Monthly Archives: May 2006

Jumbled thoughts

Sometime, either Friday or Saturday (details are rough and sketchy), my sister received a marriage proposal from a guy she’s known for just over two weeks.  She emailed our mom for advice, since 36 years ago, she was in a similar situation.

My friend Shay has been staying with me for the last week or so, as the old roommate moved out on May 18th, and the new one won’t move in until the third weekend in June.  Several of us were brought together by former friend Rachel, a young woman none of us stays in touch with, but are all grateful we knew because she was the reason we all met.  Shay and I spent two years working together out at Drexel Med, and it’s been a delicious pleasure to see her daily again.

I’m feeling quiet and less expansive than usual.  For the first time in my life, I’m not excited by the prospect of meeting new people.  I don’t know if it’s the sudden heat or the many shifts in life lately, but holing up in my apartment in front of bad tv is deeply appealing.

Lately, the insides of tomatoes have been a deep, almost bloody red.  This, to me, is one of the irrefutable signs of summer.  I have taken to tossing halved grape tomatoes, chunked cucumber and sliced red onion with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and handfuls of fresh, torn basil and calling it dinner (if I feel the need for protein, I get a container of marble sized fresh mozzerella and add it to the mix).  If I’m feeling extra ambitious, I’ll cook up a couple of ears of corn and slice the kernels off the cob and add it to the bowl.  Shay calls it summer salad.  I call it good stuff.

Memorable weekend

My family has a tradition of moving over Memorial Day Weekend, so every year, I’m grateful when Memorial Day comes and goes without boxes, bubble wrap and moving vans. When they don’t include moving, I have always been partial to holiday weekends. People kick back a little more than normal, comfortable in the knowledge that they have a full additional day into which they can relax. Over the last three days, I’ve felt like time has stretched out and expanded, to the point at which I’m having a hard time remembering what my life is like regularly.

Saturday morning, I took my mixer on its second spin around the block, this time with some maple pecan scones (I did them with all whole wheat pastry flour). They came together really easily and were terrific (although they did get increasingly dry as time passed. Toasting and buttering helped). Scott came over later that afternoon and we (he) did the previously mentioned work on my blog. Every time I look at it now, a little shiver of pleasure runs up my spine, I so love how it appears.

My cousin Melissa flew into town Saturday evening, and all of that night, as well as most of Sunday was spent with a collection of extended family. I often find myself craving family, and so having time to relax into the presence of those with whom I share blood is something I don’t take for granted.

This morning, I left my apartment at just after 9:30 am. The sun was already bright and hot as I walked through Rittenhouse Square towards the home of some friends (another friend was over there making pancakes). The square was surprisingly empty for a holiday morning when almost no one was working and there were so few people on the streets, that I felt like I should greet the individuals I passed with a cheerful word or two. I tried once, but the boundries of the Center City norms kept me strangling my voice.

There was a picnic this afternoon in a section of Fairmount Park nearby the Walnut Lane Circle. I sat on the ground with friends, eating, talking and watching the many little kids get dirtier and stickier as the afternoon became long. I brought a dip I make because I love to eat it, but I can’t make it often, or I’ll consume it all. When I first put it out, I stood next to it, explaining what it was to the first few folks who came by, because initially, it doesn’t look too appetizing. But one bite, and most are hooked. It gives me great pleasure to have people enjoy food that I’ve made, so that was a nice moment. For those of you who are interested, here’s the recipe. It came from the letters section of Gourmet, in July of 2003.

Tomato, Red Pepper, Basil and Feta Dip

2 garlic cloves
1 (7oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained
8oz sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
1/4 C drained bottled, peperoncini, stemmed
1/2 lb crumbled feta
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 C loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 C loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Blend garlic, roasted peppers, tomatoes and peperoncini in a food processor until finely chopped. Add cheese, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. With motor running, gradually add oil and blend until incorporated. Ad basil and parsley and pulse until finely chopped.

Eat with veggies, chips, pita or anything else you want. I also imagine it would be terrific tossed with pasta or smeared on chicken prior to baking.

The new look–an update

The new banner image is up, and the fancy new digs are coming together (thanks, as always, to Scott).  There are still a few clean up tasks to do, but my internet connection failed towards the end of the afternoon, so we didn’t get to do all we had hoped.  Damn Comcast.

Random Friday–Holiday Weekend, here I come!

