Monthly Archives: October 2005

I Can't

I’m having a day where my head is firmly disengaged from the work that sits, scattered around my desk, begging me to deign to give it a little attention. My thoughts are rising bubbles, filled with plans for the weekend (tonight–dinner at home and a couple hours reading books at Barnes and Noble by myself, tomorrow–a run with a friend on Kelly Drive [weather permitting] and then dinner with friends, including the running partner and her mother, at Mr. Martino’s Trattoria), ways to write about potlucks and reminders to myself that sometimes I just can’t. The previous sentence might sound like an unfinished one, but really, that’s what I meant.

Sometimes I just can’t. I can’t make myself like my job. I can’t make more money magically appear in my checking account before I get paid again. I can’t bring a guy into my life or change my roommate or make my butt any smaller. Accepting the fact that I can’t do these and a number of other things is somehow comforting to me. Because in accepting that I can’t do them, I release myself from the pressure of them, the pain of them, the guilt of them. We live in a society where the personal mantra is, “I can make it happen” and the corporate one is “Just Do It.” But sometimes, you can’t make it happen or just do it. Giving yourself the permission to accept that fact is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself.

All of this doesn’t mean that I don’t still believe in the power of intention or the fact that we create the reality in which we live. I’m saying that I believe in the creative paradox that exists between “I can’t” and “I can” just as much as I believe in the beauty and wonder of accepting that you can’t. And so, I can’t and it is good.

Random Friday

As is my semi-regular habit, I’m eschewing a “real” post today, instead throwing my Friday Random Ten up here.

1. Forgiven, Alanis Morissette (Jagged Little Pill)
2. Raised on Robbery, Joni Mitchell (Hits, also on Court and Spark)
3. Meet Me by the Water, Rachael Yamagata (Happenstance)
4. Portland Showers, Folkrum (Some Antics)
5. Get it While You Can, Janis Joplin (18 Essential Songs)
6. Love’s Recovery, Indigo Girls (Indigo Girls)
7. Burn to Shine, Ben Harper (Burn to Shine)
8. Run Me Over and Let Me Bleed, Mare Walkfield Band (Factory)
9. Ne Me Quitte Pas, Nina Simone (Anthology, CD1)
10. Twice, Leo Kottke/Mike Gordon (Paste Magazine Sampler)

And the bonus track, because I love them…

11. You’re a Big Boy Now, Lovin’ Spoonful (Lovin’ Spoonful Anthology)

Would love to see live: Nina Simone (oops, too late)
Have seen live: Folk Rum, they’re a band out of Portland that my sister knows. In fact the drummer is her ex-boyfriend. I was at their CD release party last winter, because I happened to be in town and Raina was bartending that night. Their standard instrument line up includes a cello, which makes for beauty in music.
Favorite Album: Burn to Shine, gotta love that Ben Harper. My Uncle Bill was actually the one who gave Ben his first slide guitar, so I have this extra little fondness for him, by virtue of the family connection.
Favorite Song: Love’s Recovery
About the bonus track: My dad was a huge Spoonful fan (still is) and I grew up with their music. Sunday mornings my dad would break out the guitar and we’d rock out to “Jug Band Music.” Those were the days.

If you want more Random Ten, go check out Luna, Howard, Matt, Mac and Mark.

Historial junkie

Growing up I always felt like I was born in the wrong era, so desperately did I crave old things and old places. Always one to like things out of sync, at a seven year old I longed for a water pump, at nine I wanted an old fashioned coffee grinder with which to grind my winter wheat and make bread (like Laura Ingalls in The Long Winter) and at 11, I was in love with the Beatles. When I was fifteen I wanted to become a historical preservationist, because I couldn’t bear the idea of wonderful old buildings being torn down.

Today I found something in The Morning News that appeals to my fifteen year-old-self, while allowing my 26 year-old-self to recognize that change is a natural process. It is a slide show of photographs of New York City. The first picture in each set was taken in the 1930’s by Berenice Abbott and the second was taken by Douglas Levere in the 1990’s. Levere has written a whole book, called New York Changing, about the process of taking these pictures that also includes more pictures. It’s really fascinating to study the first picture and then click forward to the next, a little taste of time travel.

