Monthly Archives: October 2009

Simple Bruschetta and Less Interesting Apples

I have found that my posts about food — allegedly the, ahem, bread and butter of this dog and pony show — don’t receive quite the same attention as those about my life. Perhaps I have inadvertently found my calling.

Nevertheless…I feel it would be remiss to not talk about 1) the bruschetta; and 2) the apple tart.

1. I’ve wanted to make bruschetta ever since I saw that food porn scene — you know which one I’m talking about — in Julie & Julia. I should have just Googled those precise terms, I guess…as I would have come up with this: Bruschetta alla Julie and Julia. As you know, Epicurious is my go-to site…but they really didn’t seem to have any basic bruschetta recipes — everything had lots of stuff and I was really looking for something simple. So…FoodNetwork.com is always Choice #2…but, same deal. (Alton Brown’s is simple, yes, but it lacks tomatoes…) Finally, I looked in my cookbooks, et voila: The Joy of Cooking had the very simple recipe I was looking for. I kind of monkeyed around with it a bit and added the garlic to the tomato/basil mix instead of rubbing it on the bread (which perhaps means I did not make proper bruschetta at all, but I can live with that…) and I decided to go with a little onion, too. In the end, it was really amazingly delicious…but very heavy. I wanted to be able to eat, like, an entire loaf of the stuff, but just couldn’t stomach it. And when I woke up the next morning, I could still sort of taste the garlic…which I know is totally gross to admit…but, it’s true. (And thanks to some little writer figurines that my friend Frani gave me yesterday, I know that Virginia Woolf said, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.”) It was really good stuff though…and I still have enough tomato goods to make it three or four more times, I’d say.

2. And…apparently I don’t like using apples as much as I thought. The same thing happened last year. I went on that standard fall-time I’m-in-a-couple ritual — apple-picking — and in theory, I should have been on cloud nine afterward, baking up a storm…and churning out pies and tarts and sauces faster than you can say, “The leaves are changing color!” But I never really used them all. And it’s not like I had many apples this year…I had plans to emulate my New Jersey friend and make an apple tart — as in singular! — but the recipe I wanted to use required cardamom and I couldn’t find any at my grocery store…and my mother actually ended up sending me some in the mail…and I checked on the apples yesterday and they’re kind of mushy now. So, I mean, I can still totally *make* the tart…it will just be with less interesting apples.

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Filed under blogs, books, Food Network, Modernism, tarts

Idle Hands…

Everyone who is getting ready to start another work week tomorrow will hate me for this and they will have absolutely no sympathy for me — and I readily admit they have every right to feel that way — but…here’s the deal: I have way too much time on my hands.

And I know this is a dream scenario! This is what everyone who has to get up at 6:30 five days a week and crowd onto stuffy trains and halfheartedly sludge through 8-hour stints in proverbial cubicles dreams about…and instead of embracing all of this time that I have, I find it almost paralyzing in that these days of nothingness stretch on and on forever and I can theoretically look at the rest of my life and say, “Huh. I have nothing to do.”

And, in theory, it’s the exact opposite. It’s unending: There are countless jobs I *could* apply for and dozens of pitches I could send out and — most importantly! — a book proposal I keep swearing that I am about to finish…and yet there’s this strange thing that happened when I finished my copywriting project…even though the project didn’t take up *that* *much* time every day, it was at least something that I had to do in order to meet a deadline and something that was earning me some money…and it made me feel like I had some sort of purpose…and after that was said and done each day, I could embrace my freedom and go to (broken record) Trader Joe’s or the movies in the middle of the day while everyone else was at work and say, “This is nice! I am lucky!”

