Monthly Archives: April 2006

A weekend away

Standing in my cousin’s kitchen this morning, drinking water out of a glass shaped like those they used to use (so I’m told) at soda fountains, I find myself fascinating by how the sunshine is dancing on the blue formica countertop. The light is darting back and forth, moved by the leaves on the trees outside their window, the wind leading those leaves on a joyful, unpredictable, partnerless waltz. I always find it funny that I go to New York (albeit Brooklyn) to have a morning where I wake up around trees and am able to be outside in my pajamas.

The first night I was there, I dreamt that there was a citrus grove growing behind their Brooklyn rowhome. They were friends with the farmer (if there was a farm behind their house, that much would be true as they are very friendly people) and introduced me to him. I desperately wanted to reach out and pluck a lemon from the tree, but I was too shy to ask, and didn’t want to go ahead without permission, in case I picked the wrong one. When I woke from that dream, I wished I had just stretched out my hand and selected a piece of fruit, just to see what would have happened. Looking back, I think that sort of behavior would have been encouraged.

It was a wonderful weekend. We marched for peace (many pictures coming soon) through Soho yesterday, wandered through the Strand and had chinese food for dinner. This morning I spent an hour while the rest of the house slept, flipping through back issues of the Nation and the New York Review of Books. The parking angel smiled on me on 29th Street across from the New York Subud House and then I headed home.

Life Raft Sighting

Today I was asked to deliver a project manual to a building on the far side of campus. The faculty member’s office to whom I was delivering is on the same floor as some folks I used to work with through a multi-school program at my last job. They always treated me wonderfully, and are one of the major things I miss about that position. I was waiting for the elevator, ready to get on, when Kelly got off. She greeted me with a cheerful hi, and asked how things were going. I couldn’t stop the emotion from filling my voice when I explained that things were not going as well as I had hoped, and that I’ve hit a crossroads with work that is making me feel like the only option is selling my apartment and going to hide out in Indonesia for six months.

She blinked and asked, “why Indonesia?” She shook her hand at me and said in her Jewish-mama tone, “this is only a blip. I know it feels overwhelming at the moment, but when you look back on it, you’ll realize that it was only a very small blip, in a lifetime of blips. If you want to sit down and do some talking about your career, I would be happy to try and help you work out some things.”

It was the first time that anyone had actually suggested that they would be interested in helping me figure all this out, and for that moment, I felt saved, as if someone had scooted a life raft in my direction. In one big whoosh, her offer of help shifted my perspective a little and helped me remember that my life will be long, and will be filled with many good things. It was amazing how much it helped.

And now, I’m escaping, heading to the wilds of New York City, to spend the weekend with my cousins in Brooklyn. We’re going to a protest march tomorrow, followed by a visit to Ellis Island. Sunday I’m going to try to catch latihan with the New York Subud group and then head home in the afternoon. Should be fun!

Random Friday–I'll take the blues for 100

It’s Friday (last Friday of April no less, it’s hard to believe that 1/3 of 2006 is now past) and that means it’s time for another set of Random Friday music. The rules are simple (and you probably have them memorized by now, but for the new kids), set your iPod or other, less cool, digital music devise a’shufflin’ and report back the first ten (or 11) songs that it spits out. There is no skipping, rearranging, omitted, excusing or obfuscating allowed. You picked this music, so stand tall.

1. Section 12 (Hold Me Now), The Polyphonic Spree (UO Sampler #14)
2. Visions of Johanna, Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde)
3. Not Fire, Not Ice, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals (Live from Mars)
4. Oops Upside Your Head, The Gap Band (Pure Disco)
5. Rocket 88, The Jimmy Cotton Blues Band (Best of the Chicago Blues)
6. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Rufus Wainwright (Poses)
7. Never Leave Your Heart Alone, Butterfly Boucher (Flutterby)
8. Finest Lovin’ Man, Bonnie Raitt (Bonnie Raitt)
9. Amazing Grace, Rachael Davis (Live in Bremen, Germany)
10. Morning Morgantown, Joni Mitchell (Ladies of the Canyon)

Favorite Song: Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk by Rufus Wainwright. This song has an appealingly simple melody and talks about the things that you love that are bad for you. How could I not love it?

Favorite Album: Bonnie Raitt. For those of you who only know Bonnie Raitt as the contemporary rock, “Let’s Give ‘Em Somthing to Talk About” crooner, then you must check out this album. This is Bonnie as her slide-guitar-playing, blues-wailing, heart-broken best. It’s a thousand miles from the stuff she’s done in recent years, and every time I listen to it I regret the path she’s taken, because it’s led her away from this kind of music.