Chicken Soup

Sunday I went to Trader Joe’s, feeling a little under the weather and not sure of what I wanted to eat. I ended up buying a relative hodge-podge of groceries, including chopped frozen spinach, dried mango and a whole chicken to roast.

The chicken turned out to be an inspiration. I roasted it with a cut lemon on the inside, two sprigs of rosemary shoved between the skin and the breast and whole cloves of garlic scattered around the pan. It went into my turquoise oven for an hour and a half at 425 degrees. It made the living room and kitchen smell delicious and tasted so good that I looked around my empty apartment to see if anyone had magically appeared with whom I could share it. I ate it Sunday and Monday nights, and last night, I stood at the counter, picking at the remaining breast meat before throwing what was left of the bird into a pot of water, to turn it into soup.

Whenever I make chicken soup, I think of my great-great Auntie Tunkel. She was my great-grandfather’s sister and raised my grandmother and her siblings after their parents had both died. She left Russia by herself when she was 16, taking the journey across the world alone. She came because her brother had found her a husband, and everyone knew, life was better in America. I imagine her farewells with the family that stayed behind, holding tightly to her kerchief-headed mother before her red-cheeked, jolly papa pulled her into his arms, for one last good-bye hug. There is no member of my family still living who knows if she had any more siblings, but I think that there was a sister, a younger one, whose heart broke to see her beloved Julia get on that boat. What she did is unfathomable to me, her family, her parents, never to see them again.

I don’t know much about Auntie Tunkel’s life in Russia, but I’ve heard many stories about her life once she came to Philadelphia. She husband turned out to be cruel, and she was never able to have children of her own, and yet she stayed lively and loving, making a home and a life for her brother’s children when the need arose. She was an excellent cook and a talented pianist, learning to play in her 50’s, and giving little concerts in her living room for the neighborhood. When it comes to her food, my mother remembers knishes, gefilte fish, potato soup, matzo ball soup and best of all, chicken soup thick with fat homemade egg noodles.

My mother has made chicken soup hundreds of times over the course of my life, but when I make it, I think of Auntie, in her little old fashioned kitchen in the rowhouse on 69th street, with the enamel table in the middle of the room, and a big, black cast iron pot bubbling away on an old gas range. Auntie died in 1957, so our lifetimes never even came close to meeting, and yet I can see myself in that room. She looks at me and says to me in her thick Russian accent, “time for soup!” And so it is.

The umbrella of good wishes

I have a purse sized black umbrella that I bought at a dollar store about year ago for $2 during a downpour. It’s a fussy little umbrella that doesn’t stay open without some persuasion and a good dose of manipulation of it’s little metal arms. But open and engaged, it’s a perfectly serviceable umbrella and someone how I’ve managed to hold on to it for months despite the fact that I keep trying to give it away.

A week and a half ago, during the first night of torrential downpour that lasted a full week, I was stopped at a red light on my way to the Standard Tap with a couple of friends. There were three girls on the corner, getting soaked, trying to hail a cab. I grabbed the umbrella, rolled down my window and shouted to them, “Would you guys like an umbrella?” The looked at me with a little surprise and said they were fine. I shrugged to my friends, the light turned green, and we went along, umbrella in tow.

Last Tuesday night I got home from work. It was pouring out, and I had used this trusty little umbrella to keep me semi-dry on my walk home. I was standing in the lobby of my building, when I heard a woman say, “Is it still raining out? Shoot, I don’t want to go back upstairs.” I turned and looked at her, and offered my little umbrella. I said she could keep it if she wanted. She was taken aback that I would offer and insisted I give her my apartment number so she could return it, she was only running out to do a couple of errands.

About an hour later, I was up in my apartment, when I heard a knock at the door. It was the woman from the lobby, returning my umbrella. In addition to the umbrella, she put the handles of a little brown paper bag in my fingers. She said that she really appreciated the gesture and wanted to repay they kindness. This time I was the surprised one. I managed to get a couple of words out about how it was unnecessary, and how I had been happy to offer the umbrella. She smiled and left.