But without that project, I go to Trader Joe’s or I go to the movies…and I wonder whether I am actually living the life of a responsible adult…or if I am reverting back to some sort of woman-child. I mean, let’s face it — all that separates me from massive loserdom is that I don’t live with my parents. (Take away my Brooklyn apartment and you have yourself a cautionary tale…) Or, alternatively, I feel like if I had made *slightly* different life decisions thus far and had a husband and/or a child — some living being to take care of that didn’t, you know, meow — that my life would have some sort of purpose that it doesn’t right now.

Every day, I set my alarm and try to get up fairly early and tackle the day…and sometimes I do. But sometimes my alarm goes off and all I can think is, “I have nowhere to go today. It doesn’t matter if I get up. If I stayed in bed all day, no one would notice and it wouldn’t make any difference.” Those days are hard. And, of course, I *do* have to get up eventually…but then it’s late and I feel like a slob and it’s hard to get into a positive mindset and actually accomplish anything after that.

Many days, I feel like I’m just making up stuff to fill time: I want to get a long black cardigan; I’ve been meaning to see Where the Wild Things Are; I would like to make eggplant parmesan. These things at least get my out of my apartment…but they only take up one day. Then I have to worry about the next and the next and the next…and when I think of it like that, I can sort of feel myself sliding back into that not-so-good place that defined my summer when I wasn’t on the road. But. I’m trying to acknowledge what’s happening and maybe reverse the slide and get back to a happier spot a little sooner. For example: I won tickets to see Rock of Ages this week. I have to find a damn fax machine in order to get them…but I won tickets to Rock of Ages! I also need to overtly recognize that it really wouldn’t be better if I had a job I hate just because it’s a job. And…the ladies at the Luxury Spot are hooking me up with a makeover this week. So. Plenty to do.

The biggest thing hanging over my head these days: The book proposal. My glass-is-half-full way of looking at everything has been that the universe didn’t send me a full-time job because I’m really meant to write this book and that’s why I have all this damn time on my hands. And I’ve written a lot…but (broken record again), I need an editor to help me organize everything…and I feel like Dale Maharidge‘s advice to just contact agents who have represented authors who have written similar books is such a crapshoot. I mean, sure, maybe I’ll get lucky and one of them will be legitimately interested…but what if they aren’t? I have a list of maybe a dozen agents…and if I don’t hear back from any of them, I don’t really have a Plan B. I keep hoping that I am going to meet someone who hears about my idea and says, “Oh, man, my friend/significant other/parent/sibling/boss/neighbor is an agent! You guys should talk! I’ll make an introduction!”

And so…as sort of a means to this end, I recently wrote David Ellis Dickerson — author of House of Cards and the man behind the Greeting Card Emergency videos. I feel like he’s created a successful career for himself with words and I wanted to see if he had any advice for me about where to go from here. And he did. He sent me a lovely response about how I have an idea I can definitely sell, but I have to do the proposal just right…and as my chapter summaries alone weighed in at 15,000 words, I’m pretty sure that my proposal is not just right…and so for about a week, I was feeling like I couldn’t do anything else with it until I sat down with him and picked his brain. But…given that he just published a book, he’s obviously busy and so I think I may have to forge ahead on my own. And it’s just this huge psychological hurdle — this book is the one truly positive thing I have to cling to right now and it’s the one thing I’ve always known I’m supposed to do…but I don’t know what to do if I can’t find anyone to represent me. And so I think in part I have been stalling so I don’t have to actually answer the what-next question.

And I have Costa Rica coming up in two and a half weeks and there is SO MUCH planning to do…and even though I am a little stressed out about picking the wrong stuff to do or finding a horrible hotel or not being able to do much in the rainy season or finding ourselves the victims of bad roads, I am also super-excited about spending so much time with my oldest childhood friend and exploring a new part of the world. So. My to-do list for tomorrow will include making the final preparations for our trip…although I think I really like the Beaches, Rain Forests and Volcanoes Itinerary in my Costa Rica book…so Fodor’s may have done a lot of the heavy-lifting for me.