It’s Friday once more, and as is my Friday tradition, it is time for me to set my pod a’shufflin’ and report back the first ten songs it spits out. I promise not to omit, alter or justify any of the songs that show up. I expect all who play along to adhere to the same pledge!

1. If I Wrote You, Dar Williams (End of the Summer)
2. Cold Feet, Tracy Chapman (New Beginnings)
3. Feelin’ Love, Paula Cole (This Fire)
4. Point Shirley, Rhett Miller (The Instigator)
5. Main Man, The Ramones (Monda Bizarro)
6. Burn, Ray LaMontagne (Trouble)
7. The Girl I Left Behind, Charlotte Martin (Test-Drive Songs)
8. Anticipate, Ani DiFranco (Living In Clip)
9. 1 2 3, Indigo Girls (Nomads Indians Saints)
10. More Love, Dixie Chicks (Home)

Favorite Song: Burn by Ray LaMontagne. Seeing Ray in concert last summer was revelatory. I had heard his music on XPN for months, but hadn’t really registered it as something I particularly liked or cared about, until one day a friend called me up, and said that another friend of ours had tickets to his show and wasn’t able to use them. Did I want to go? I said sure, and the night of the concert I finally realized what all the fussy was about. I hardly moved during his performance, so transfixed was I. Thankfully, the CD is a fairly good representation of what he’s like live, and so I can get a fix of it any time I need.

Favorite Album: Living in Clip. I first became aware of Ani DiFranco and the Living in Clip album my freshman year of college. This double CD had drifted into my life via my dad (my sister and I both claimed ownership of it at certain times, and finally I was forced to buy my own when it got too scratched by sand to be played anymore). My RA, Erica, would play it in her room, and would announce everytime one of the songs came on that she had been at that show, and she thought she could hear herself cheering (I don’t remember what song it was, all I know is that it was the one recorded at a show in Idaho, but I can’t find the listing of where the tracks were recorded).

Seen Live: Dar Williams (she’s playing at the Lower Merion Concert Under the Stars on June 25 for $10), Ray LaMontagne, Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls.

Looking for another dose of the Random Friday Ten? Check out these folks:


If you’ve got a list up and would like a little link love, leave a comment.

Tonight free time equaled exercise time

Tonight was the first night in more than two weeks where I had nothing scheduled. There were no meetings, no goodbye dinners, no dates and no movies. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to tonight since last weekend.

For many weeks, I have been promising myself that I would get myself back into regular exercise, but for the last several months, have been able to come up with excuse after excuse, putting it off. Knowing that I was going to have a free night tonight, I decided that that was it. I had to go do some intentional, sweat-producing, heart pounding exercise. (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter! This a family blog).

Upon leaving work, I thought I would go for a walk down along Boat House Row, but as I wandered home, the weather looked uncertain and the wind started to pick up. Luckily I always have as a back up the gym in my building, down on the 5th floor. It makes exercise easy, as long as I can convince myself to put on sneakers and sports bra and actually walk out of my apartment (often a great mental feat). I put the clothes on at 8 pm, and then puttered around my apartment for the next hour and a half. Finally, at 9:30, after promising my mother and my friend Una that I was going to go to the gym (accountability works for me), I got myself on the elliptical machine. I stayed there for half an hour, remembering what it felt like to really move my body and not disliking the sensation.
I’ve always had a difficult relationship with exercise. My body and it’s fat to fitness ratio has been a huge struggle for me throughout my life. I’ve spent multiple summers at weight loss camp, done many iterations of Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, joined gyms only to attend them twice before giving up and talked about it all until I was blue in the face. This is not a unique-to-me story, many have already told it.

Over the last couple of years, I really thought I had found a solution to it all, forcing myself fit into the mold of “runner” although I never totally fit that model, there were always bits of me hanging over it’s edges. I loved the pursuit of running, the way in which you could set goals and achieve them and the internal satisfaction that came after finishing a run (for me, the best part of running was always after it was all over). After twisting my foot last fall, I couldn’t even fake being a runner anymore. It had lost it’s power and appeal, and I couldn’t do it without some part of my body hurting and continuing to hurt for several days afterwards. So I’ve left it alone.
Right now, I’m just happy to have put in some time in the gym, without incident or accident. Sometimes that’s enough.