Inside the bag was a little lucky bamboo plant.

I kept trying to give my umbrella away, and for all my efforts I now I have a new plant and I still have the umbrella.

Forgotten Friend

I spent most of yesterday lazing around my apartment. I watched “I, Robot” on HBO, and realized it was just as bad as the reviews had claimed. I did some laundry, bagged some trash and forgot to pick up a friend at the airport.

What was I finally got out of the house around 4:30 pm to go to Subud. I had a good, relaxing latihan, and drove home sleepy and a little out of it. I was so out of it that I forgot to turn my cellphone back on, and in doing so, missed Seth’s call telling me his flight had landed.

I finally remembered to turn my phone back on at 9:45 pm, and when I saw I had 4 missed calls, I was a little confused. Who would had been calling? I listened to the first message, sat with a thunk of my bed and let out a huge gasp. I could not believe that I had forgotten him. This is NOT the type of thing I do. I am the reliable, dependable one. I organize group birthday gifts, drive people home after drinking (if I’m sober), give extra hugs and generally act as den mother (a duty I share with Cindy) to my lovely crew of friends.

I finally reached him, and apologized. He said it wasn’t a big deal, he was home now after taking the train and all was fine. But somehow his acceptance of my fervent explanation hasn’t totally discharged my feelings of guilt and inadvertent shirking of responsibility. It will recede with time.

In the meantime, while my mistake still niggles at my consciousness, I offer one more apology via cyberspace to Seth. I am SO sorry I forgot to pick you up. It won’t happen again.

Super Single

I had lunch this week with my ex-boyfriend. It’s been almost a year and a half since we broke up and since I started my new job, in close proximity to where he spends his days, we’ve taken to having lunch together every couple of weeks. We typically spend the hour catching up on the people we were fond of in each other’s lives, but to whom we weren’t close enough to stay in contact post-breakup. This time, when I asked him how things were, he said, “Well actually, I just started seeing someone.” I kept smiling as I assimilated this news, and was able to ask all the right questions, but I definitely experienced a wrenching sensation in my stomach. I understand his right to date, I’ve done my share in the last year, and yet, it felt like a final break, another ending in the series of endings I’ve experienced with him.

Friday afternoon I went to my drycleaners to pick up my dress for my friend Lara’s wedding on Saturday. I had told the Korean couple who own the shop that the dress was for a wedding when I dropped it off a week previous. When I picked it up, they were feeling chatty, and so they said, “Oh, dress for wedding? Are you married?” With a smile, I said no. The woman then said, “boyfriend” with a question in her voice. I shook my head no, but said that I was kind of looking. They exchanged a look, and the man said, “You bring in picture, I put it up on wall here,” indicating the wall next to the cash register. He concluded by saying, “we find you man.” I smiled and thought that the little Jewish grandmothers in my apartment building have nothing on these two.

Saturday night, as I was walking home from the wedding with my friend Una, I noticed a familiar shape walking down the sidewalk in to my left, smoking a cigarette. It was Ben, a guy I went out with three times in March. It ended when I got a cold from spending one evening in his excessively smoky apartment and stopped returning his calls. I said hello to him as he approached, and after his return greeting, the first words out of his mouth were, “I have a girlfriend now.” I offered an automatic “congratulations” and thought it odd that that’s all he had to say to me.

I’ve been feeling extra single lately and these little encounters have done nothing but encourage that sensation. I had a dream the other night that my mother gave me a diamond to use for an engagement ring, and all I could think was how insane she was, because I didn’t even have a boyfriend (not to mention the question of why my mother would be giving me a diamond). Normally I like to count myself in the “strong, happy, single” category, but I have to say, it is getting really old. I’m ready for the excitement of infatuation, and the shivers of a first kiss. Of walking with my hand tucked into someone else’s warm coat pocket, fingers tangled. And so I ask, where are you?

food stuffs

I started out the day craving Combos (the pretzel ones, filled with cheese) and settled for Chex Mix instead. After eating that I felt sick, and yet wanted pumpkin pie or some other sweet, squashy thing. I had teriyaki chicken for lunch (not exactly a sweet, squashy thing, but the food trunks just don’t sell things made with pumpkin or butternut squash). After lunch, that craving receeded, and slipped my mind totally until just now when I saw this over at 101 Cookbooks. I want it.