So, I mean, I guess it’s true that the grass is greener or that if everyone threw their problems into the middle of the room, we would all run back in and grab our own…which, though perhaps trite or jaded, is maybe not such a bad thing to remember. I don’t have a 10:00 editorial meeting tomorrow in which I have to pitch stories about operations and technology in retail asset management, but I *do* have a lot of things coming up. And those things, in the grand scheme of things, are probably better fits for me than customer relationship management software or 529 college savings plans. I just need to remember that.

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Good Eats: Or, New York with Bobby, Junior, Florence, Mario and Tina.

So…my mother was here last week, which means I got to indulge in a New York lifestyle drastically different from the norm. To wit: I got up and dressed every single day and didn’t once look for a job or do any copywriting or tinker with my book proposal. Instead, I went to restaurants under the purview of celebrity chefs and saw shows on Broadway. I would imagine I would eventually run out of shows and/or get bored if this was my regular life, but…from here, the grass looks pretty green.

Our first stop was Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. I’ve probably walked by this place a million times, but I’ve never been inside. However, I’ve been meaning to ever since I was at work (or in a class) once and my mom was exploring the city on her own and stumbled upon it and was super-excited and ended up doing a big, brave thing and eating there on her own. So…after six years, I finally ate there. I was really happy with my chile relleno — stuffed with eggplant and rolled in cornmeal! — but my mom was a little disappointed with her sweet potato ravioli…which was a shame as it is the one dish that jumped out on the menu to me, too. I’ve sort of had a complex about chile rellenos since eating at a Mexican restaurant in Wisconsin that served an extremely eggy one. As we all know, I HATE EGGS. So…it freaked me out and sort of put me off chile rellenos for a while. But my mother quoted somebody — possibly Bobby Flay — who said that you really shouldn’t be able to taste the egg in a good chile relleno…and she/he was right. (I also really enjoyed the barbed-wire tiles in the bathroom. Nice touch, BF.)

That night we went to the Grand Central Oyster House…which is another one of those places I have heard about for ages but have never actually tried. I don’t honestly remember where all of the oysters came from — although I’m pretty sure two were from the East coast and two were from the West. Either way, it came with mignonette…which is my favorite part about oysters. I had it for the first time at Elliott’s Oyster House in Seattle years ago…and that was it. I was sold. I also had scallops (which I am told my father liked…which is worth mentioning solely because the whole reason my mom came out to NY was to walk with me in the Light the Night Walk in his memory/honor and so I could perhaps exorcise a demon or two) and my mom got a white fish that came with chunks of bacon on top. Both, again, were very, very good…and we were early because we had tickets to Jersey Boys (still hadn’t seen it!) and I imagine it gets pretty cozy in there as the night goes on, but it seems like it would be fun to meet up there for drinks and oysters after work someday. (Also? There is a red lip-shaped couch in the bathroom.) After the show, we hit up Junior’s for cheesecake…and my mom was very excited to see an autographed photo from Bobby Flay. So…it was like the whole day came full circle.

The next day we got lunch at Bagels by the Park and headed out for the God of Carnage matinee. (Loved it! So good! And so funny! Despite the sort of Heart-of-Darkness point of it all…) We had some time to kill afterward, so we hit up the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Times Square (it was either that or Madame Tussaud’s…and the guy at the door gave us $5 off each ticket)…and I guess we should have known better as it was pretty much a huge letdown. Or, rather, there was a lot of uncomfortable stuff: people with really unfortunate physical abnormalities; a room that traps you inside; torture devices; and weird medical situations. There was one breast implant display with a pair of boobs that inflated at the push of a button…otherwise, a big miss. Then I tried to take Ma to the Rainbow Room, but it’s apparently closed for awhile? (Kind of ironic that the Web site says, “Then. Now. Forever,” eh?) And so we opted instead for the revolving lounge atop the Marriott Marquis…and wouldn’t you know it? Florence Henderson was there. Small world. So…we had a drink there and tried to determine which building was which and whether Florence did anything besides the Brady Bunch and Wesson Oil (I have a “Christmas Carols” refrigerator magnet that includes Ms. Henderson, Carol Burnett, Carol Channing and Carroll O’Connor).