Seen Live: Polyphonic Spree (that was the best live show I’ve seen in my life), Ben Harper, Rufus Wainwright and Rachael Davis.

Hurtin’ for a little more Random Friday? Then check out these folks:
Coffee Girl

If you’ve got a Friday Random Ten Post up and would like a little link-love, let me know.

One big old whopper of a disappointment

Last May, an acquaintance told me she’d be leaving her job this spring. She mentioned it to me because she thought I might be interested in applying for it when the time came, and she wanted to give me a heads up. I was interested, and haunted the website all of January, waiting for the position to be posted.

I worked hard on the cover letter and resume, honing and crafting them so that they would convey my personality, my energy and my passion for this type of work. I turned them in and waited. The job was for the people who gave me an award at the beginning of the month, doing the type of work for which they gave me the award, so I felt hopeful.

Today, nearly a month and a half after I turned my materials in (and after a hopeful email from the district executive on April 5th implying I would be interviewed), I got a call informing me that I was not the direction they wanted to go and so they would not be interviewing me. That they got six applications, and would be interviewing four of the six, and I was not one of them.

I realize that this sort of thing happens all the time, but I was really qualified for this job. I really wanted this job and the disappointment not to even get an interview has been fairly overwhelming.

Lost and Found

Last Friday afternoon, as I was walking home, I lost an earring. This happens sometimes, but I was particularly sad to lose this one. A friend had given me the pair about a year ago, for no particular reason, and I loved the way I felt when I wore them. They were gold colored, larger than anything I normally buy myself and made me feel glamorous, cool and mysterious. They were some powerful earrings.

I lost the earring walking home, listening to my iPod, feeling free and airy. I didn’t notice until I got into my apartment and pulled the earbuds from my ears and realized that one side of my head felt a lot lighter than the other. I experienced a wave of loss, of pain, of guilt (for having lost a gift) and then a wave of acceptance. The earring was gone and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I tucked the remaining gold circle into a drawer (out of sight, out of mind), and incorporated this very small loss into my understanding of the world.

Today, as I was walking home, I happened to glance down at the sidewalk at 31st and Market. Lying in the cracks of the sidewalk was a piece of my earring. I stopped midstride, and bent down, my voice falling off from the sentence I had been speaking to my mom via cell phone. There were two pieces of the missing earring, obviously close to where I had lost them. My mom chirped in my ear, wondering where I had gone, worrying that maybe I had been hurt. I picked up the pieces and kept walking, marveling at the wonder of finding anything of the earring at all, especially after the torrential rains we had over the weekend and last night.

I don’t like to lose things, and don’t consider myself someone who does so. I’ve always been organized, observant and careful, especially with my possessions. This was in direct contract to my sister who would always cut, alter, color or scribble on anything she obtained, so as to make it as close to perfectly-hers as she could. I liked to keep things pristine, as neighborly to it’s original state of newness as possible. So when I do lose something I spend a moment berating myself up with these questions:

Where did you lose it?

How could you not be paying attention?

Should you even be allowed to have nice things?

Finding the pieces of that earring today for some reason helped me let go of these questions, and realize that it doesn’t matter. I’m not entirely sure what the relationship is between the discovery and the release, other than the fact that it felt so unusual, so otherworldly to find altered pieces of what had once been mine on a street that thousands of feet had traveled since the earring and I parted ways. It was a reminder that things are never really lost, they still exist but it’s just that we don’t have them anymore. I don’t think that I will ever like to lose things (who does?), but I feel a whole lot more comfortable with it now than I used to.

Aunt Anne and the TV

Yesterday, my cell phone starting ringing while I was at work. I had a stack of file folders in my hand, and in the process of reaching to pull my phone out of its pocket in my bag I almost tossed the across the office. I opened the phone without looking, as it was getting close to the 4th ring, after which the caller would be sent into voicemail exile.

“Marisa? Marisa? Is that you? This is Aunt Anne.”

“Hi Aunt Anne! Is everything alright?”

“Listen honey, the TV you gave me is broken and I didn’t know who else to call. The screen has gone blank, and while I can still hear the voices, I can’t see anything. I’m so sorry to bother you, but if you could tell me where did you got it, maybe I could take it to them to get fixed.”

Aunt Anne is 86 and is a combination of utter sharpness and total lack of problem solving skills. She suffers from a lifelong lack of self-esteem which causes her to apologize for bothering me between every third word.