Weekday lunch with my dad

Monday afternoon I had lunch with my dad. I’ve lived 3,000 miles away from my parents for the last four and a half years, so a weekday afternoon meal with a parent is a rare and special treat. He had been in Boston for his high school reunion (40 years!), and managed to make his flights work so that he had a three hour layover in Philly.

At the airport, he climbed into my car as if it was something he did regularly, and we picked up a conversation as if it had been one we had started earlier. Seven minutes into the drive towards cheesesteak land I stopped the conversation abruptly to half-turn to him, squeeze his knee and say, “I just love that you are in my car!” He showed me the grin he reserves for those moments when he is overflowing with love for his kids and said, “and I’m so happy to be here!”

We pulled up to Geno’s for a steak (the beauty of going there at 4 in the afternoon is that there is no line and plenty of parking spots right in front), and as we got out of the car, I coached him on the “proper” way to order (he hasn’t lived here in 50 years, the memory could fail). Being my take-charge (ahem, bossy) self, I then ended up placing the order for both of us.

Sitting there at a plastic table, in the late afternoon sun, as the wind threatened our cups and napkins, I finished my sandwich first and so had the opportunity to watch my dad eat. I studied his face in the way one does when they are confronted with something that was familiar long ago, re-remembering the lines and expressions, noticing the changes the last six months have wrought. He was wearing the same style of sunglasses that he’s favored since I’ve been making memories. He looked solid, familiar and completely comfortable.

After we finished eating, we wandered up the closing-down Italian Market, and over to DiBruno’s, so he could get a sandwich for the flight. They were completely out of bread, and had one single pre-made veggie sandwich left. My dad started chatting with the guy behind the counter in the way he always does, and wound up with a pile of sliced roast beef on that sandwich, at no extra charge. I bought him a latte at Anthony’s, and then it was time to head back to the airport.

Pulling up to the curb, I handed him the paper bag I had packed back at the apartment, the remaining third of the Passover ham and two mini sized bottles of Chivas inside of it. He tucked the sandwich in on top and started to get out of the car. I popped it into neutral and pulled the brake so that I could get out and give him a big goodbye hug. With that, he headed into the airport and was gone. As I drove away from the airport, I had a moment where I wondered if the last two hours had even happened. Had it been real? He came and went so quickly, that it was hard to even miss him, as I hadn’t gotten a chance to get used to his presence.

No matter the speed of the visit, I was happy to have him for any length of time.

Saying So Long

I said goodbye to Ingrid tonight, standing at the corner of 2nd and Poplar. The crew had gathered at the Standard Tap for one last evening together. As we walked down the sidewalk, farewells were said, as people branched off to their cars. Seth was going to drive me home, and Ingrid was riding with Una and Cindy, so we stood there, hugging in the light of the street lamp. I held my tears in and laughed as we realized that Una was parked just in front of Seth, so the dramatic moment on the corner wasn’t quite the end. I walked around to the back of his car to get my bag, and Ingrid came around for one more hug. We both started to weep. Heaving sobs shook both of us as we held on to each other and marked the end of three and a half amazing years of friendship in Philadelphia.

I met Ingrid at the Unitarian church in November of 2002, although now, it’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t know her. Ellen pointed me in her direction on Sunday during coffee hour, and we instantaneously fell into friendship. I can’t even remember a time when we were just acquaintances. We were strangers and moments later we were sharing our souls (and making plans to go see the second Harry Potter movie).

We have been each others’ supports through break ups and moves. Nights that were drunken and wild as well as the tamer ones. We have eaten countless meals together, slept side by side, driven across states, listened to music and laughed. When I developed an impractical, unrequited crush on her brother, she gave me a picture of him from when he was in high school wearing nothing but a pair of shorts made out of a Texas flag.

She is moving back to Texas, her home state, to be closer to her parents. It just felt like time. I understand it, and I’m excited for all the changes she is creating in her life. I know that many amazing things are in her future, and I’m just jealous that I won’t get to be part of the day to day.

This move isn’t the end of our friendship, we will know and love each other for the rest of our lives, but I am still so sad to see her go.

Sixty seconds of perfection

Saturday afternoon, I had a perfect moment.  Everything in the universe conspired to remind me that I was in the most right place, at the most right time.

After finishing an imprompu lunch with a seldom seen friend, I walked over to Jin’s Produce to buy the ingredients for a salad I was bringing to a cookout later that afternoon.  In the store, I performed the dance of tomato and cucumber selection, raising onto my toes to pick out a bunch of basil from the cooler and gently manuvering around the other shoppers as they chose individual string beans and bunches of grapes.