THEN we went to Mario Batali’s Spotted Pig as my mom really, really, REALLY likes Mario Batali. We had to wait at the bar for a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal as two seats opened up right away…almost like fate! We had oysters *again* and my mom was thinking about getting pork belly, but our server told us it was pretty fatty…so she ended up with a fish again and I got chorizo-stuffed quail with goat cheese pudding. Pretty amazing. Although the kitchen was churning out burger/fries like they were going out of style. And the guy at the table next to us could not have been any more smarmy and sort of reminded me why I’ve vowed to be the Lone Wolf for awhile. (We also finished things off with a stop by Magnolia Bakery so my mother could have one of the cupcakes made famous by you-know-what.)

On our last full day, we had a late lunch at Chevy’s and dinner after the walk (So cold! But Tina Fey was there!) at an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood that Guilia Melucci wrote about in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” We had tried to get in to Buttermilk Channel, which used to be a place called Cafe Scaramouche where I had brunch sort of on a regular basis with my friend Bob and ordered pancakes with caramelized orange peel that he called “pancakes in drag.” But it’s apparently quite a hot spot as the wait was an hour and we were cold, starving walkers, so we sought out the quiet Italian joint.

And then that was it. Mom went back to Tucson and I went back to reality. Still have a little linguine left over…but then it really is back to my own cookin’. Good thing I’m still really excited about my Trader-Joe’s-in-the-middle-of-the-day epiphany…

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Filed under books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, cupcake, eggs, fish, Food Network, pork

The Great Pizza Fiasco of 2009, Entirely New Apples…and Binging Throughout Manhattan (and a Little Bit of Brooklyn, Too).

I haven’t been SO focused on self-improvement lately that food has slipped *entirely* through the cracks.

I have been meaning, for example, to blog about the Great Pizza Fiasco of K’s recent(-ish) trip. You see, she had never been to Grimaldi’s before…and if you’re someone who comes to New York from time to time — as K is (or was) known to do — it seems like the kind of place you need to go once. I took my oldest childhood friend on, like, a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon and we were able to walk right in. So…I thought maybe if we got there *right* when it opened the line wouldn’t be too bad.

So…we arrived at 11:30. There was a *bit* of a line, but the restaurant was empty and I figured we’d be okay as long as we got in during the first wave (we had tickets to Billy Elliot at 2:00!). So…we waited. There were some folks carrying in boxes and whatnot…and I thought maybe they were running behind. And then a guy came out with a clipboard and walked down the line, asking how many people were in each party. I assumed that maybe the info on the Web site was wrong or that I had misread it and the place didn’t open until 12:00. We waited patiently — it was, after all, almost noon by then — and then, what do you know? A giant tour bus pulled up right in front…and I thought, “No! This isn’t happening!” And yet it did. An entire tour bus full of people walked right in. And that was it…we only had an hour until we had to leave…so instead, on our way back to the trusty F train, we stopped in the Dumbo General Store (which I was later told is Hecho en Dumbo at night…and is totally a restaurant I have been meaning to try FOREVER).

So, it all worked out in the end and everything, but…I don’t know, Grimaldi’s. Seems like maybe we’re getting a little big for our britches, no? Especially since it isn’t exactly the ONLY place you can get good pizza in this town. So…trying to prove that very point, I tried to take K to Lucali the following night…but, dammit, there was a power outage and they were closed. So. K did not get pizza in New York. We *did*, however, have hot dogs outside the West Side Story theater, appetizers and mojitos with orange girlie doodads at Havana Central (also a tiny little nod to our mutual alma mater…), burritos at my favorite burrito place IN THE WORLD (I can’t believe some of those Yelp reviews. I love this place and I *hate* California Taqueria…so clearly Abigail S. and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the Burrito Fence…in fact, I think the guacamole there is maybe the best part…and the Gourmet burrito makes me pretty much happier than anything else. And why do you *have* to have rice and beans in your burrito, Daniel G.? I don’t get it. If I was a braver person, I’d register and write my own review. Perhaps that will come later in my quest for Sandra Bullock Clarity), and, finally — one of the places K actually wanted to go! — Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft. (Another food connection? She bought me a lewd apron for my birthday. How about that?)