I bought her TV on sale at Walmart (I realize the error of my ways, but it is a really nice set, and was under $100. I feel the universe will forgive me for shopping at Walmart, when the result of it so clearly made her happy. At least until the damn thing stopped working). Aunt Anne doesn’t understand Walmart or the culture of disposability that we live in these days. Her last TV lasted 35 years, I’m not sure how to explain it to her that the new one may have blown a tube in 6 months. I make arrangements to drive out to her house in New Town Square on Wednesday after work and see if I can’t figure out what the problem is.

Sitting at work this morning, Aunt Anne called again.

“Marisa, I don’t understand. Don’t you have a job? I keep calling your home line, and I reach you. Have you been fired? Do you need money?”

“Hi Aunt Anne. No, I still have a job. My home phone forwards to my cell phone if I don’t answer it after a couple of rings.”

She is silent for a moment, pondering the enormity of the power of technology these days. I can almost see her, shaking her head to let this new knowledge sift like ashes to the far recesses of her mind.

“Well, honey, I’m really sorry to have bothered you, but I have to tell you, I feel like an ass. The TV is working fine today. I don’t understand it. So you don’t have to come out tomorrow night.”

“Aunt Anne, it’s really okay. You are allowed to call me anytime you want. If the TV goes weird again, you can call me, and I’ll come out and try to fix it.”

We chatted for a while longer, until she was done being on the phone. She cut me off with a short, “Okay honey, I love you. Bye.”

So, the TV is fine (think it must have had something to do with her reception). I’m not going out there Wednesday night, but I have got to find a time to visit her soon, as I think her confusion is getting worse. In her own words (which she repeats to me every time I see her), “Getting old is for the birds. Don’t do it.”

There has to be some benefit to being an old lady

Sunday afternoon I found myself waiting for the elevator with my quirky, 80-something year old neighbor, Mrs. B. She is about 4’6″, wears cat’s eye shaped glasses, speaks with a thick Philly accent and never fails to make me laugh when I see her.

“Hi doll, how are you? I’ve already been out today, I’m just running up to get a coat. They said it was going to be so warm out today, and it’s not, it’s chilly. I don’t know what that weatherman is doing, but I don’t think he’s been outside once today.”

Mrs. B doesn’t need much in the way of a response, all she needs is a nod or a murmur of agreement and she’s good to go for another five or six sentences.

“I went down to Lord and Taylor today, to see if they had anything good on clearance. I use Estee Lauder products, my salesgirl, who I’ve been going to for years, told me that there’s nothing left. I tried on a little blouse, but even after the discount, it was still almost $90. To me, not such a bargain. I did buy a few pairs of underwear. I couldn’t find my size, everything was such a mess! I found a girl, a nice salesgirl, and went up to her and asked, ‘Could you help out an old lady?’ Of course she helped me. There has to be some benefit to being an old lady, after all.”

I laughed and told her that I thought she should take as much advantage of being an old lady as she possibly could.

Mrs. B kept talking, and I kept listening, throwing the appropriate reply in every so often. As we got on the elevator, she looked at me with a slightly more serious expression on her face and asked, “Is everything alright with you, honey? You seem a little quiet.” I smiled and told her that I was just fine. I could tell she was dying to ask me if I was dating anyone (she loves to be kept up to date on my love life), but we had reached the lobby by that point and were heading our separate directions.

Running into Mrs. B is always a kick and a pleasure.

Another poem for National Poetry Month


Around the park, around the elementary school
I walk the dog for a half hour most days,
making three loops. I chat with familiar dog walkers,
our conversations either canine or weather related.
I give a nod to the father and son
who practice baseball in all seasons,
a wave to the janitor at the school, the drunk who collects
empties and the young boy who comes to the
playground alone. I smile and say hello to the two
women who sit on the side steps of the school.

I take my visiting daughter to share
my new walking circuit since discovering this
park last year. After we greet and pass the
two women, my daughter says,
“Mom, you do know they are hookers?”
I didn’t.
It wouldn’t change my affability to them
but I am startled to realize that my
daughter, almost 32 years younger,
is so much more street-wise.

by Leana McClellan

Chocolate Fondue

Last weekend, my friend Jess brought a pitcher of fudge sauce to Seth’s Easter cookout. She wanted to be ready, in case anyone brought ice cream as their contribution. Sadly, no one was inspired to bring a frozen dessert, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the fudge sauce. Standing around the kitchen talking, I eyed the white pitcher housing the semi-liquid chocolate. After ten minutes of half-distracted talking, I had had enough. I announced, “I’m sorry, but my finger is crying out for a little enhancement.” My friends shot me looks of momentary confusion that were soon replaced with expressions of knowing understanding. Soon everyone had availed themselves of the chocolate sauce (I do so enjoy being the trailblazer), and we started talking about chocolate fondue. The idea was floated that one night we should just have chocolate fondue for dinner, because you can’t adequately enjoy it if it’s following a full meal.