It’s a small store, without much in the way of aisles or empty floor space.  Shopping there demands more interaction with fellow shoppers than a standard grocery store, and that’s one of the reasons I love it.  I was once a dollar short on my purchase when a fellow customer overheard me offering to put my mango back, and cheerfully offered up a single.  He didn’t want to be paid back, he said he was happy to help out.
As I walked up to the check out counter, I overheard another shopper ask the clerk if they took ATM cards.  She shook her head and didn’t offer any further advice as to where he could get money.  I spoke up and told him that there was a Wawa up on the corner where he could get cash.  He handed his basket to the clerk for momentary safe keeping and murmured thanks.
I paid for my purchases and headed out the door.  The man who had needed a cash machine had made it to Wawa and was heading back towards the store, and gave me a big smile and an appreciative “thanks for the tip.”  I returned with “it was my pleasure” and an equally big smile and walked to the corner, buzzing on the positive interaction with a stranger.

Standing, waiting for the light to change, enjoying the sunshine, it was as if the world slowed down for a moment.  I heard the honking of a car horn, and my cousin Dan drove by me, waving and shouting, “hey, Marisa!”  I yelled a greeting back, and turned my head a bit to the right.  I saw a woman pushing a baby stroller across the street with a child in it who looked to be about a year old.  This baby was kicking and stretching her arms and legs in a way that telegraphed absolute joy, love and happiness so strongly that I could feel it standing 100 feet away.
All of this happened in a matter of a single minute, but the time it occupied in my heart stretches out continually, even into my present.  Taken separately, these events don’t seem remarkable, but the three in sequence spoke to me.  I felt awash with the love of the universe and felt singularly convinced that life is good.

Candlelight Memorial

A quote straight from my building’s Board of Director’s monthly newsletter:

Unfortunately, one of the birch trees in our front garden has died. A candlelight memorial service will be held. We are in the process of getting bids to remove the dead tree and replace it.

The emphasis is all mine.  There are no words.

Random Friday–In the last few minutes of Friday

My schedule today was different from the norm, and so I haven’t gotten a chance to get my Random Friday Ten up until just now. But I can’t let a Friday go by without setting my pod to shuffle and reporting back the first ten songs it spits out, now can I? The rules are simple (you can skip this part if you already know then). Share the ten songs without skipping, omitting, subtracting or rationalizing anything. Be proud of your eclectic tastes.

1. Shining Star, Earth, Wind and Fire (Best of Earth, Wind and Fire)
2. Everyone Here Wants You, Jeff Buckley (Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk)
3. Back Around, Ani DiFranco (Puddle Dive)
4. Stop Me, Shelby Lynne (Epic Recordings)
5. Any Day, Ani DiFranco (Puddle Dive)
6. Uncle John’s Band, The Grateful Dead (Working Man’s Dead)
7. It’s Only Love, The Beatles (Help)
8. On a Plain, Nirvana (Nevermind)
9. Money, Lovin’ Spoonful (Lovin’ Spoonful Anthology)
10. A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free, Elliott Smith (From a Basement on a Hill)

Favorite Song: Shining Star. I’ve especially enjoyed Earth, Wind and Fire since I learned by watching the movie Baadasssss that they really took off as a band by providing the music for Marvin Van Peebles movie Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. A couple of years ago, I was at a free screening for the movie Bewitched and they gave people prizes for getting up before the movie and performing Earth, Wind and Fire songs. It had absolutely nothing to do with the movie, but was deeply entertaining. It’s amazing what people will do for a plastic keychain.

Favorite Album: Help! In my heart and mind, the Beatles always win. Always.

Seen Live: Ani DiFranco (two years ago at Appel Farms) and Elliott Smith (right before he died, at the Troc).

Personal Connections: Elliott Smith, he’s from Portland, and went to my high school, although not at the same time as I did.

Other Thoughts: I’m slightly weirded out by the fact that two songs from Puddle Dive showed up. What’s even stranger is that I continued listening to this shuffle for awhile, and another song from that album popped up, at position 14 or 15. I guess the pod like Ani.

If you’re looking for another hit of the Random Friday Ten, I recommend checking these folks out:


If you’ve got a list up and would like a little link-love, let me know!