The following weekend I made my way to — gasp! — New Jersey to visit another K. And I was actually pretty shocked that I only had to ride New Jersey Transit for 70 minutes, but felt like I was leaving the city far, far behind. (I was also a little bit in love with the child sitting in front of me who kept calling every body of water he saw “the ocean.”) K II lives in a very bright and airy apartment on the Princeton campus (or pretty darn close) and there are lots of trees and birds and bugs. And we went apple-picking! I was not able to get my standard pie apples, but I’m not so much of a stickler that I wasn’t willing to branch out with three new varieties. I *wish* I could remember all three, but one was definitely Macoun. And…as K II took me to a charming kitchen store in the heart of Princeton (that had a revolving cake platter that plays “Happy Birthday!”) and bought mini tart pans (that’s the difference between the two of us — my tart pan is HUGE), I was totally inspired to make an apple tart of my own. (The recipe I like most on Epicurious, however, calls for cardamom and I did not see any at my local grocery store…but Trader Joe’s in the middle of the day in the middle of the week has sort of become my new favorite place to be…and Joe should have cardamom, right?) She was *also* talking about how much she likes donuts…and she was searching for a baked good to claim as her “thing” and I really, really wanted to be able to find a recipe for baked donuts that would blow her away (she was reluctant to embrace donuts because of all the frying)…but, sadly, I didn’t see anything good in any of my cookbooks (Martha has an interesting one for pumpkin cornmeal donuts…but they, like virtually every other donut in creation, are fried)…although a quick Google search pulled up *these* baked donuts…although they are also quick to note that it’s an entirely different taste sensation. If I was a more industrious blogger, I’d try these recipes out and come back with some original reporting. Which I suppose is *maybe* still a possibility, but…

…the traveling doesn’t stop there! My mother is flying in tomorrow…and we have big plans to eat a lot: Mesa Grill, Grand Central Oyster Bar, The Spotted Pig, Buttermilk Channel…and I don’t know what else. Shake Shack? Blue Smoke? Artichoke? I am sort of the proverbial kid in a candy store here as I pick out all these amazing places I would never go if it was just me.

But, wait! There’s more! Big J and I booked our tickets to Costa Rica today! We leave on November 12. And my guidebook is patiently waiting for me at the Red Hook post office. And surely there will be *something* food-related for me to blog about between now and then. (I am tempted to sign this, “Besos! LL.” But shall refrain.)

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Filed under birthdays, books, Brooklyn, frying, gadgets, Martha, pizza, Uncategorized

Bad Boyfriends and The Lone Wolf: Or, What I’ve Learned from Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Whitney Houston, Theodore Roosevelt and the Wizard of Oz.

I’ve already more or less shared my Bad Boyfriend Theory of Freelancing…but since some time has passed, it may be worth revisiting (…at least briefly)…

Let’s say for the sake of argument that I got a call a few weeks back from a publication I’ve been working with for several months…and it is allegedly looking to hire a full-time writer. Let’s also say I’ve been freelancing in the interim — and getting paid to do so — so it’s a fairly okay arrangement…but, for one reason or another, the actual hire keeps getting put off. And then — when I get a call out of the blue, asking if I can fill in on some breaking news — it hits me: This publication is a Bad Boyfriend. The people there know they can call me with very little notice and I will drop everything I’m doing because I’m looking for something serious and long-term…and they will continue to lead me to believe an actual relationship is possible…but, in reality, they’re perfectly content with the arrangement we have because they’re getting *exactly* what they want with very little commitment and they have no intention of ever making things official. And, I mean, it’s not like the analogy carries far enough that I can actually break up with them…because Lord knows I need all the sources of income I can get…but this realization *did* at least help to temper my expectations…and then it got me thinking about the other Bad Boyfriends in my life.