Somehow one night became tonight. Five of us gathered around a pot of warm, semi liquid chocolate, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, apples, peanut butter filled pretzels, marshmallows and poundcake and ate ourselves silly. (See the pictures here).

My recipe for chocolate fondue is really simple. I create a makeshift double boiler out of a old cooking pot and a stainless steel bowl. The secret to a double boiler is that the bottom of the bowl can not be touching the water in the pot, the heat to melt the chocolate needs to come from the steam that the boiling water releases. As long as you remember that rule, your double boiler will never fail. I pour about 8-10 ounces of half and half or cream into the bowl (most recipes you find will call for cream, but Trader Joe’s was out of it today, and I wasn’t about to run around to find someplace else that carried it) and start to heat it. I then add a whole lot of chopped chocolate (I used a pound and a half tonight) to the milk. I buy the hunks of Ghirardelli’s that they sell at Trader Joe’s for $3.49 a pound and comes in varying sizes. I tend to do 1 part milk chocolate to 2 parts dark or semi-sweet. I whisk and it melts. When all the chocolate has melted, I pour in a good shot of Frangelico (hazelnut flavored liqueur), because I have two large bottles of it still left from my grandparents, and I’m always looking for ways to use it up. You can throw in any liqueur (anything fruit or nut flavored is good), or skip it all together.

The chocolate is done when it is smooth and really glossy. You can serve it in a fondue pot (three tea lights under the pot will keep it as warm as you need it to be if there is a dirth of sterno in your life) or you can stand in the kitchen with glasses of wine and eat it straight out of the double boiler on the stove with pretzels and hunks of pineapple (we ate it both ways tonight).

It is so (SO) very good (there isn’t much that wouldn’t be good when dipped in warm, melted chocolate, although I’m sure you all could think of something).

Random Friday–An Infamous Spoonful

How is it possible that it is Friday already? I remember when I was growing up that adults always talked about how time sped up as you got older. I also recently read something about how time actually is speeding up. The combination has got me positively dizzy.

Anyway, enough of that. Its time for my set of Random Friday music. You know the rules, but I’ll repeat them because I get a kick out of doing so. Set your iPod or other (less status-y) digital music device to shuffle/random and report back the first ten (or 11) songs it spits out. There is no omitting, manual shuffling, hedging or justifying allowed. Be proud of your musical tastes, no matter how odd or obscure they might be.

1. Run Away From Time, Ray Davies (Paste Magazine Sampler)
2. Let It Be, The Beatles (Past Masters, Vol. 2)
3. After You’re Gone, Iris Dement (Infamous Angel)
4. Crossroads, Tracy Chapman (Crossroads)
5. Shooting Star, Bob Dylan (B. Dylan Unplugged)
6. Dreamboat Annie, Heart (Greatest Hits)
7. Senorita, Los Lonely Boys (Los Lonely Boys)
8. Summer in the City, Lovin’ Spoonful (Lovin’ Spoonful Anthology)
9. Let You Go, Cerulean Groove (Over Crooked Tables)
10. Tango: Maureen, Original Broadway Cast (Rent, Disc 1)

Favorite Song: Summer in the City by the Lovin’ Spoonful. This is actually one of my favorite songs in life. I grew up with the music of the Spoonful as have been one of my dad’s favorite bands since he was a teenager. I have vivid memories of dancing around the living room, singing Jugband Music or some other Jon Sebastian song at the top of my lungs and my dad rocked out on the guitar. I even devoted an entire blog post to this song last summer, after hearing it on the radio as I was getting ready for work.

Favorite Album: The Rent soundtrack. I was actually listening to this as I walked home from work today, letting the scenes of the play run in my mind as the songs filtered through my ears. I saw the play once, when it came to Portland in the winter of 2001. My sister and her friends waited outside in line all night to get some of the tickets they reserve and sell for $20 a pop just a couple of hours before the show starts. You were only allowed to buy two tickets, and Raina bought one for me and one for herself. It was the first time in my life that I knew we were going to be friends some day.

Second Favorite Album: Infamous Angel by Iris Dement. I needed a second favorite today, because I also love this one.

Most Embarrassing Music Selection: I’ve gotta go with Heart here. I can’t believe that my iPod outted my secret love of Heart.

If you need another dose of Random Friday, check out these folks:
Coffee Girl