Monday, June 25, 2012

Holy hills...

Yikes.  Been over two months since I last graced the internet with my presence (other than the embarrassing number of hours spent on Pinterest).  But you know what?  I make NO apologies.  Mostly because… well, I doubt anyone noticed.  THANKS, FRIENDS.

And now, here I am in San Francisco.  I’ve been here a lil’ over three weeks now, and the two most important things I’ve learned so far are:

1)    I sort of forgot how overwhelming it can be to move to a new city, and
2)    I do, in fact, know Eddie Izzard’s San Francisco routine by heart.  And it runs through my head constantly. Saaannn Fraannncisco… town, city of gleaming spires, people live here… Golden Gate Bridge!  Ahh, the Romans came here…

Here.  You should watch the first half.  Then keep reading.

But back to the overwhelming thing –
Favorite bathroom graffiti so far
I don’t know where things are (What the f*** is with the million different neighborhoods?  And why do I always feel like the Tenderloin is just around the corner?)
I don’t know how to get anywhere (busses, trains, light rail, cable cars – CABLE CARS?  I haven’t been on one yet, but every time I see one go by I go back to Eddie: “ Cable cars, they’re fun!  Everybody gets on board and becomes a rhesus monkey. No one talks on a cable car, they just haaang and staaare...")
I don’t know as many people (although I do adore the few exceptions) 
Crashing on couches is lame (but thank you, Mom)
There’s just lots of mooching in general, off the generous and sympathetic. 

Until I find my footing.

Not having my footing annoys me. 
Van Halen in San Jose.  What?
Of course, I mean that in the proverbial sense, but it’s also hard to find your literal footing in this city.  Somehow I’m even clumsier here than I am elsewhere (hard to believe).  I’ve definitely had a few nail-biting, near-ankle-breaking moments already.  I mean, between the vision-obscuring fog and the hills that appear out of nowhere and just keep going up… into the sky… forever...  and never seem to come back down... HOW does that happen?  Sort of like that story every grandfather tells about having to walk 5 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways.  It’s like that.  But in fog. 

So I’m still feeling a little iffy.  I’ve been yelled at a number of times for doing MUNI wrong, was asked by a panhandler if I was “one of those Teen Moms” and then told to “stay thick” – thanks – and I have learned that finding an apartment here is going to be a million times harder than finding a job.  May need some Jedi mind trick action to knock out the competition... these aren’t the roommates you’re looking for…
Picnic table overlooking vineyards.  CHyeah.

But I also think I’m still just in the mourning period, missing Boston.  I do know how much this city has to offer.  And I have admittedly had a lot of fun so far.  I went wine tasting in Napa, I went to a Van Halen concert in San Jose, I explored Golden Gate Park, I saw a girl running down a hill in very high heels, jeans, and an open Giants jersey with nothing on underneath (what?), I walked down Haight Street and got an immediate contact high, I got sunburned in Dolores Park, I saw many a naked old man at Pride (expected).

Dolores park and cityscape
Just takes some getting used to, I suppose.  In any case, I intend to commandeer some empty houses and apartments for the month of July (with or without permission, BITCHES!*) so it’ll be nice to have my own space for a bit… and then, perhaps, I can follow the trail of organic breadcrumbs to Whole Foods and even start cooking again.  Since we all know how well that goes for me.

That’s all for now.  Here’s the rest of Eddie’s SF routine, in case anyone would like the full version of what runs through my head day in and day out.

*…lie.  With permission.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The One With A Golden Gate Bridge and Chinese Food

Whatever.  I'm still a tourist.  Sue me.
A brief update whilst I gather more interesting blog fodder:

I just got home (a few days ago) from 10 days in the Bay Area, and I can safely say that I’m puuuumped to move out there.  I got to explore the city, see my lovely and hilarious friends and family, and start the ball rolling (or at least give it a nudge) in terms of job contacts, so we shall see how this experiment goes.  As of now, I have a lot of confidence in the idea… not to mention the fact that I’m TOTALLY STOKED to rediscover San Francisco more thoroughly.  What an awesome city.

I guess hoards of angry seagulls are a given after Giants games.
In the meantime, six very busy weeks await, in which I will try to accrue as much of a financial cushion as possible AND try to get as much out of Boston as I can… perhaps mutually exclusive goals, but I have faith. 

I actually have a “Boston Bucket List” of sorts, which includes – but is not limited to – the following:

1)    Freedom Trail.  Never walked an inch of it.  At least, not intentionally.
2)    Walden Pond.  Always been a fan of Thoreau.  And ponds.
3)    Harpoon Brewery.  Cuz I like beer.
4)    Sam Adams Brewery.  See above.
5)    Swan boats.  Boring but classic.
6)    Duck Tour.  Don’t ask me why, just always wanted to be one of those idiots that quacks at the locals.

Anything huge I’m missing?

I’ve also been horrendously out of my healthy-living kick for the last week-ish, so I’m hoping that this busy busy schedule won’t further destroy my progress.  Regardless of the imminent time crunch, it’s time to return to yoga and eating my vegetables.

Consequently, I’ve been ravaging Pinterest, in the throes of a healthy food-finding frenzy.  I’m thinking some lightened-up Chinese and Thai recipes will be showing up blogside soon, since really any style of Asian cuisine can be categorized under “My Weaknesses.”  It's such.  A.  Problem.