(Warning: This is where it gets *really* self-indulgent.)

I’ve had a lot of Bad Boyfriends in my day. Or, rather, not even full-fledged boyfriends — just men who are content to exist on the fringes of my life…and who never have any intention of taking on a more meaningful role. And it’s my fault — I’m not a helpless victim. (In fact, I’m an enabler…) Time after time, I could have saved myself SO MUCH heartbreak by directly addressing their unwillingness to be a constant presence from the very beginning…but I get so easily attached and then I have this crazy fear of losing them and all of a sudden I’m willing to sacrifice my own happiness in these crazy over-the-top attempts to convince my so-called Mr. Wonderful that he really wants to be a part of my life. And he never does! It never works! And I have literally wasted YEARS — That’s right! Years! — trying to force these men into my life when they really don’t want to be there in the first place. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately…and I don’t know why I’ve done it over and over again.

(So…maybe the buck stops here? [Not my only (quasi-)presidential quote. Just wait and see.])

I guess it was the impending birthday, but I’ve had a lot of epiphanies in the past week or so. This is #1: I’m going to try to be happy with me. Just me. And I’m going to be happy with me before I ever again consider being happy with anybody else. (When I am upset about someone, I have a friend who says, “Protect the heart!” And she’s right! For too long I’ve tried to give the ol’ ticker away to people who don’t really want it. So…I’m going to try holding on to it for awhile now…and to be really, really cautious about who gets it next time.)

When K was here, I was joking that instead of constantly referring to myself as “Lisa Lacy: Tragic Spinster,” I was going to try “Lisa Lacy: Lone Wolf” on for size…even going as far as saying I’d get “LONE WOLF” tattooed on my knuckles (or at least try it out in pen). (I’m not sure if I’m, you know, Tuff Enuff to pull it off. It *would* be kind of fun to see looks on faces if I could find a pen that was realistic enough…but only if I could keep a straight face…like, “Yes, I *do* have tattooed knuckles. What of it?” Sort of like the horrifying sequined top I found at a shop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin once that said, “Dear Santa, I want it all!” Oh, how I wished I could wear it to work and act nonchalant…like, “YES. I am wearing this ON PURPOSE.”)

Because, despite my best efforts to find a special someone, I always end up alone…and I’m always fine. But it always requires this, like, brute force for me to let go of someone…even when that person is a bona fide jerkface. I got really choked up in Sunshine Cleaning in the scene in which Amy Adams tells the guy who has sort of been in her life but sort of not that she can’t do it anymore because he’ll never be a legitimate presence and she genuinely cares about him and she deserves someone who feels the same way…because I know how hard that is to do — I’ve never actually *been* strong enough to let go of someone like that of my own volition. I always wait for the moment when I get hit over the head with a mallet — like, say, that roommate he’s been talking about? *Actually* his girlfriend… — and then I have no choice but to move on.

I just had to go to a wedding by myself…and I felt like such a loser because I was there without a date. And I never have dates to events like that. I always feel like I’m Lisa Who Puts on a Brave Face and Goes Alone. And, in theory, that shouldn’t even be an issue — I should just be Lisa and that should be fine. And here’s where the first of many embarrassing quotes comes in…(I should probably remind you that flying scares me [although not so much lately because I’ve done so much of it] and so my deal with myself is that I can buy trashy celebrity magazines to read on the plane)…and I was reading an US Weekly that quoted Sandra Bullock saying, “I complete me. I’m just lucky that after I completed myself, I met someone who could tolerate me.”