Speaking of food, a long time ago, someone requested that I post my recipe for lemon-honey salad dressing. I never did, not because I wasn’t up for sharing, but really because there just wasn’t much of a recipe. I watered down a couple of tablespoons of honey with some warm water and then added the juice and zest (please, do yourself a favor and get a microplane for zesting. It will make your life better) from three lemons. It needed a little more kick, so I added some apple cider vinegar until it was tangy and then whisked in Extra Virgin Olive Oil until it was the right consistency. A sprinkle of kosher salt and several turns of a pepper grinder set on it’s corsest grind and it was done. It was so good with romaine and goat cheese, but would be even better with butter lettuce. Best stored in a small ball jar with a tight lid so you can shake it vigorously without fear of splatter. (I know I sound like I know what I’m doing, but don’t be fooled, I make it all up as I go along).

Friday Random Ten

I’ve discovered the beauty of the Friday Random Ten, which is that it’s an easy thing to post on a day when you’ve run to the end of your psychic and creative energy for the week.

So, here’s my cop-out, lacking in originality or creativity post.

Four Eyed Girl, Rhett Miller (The Instigator)
Cruel, Tori Amos (To Venus and Back)
Rockin’ Chair, The Band (The Band)
Easy Rider, Leadbelly (Bourgeois Blues)
Talk to Strangers, Charlotte Martin (Test-Drive Songs)
Truckin’, Grateful Dead (American Beauty)
For Free, Joni Mitchell (Ladies of the Canyon)
World on Fire, Sarah McLachlan (Afterglow)
Hickory Wind, The Byrds (Sweetheart of the Rodeo)
Steaming, Sarah McLachlan (Steaming Single)

Favorite Song: “World on Fire”
Least Favorite Song: I don’t know if I have one, this a pretty good list.
Favorite Album: “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” My dad always thought this was kind of a sloppy album, but I just love it. Always have, always will.

Three Cars Away

I squeezed in many activities today between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. I got home, got my car, went to Target to buy large plastic containers in which to store the cupcakes we are baking tomorrow night for Lara’s wedding on Saturday, stopped at Franco and Luigi’s (13th and Tasker, best pizza ever) for dinner, picked Seth up, took Seth to the airport, headed back into town, parked in Old City and met Shay at the Ritz East for the free preview of “Shopgirl.” I get a little out of breath just typing it all.

When I got back to my car (I had a little trouble finding it, I used the stairs I went down as a point of reference, but then wasn’t allowed to go back up those stairs when I went to retrieve my car) I was really ready to get home and crawl into bed, with a book and a bowl of edamame. I turned onto the alley behind my building (so close!) and had to stop. A cab was unloading a passenger from his cab, and he was taking his sweet time about it. I started to feel the behind the wheel impatience begin to rise, but then I watched the scene unfolding behind me. The cab driver was helping an elderly woman out of his cab, and was attentively holding the umbrella over her head to ensure that she didn’t get wet. He was kind and gentle as he took her elbow, and he didn’t leave her at the door, he walked into the building with her. When he finally returned to his cab, there was a line of cars waiting to proceed down the alley, having thought it would be a shorter cut to their final destination. He ran back out into the rain and then stopped, facing the queue of cars. He gave a little bow of thanks to those he had held up, slid behind the wheel and rolled away into the night.

I imagined that she had spent the evening at her sister’s apartment across town, breaking the Yom Kippur fast, gently bragging to each other about grandchildren growing up on the west coast and reminiscing about family members long dead. I imagined that he had broken his Ramadan fast at the same time as she had broken her’s, first with an orange in his cab and then later with a hurried dinner at a Halal diner in West Philly.

Two representatives from conflicting religions, both honoring their holy days by going without for a time. Tonight they had the opportunity to come together, to offer and accept a kindness from a place that was so much more open and loving that I was able to feel it, three cars away.