the artists for you. Whoops.

Then we sat by the lake on these cool tree stump chairs, like the one I sat in the night of the lantern festival. It was such a lovely day, and there were lots of Canada geese and a pretty grey-blue heron.

We found e.e. Cummings grave, which was quite a task, actually. The map had him marked, but we kept looking for at least a semi-impressive headstone. Instead, after much searching, Sam sort of stumbled on him, an extremely unassuming flat marker, set in the ground, next to his wife. Very e.e. of him. People had set out flowers and a little pile of cashews, who knows why.

I insisted we find him because I wanted to think about him. I like e.e., more than I think is in fashion these days. This is mostly because of my mom, who is the best darn reader of Cummings I've ever heard. At this moment I can absolutely hear her saying, "and the little lame balloon man whistles farrrr and weeee." Sigh. If she were here I'd make her read it to me and pat my head.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pretty Baseball

Sam and I got tickets to a Red Sox game through the church. They were a killer deal, and Sam likes him some baseball, and I have fond memories of Padres games with my dad (okay, mostly I have fond memories of the NACHOS at Padres games ...) so we went.

I know it's probably not a baseball thing to say, but it was so pretty there. The sun had just gone down so the sky was this violet blue, and the lights were bright and the weather was perfect and everything was so deliciously green. See?

We had a notion to be fasionably late, which was dumb. I just remembered Padres games taking FOREVER when I was a kid, so I figured we had all the time in the world. But the Sox were playing Baltimore, and apparently Baltimore was, um, not so great, because they were getting socked very very quickly. (Get it? Bah!)

By the time we showed up 45 minutes in, it was inning 5 or something, and the last innings were over in less than an hour. It was crazy fast. Which was probably good, because mostly what I did was take pictures and talk to some of the church friends and watch all these weird bachelorette party women walking around in boas and tie-dye tanktops and tiaras and big sloshy plastic cups of beer. And an hour was plenty of time for all that.

I have trouble watching sports because they seem to sever the connection between my eyes and my brain. As hard as I try to concentrate, as much as I get menfolk to explain the rules and the action and why it matters, I'm still rendered stupid after about three seconds of concentration. This has got to be similar to what happens to some of my students when I talk about poetry, so I don't feel too bad. But really, that place was so beautiful, and everyone seemed so happy and to be having so much fun and eating so much trashy food (I didn't have any--I swear. Nary a nacho.) that I longed to be in on it, to feel connected to all the people in the stands and all that drama on the field.

There was this particularly lovely moment when someone started the wave and I sort of did feel in on it. Apparently Fenway is the place that started the wave to begin with, so they really know how to do it right there. People went crazy for it. We were perfectly synchronized, perfectly undulating around the park again and again and again like a giant sea anenome with thousands of tentacles. And we felt beautiful, and we felt like one thing, and I loved baseball, and I payed attention perfectly, just for a moment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quoth the Raven, Ouch

I went to Dollar Tree the other day for frames. Dollar store frames are my favorite. I put several of our Europe trip postcards in them.

I also couldn't help picking up a cat toy for a buck. I got a little fake bird--styrofoam covered with feathers--thinking it might remind them of days at my parents' house when they were allowed outside. They'd catch big dirty birds, murder them, then drag them into the living room to show my parents. Much to my parents' delight, I can assure you. Apparently vacuuming up feathers is annoying. Who knew?

Now, from the way they sit in open windows, noses pressed longingly to the screens, I think they miss those days. So I bought the bird.

Meatsock immediately commenced murdering it. Until it is, after a day, as you see it here. Poor thing.

Here is Kitty, giving Bird a big friendly kiss.

And here he is again, just after he'd knocked it to the ground and gnawed its styrofoam jugular a little more. They're the best of friends.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pictured, Not Pictured

We had friends over for dinner last Sunday.

Yes, friends! I was as shocked as you are. They're ward friends who were excellent at ohhing and ahhing at our food and our little house and such. I like that a in a friend.

I managed to snap a picture of the table before they arrived.

Pictured: the pretty set of dishes Sam's mom gave us for Chistmas, hydrangeas from our yard, our special $1 placemats from Target, Sam's pink lemonade, and, in the back there, our glamorous trashcan. (Is the silverware on the wrong sides? Sam set the table, not that I know how to do it myself. Oh well.)

Not Pictured: green salad full of herbs (have you tried fresh dill in salad--yum!), homemade balsamic glaze, lemon cashew pesto with angel hair, broccoli, potato onion garlic bread from When Pigs Fly Bakery. For dessert, Celestial Cream (whipped cream sort of thing from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan), fresh blackberries/blueberries/strawberries/cherries, very naughty Blueberry Cranberry Lemonade bread from the same place.

Also not pictured: our lovely friends, our lovely conversation, a little Miles Davis in the background, our conversation about art and local thrift stores.

We had a smashing good time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Too Late to be Awake

But I'm so taken with this line from Jean Rhys' book, Good Morning, Midnight and I updated my goodreads review of it to include this, and I want to record it here, too. So's I remember it.

Not even sure why I like this bit so, but I do:

"I want a long, calm book about people with large incomes--a book like a flat green meadow and the sheep feeding in it."

Maybe I like it because it's so not what this book is like--it's about a very poor, sad, desperate woman--and there's something delicious about saying that within its walls. Maybe its because I know that feeling--not just of wanting to read a book like that, but of wanting to BE a book like that--a calm book about a person with a large income, with something akin to well-fed, drowsy sheep. If only.