And say what you will about her acting skills or whatever, but I think she hits the nail on the head there. That’s it. *I* should be enough. Whatever comes next is just gravy.

And yet when I think about myself and my life, I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt that way.

And so I guess that’s what New Lisa is focusing on. I’m not sure how you end up with Sandra Bullock Clarity, but perhaps that’s what we’ll call Goal #1.

In the meantime…when my parents first moved to Alaska, I got a call from my mother after they’d purchased snow machines (they call ‘em “mobiles” down here) and snow shoes and the like, saying, “We’re spending money like drunken sailors!” And the same has sort of been true of me lately. I got a haircut…and (overshare) some fancy drawers and some (sorely needed) new bedding. And now not only is my bed super-comfy, but I feel like I’ve exorcised some bad juju.

I had a small lapse last weekend that sort of sent me spiraling and worrying that all of this is horse pucky because I’ve been telling everyone who will listen about my mission to be happy with me…but then I saw the Bartender, who — as if it wasn’t painfully clear before — REALLY doesn’t want to be with me…and I ended up sobbing so loudly trying to get in my front door that one of my neighbors came downstairs to rescue me because he thought I was in mortal danger. But I guess when you’re trying to make positive life changes, you’re allowed to stumble a few steps back every now and again? The whole point is that you ultimately move forward?

Because this is where the second of my embarrassing quotes comes in. When I was getting my hair cut, I was flipping through an old People Magazine and saw a blurb about Jennifer Aniston…which was actually about a spread in *another* magazine in which she “embraced her Lonely Girl image.” But…what really got me was that she said, “[I’m fully supportive of] anybody who is in a place that’s not their strongest [but] is ready to push forward.”

It was like Jennifer was talking directly to me! Because…the past couple of months have been rough. Between the job market and the Bartender, I’ve been struggling…and any sort of strong woman-y thing has really resonated with me. I saw Whitney Houston on Oprah and got all emotional when she sang, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” That sort of kicked off this whole Whitney phase in which I revisited “Saving All My Love For You” from 1985 (which I don’t actually think sets forth a very good example with its “My friends try and tell me, find a man of my own / But each time I try, I just break down and cry / Cause I’d rather be home feeling blue…)…although she redeems herself a year later with “The Greatest Love of All” (as if I even need to say it – “Learning to love yourself / It is the greatest love of all…”). (I also joked about pulling a “Say Anything” move and standing in front of the Bartender’s bar with a stereo above my head playing, “Didn’t We Almost Have it All?” It would almost be worth it to see the look on his face. If, you know, last weekend hadn’t happened.)

And I sort of thought I had slipped back into the abyss after the latest incident, but I spent a day feeling sad and embarrassed and stupid…and, yes, I’m back to bowing my head in shame when I walk by that damn bar…but, for the most part, I have accepted that things are the way that they are for a reason (I saw a woman-y Web site with a link to Oprah.com and Steve Harvey’s 5 Questions to Ask a Man Before You Get Attached…and realized that, yes, if I had asked the Bartender Question #1, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble)…and now I’m trying to just focus on things that make me happy.

I don’t have my dream job, but I support myself with words…and that’s gotta be something, right? I have my own apartment in a great neighborhood…and I have a landlady who calls me “sweetie” and a neighbor who will come downstairs in the middle of the night in the rain to beat up someone who makes me cry. I have an incredible circle of girlfriends. (Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t gotten married yet because I really don’t know how I’d ever choose bridesmaids…or, you know, I’d have them all up there with me and absolutely no one in the audience.) And I’m basically happy. I’ve done stuff. I’ve lived in England and Alaska. I’ve driven across the country with my mother in a giant trailer. And when I was really unhappy with my job and a career path that I felt led me nowhere I wanted to go, I quit and went to grad school to try to find something that would make me happier…and, no, it didn’t work out quite the way I expected…but, on the bright side, I’m not stuck in a job that I hate…and I *do* have a lot of freedom.

So…Epiphany #2 is to sort of embrace the freedom this lifestyle affords. I’ve spent a year shaking my fist at the universe, determined to force it to give me a job…and I’ve lost this battle of wills every time. So…instead of fighting it, I’m trying to just go with it and say, “Okay…I have a steady stream of income. And I can write this stuff anytime and anywhere…” and I’m going to try to use that freedom to travel more. I was thinking Bogota would be first for my friend’s dad’s birthday…but, in the end, I don’t think it’s logistically possible. But! My oldest childhood friend is finishing her Master’s in speech therapy soon…and so I think we’re going to Costa Rica in November. And then another friend’s family is renting an apartment in Madrid in January…so I can totally pop over there to stay with them and then get a train to London. (How about that?)

And…I’ve also used this I-don’t-have-a-full-time-job period to work on a book and have 70,000 words now. And it’s a giant mess and I really need to find an editor who can help me shape it in a coherent form…and I’ve been kind of reluctant to actually finish my proposal because it’s so scary that one document makes or breaks all the work you’ve done…but, you know, I also read Sloane Crosley and Augusten Burroughs and  David Sedaris and think, “I could totally write that.” And, heck, I may never get published…but…I’ve tried really, really hard to make it happen. And – don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up. I’m incredibly stubborn. But – a little rally cry for myself here — I’m trying to acknowledge it’s kind of a big deal I’ve gotten this far. I wrote a damn book! It’s a mess! But it’s a *book.* (And I’m still not likely to show up at any Columbia Alumni events until I can definitively say, “Why, yes, Harper Collins *is* publishing my novel in the fall…,” but, nevertheless…at this point, I at least know that when I show up at the Pearly Gates I won’t have “But I never wrote a book!” on my conscience.)

One of my classmates just sent me an email quoting Theodore Roosevelt, actually (I told you there’d be another president)…and I think it does a good job of summing up my book feelings: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

So…Epiphany #3 is that my life is okay. But, more than that, is Epiphany #4: I’m okay.

I know, I know…I’m OK, You’re OK…it’s so fluffy…but…it’s something I’ve never really officially declared before. I’ve told the world I’m a boob countless times — and, let’s face it — I am…but…I am also nice. And I am good at remembering birthdays. And I can bake the hell out of things. And there are plenty of people out there who I love and who actually love me back and who, unlike the Bad Boyfriends, I don’t have to force to stick around…so why waste so much time with those who don’t want to be there? More baked goods for everybody else, right?

And, you know, when K was here, we happened to catch the Wizard of Oz on TV…which we have both seen at least 1000 times…but there was a line at the end that really caught my attention this time. I *believe* it’s when the Wizard gives the Tin Man his heart. He says, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” And all I could think was, “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” I mean, seriously – shouldn’t it be about how much love you put out into the universe regardless of how much you get back? That’s the way I feel, anyway.

Or, on the Monday after Whip It’s release, there’s Drew Barrymore…who my mother saw on a talk show saying, “Happiness is a choice.” So…I guess my whole point (if anyone has actually stuck with me this long) is that I’m trying. I’m trying to be happy with me and my life and to just be more zen about things and to take them as they come and to not worry about my life not going according to plan…and once I get to a point where I don’t have to remind myself about what Sandra Bullock said in Us Weekly (or I don’t, you know, tell bartenders that I miss them and screw up a month’s worth of progress), then we’ll know I’m ready for a Good Boyfriend.

(Although – oops – I thought I had come up with a nice little ending…but if my ultimate goal is to just be happy with myself, the Good Boyfriend comment may be out of line. But, truth be told, it *would* be nice to meet someone eventually. Just after I’ve worked on myself a little bit more. But, by that point, let me tell you this: He’d better be one hell of a boyfriend.)

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