A non-sickly sweet sauce
Breaded in whole wheat panko and baked.

That said, I actually made a very successful attempt at a healthified version of General Tso’s chicken a few weeks ago, courtesy of Rocco DiSpirito’s cookbook “Now Eat This.”  

No deep frying or sugar-loaded sauce required, but it still turned out way delicious.  

And, as with any good Chinese food, made for excellent leftovers.

Hokay, that is all for now.  More exciting entries coming soon.  PROMISE.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time to Change My Tagline...

...Because in a couple months, the current one will cease to be relevant.

I’m movin’ to San Francisco, baby.

I spent several maddening, decision-oriented days going back and forth and back and forth and rationalizing staying and rationalizing leaving aaaand my brain tied itself in many knots.  But after a few days of hyperventilating at the idea of picking up and moving 3,000 miles, I realized – why the hell not? 

Your twenties are the time that you can kinda just… go.  And do something totally different. 

And my momma’s out there, along with the rest of my crazypants / wonderful family.

And my mom and dad lived out there for many many decades, and she still knows lots of people in the area… sooooo hello, Networking.  I’m Marty’s incredibly charming daughter.  Nice to meet you.  A job, you say?  Why yes, I AM in the market!

And so many good friends out there.

AND I love San Francisco.

So there are plenty of good reasons behind it.  But all those said – it’s still sort of a leap of faith.  I don’t have a job lined up.  I don’t know where I’m going to live yet.  I just had a gut feeling that it was time for a … I don’t know, a shake-up of sorts.  And after the panic phase simmered, I started getting super excited.

So, seem reasonable to everybody?  Yes?  Great.

My prediction is that the following two months will be a little bonkers… with three part-time jobs, lots of packing, and seeing all mah buddies so much that when I’m finally out of here they’ll go, “Thank GOD, I thought she’d never leave.  Like seriously, WHY was she sleeping on our couch for the last six days if her lease isn't up for three weeks?”

OOOH, good news though!  I JUST got an email with a totally exciting job opportunity from one “Coral Gilreath.”  Ready?

Good Morning.    [it’s 10:30 PM]
Don't miss superb career opportunity.   [I would never miss superb career opportunity.]
The Firm [sounds legit to me!]  is seeking for [close enough] self-motivated worker in United States to help us spread out our business in the North America area.  [Seems like a reasonable goal.  The North America area isn’t too hard to cover.]
Free instruction possible.  [Like… in anything I want?]
Admirable profit ability.  [Thank god.  I only accept jobs with admirable profit ability, so I’m glad we covered that.]

- 18+ age  [Hey, that’s me!]
- Only basic knowledge of Internet & computer.  [I have a blog, I can work a keyb oard oKayllksgjin0??;]
- 2-3 free hours per day  [Wait, does that mean I’ll be working 21-22 hours?]

Those who are interested must be fair and commerce motivated. Working only some hours per day.  [Now that’s just uncanny.  I’ve ALWAYS said that the best way to describe me is commerce motivated.]
Everyone living in the United States can be our representative.  [Well jeez, Coral, now I don’t feel so special.]
Thank you for your attention.  [You’re welcome.]

I think I’ve found my calling.  …In what, exactly, I couldn’t say.  But I have a good feeling about it, don’t you? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Marika Goes Giggin'

A harrowing journey.  A raging stuffy nose.  A moderately enthusiastic group of 30 senior citizens.  A girl and her karaoke tracks.

That, in a few short sentences, sums up my gig last week – my 10-song set for the Military Officers Association of America’s monthly meeting.

Actually, it was pretty fun.  But before it got fun, I had to negotiate some treacherous territory to make it to the restaurant, which was in the damn boonies.  The hour spent on the T was fine.  The half-hour bus ride was where it started to get iffy… as the minutes passed, and as, one by one, my bus riding compatriots reached their destinations, there I still was – heading deep into the Weymouth wasteland – until finally, as the last one left on the vehicle, I reached my stop.  Which was literally an intersection in the middle of nothing.  As in, surrounded by dirt.  The end. 

Only moderately creepy.

So I got off the bus, looked around, pictured what I must look like standing in the middle of nowhere in my cute little dress with my makeup all done, and just started laughing… I mean I was like, 80% sure I wouldn’t get kidnapped.  I just started down the pseudo-sidewalk and hoped I was heading in the right direction.  God knows there weren’t any street signs to offer assistance (it’s still the Greater Boston area, after all).

Eventually it became clear that I was on track, but the best it got in terms of civilization along the way was a rather dingy shopping complex, which was actually sort of bumpin’ – apparently, it’s the place to be in Weymouth.  Fair enough, though – it had everything a hip, modern American might need!  A store called BLDG #19 – GOOD STUFF CHEAP, a Dollar Tree, a… uh… “restaurant” called “Frank’s Place,” and a rockin’ arcade that looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the mid-80’s.

Anyway.  On to the gig itself.  Everyone was very sweet, but apparently the turnout for this month’s meeting was about a third of what it usually is – according to the wife of the man in charge, “everyone is still in Florida!”  Which made me giggle.  Again – senior citizens.

So I chatted with everyone, they bought me dinner, and then Mr. In Charge introduced me – “All right everyone, this is Marika.  We met her when she was our waitress on the boat… the Boston— the Spirited— the Boston Spirit?  What was it?  Oh that’s right, the Spirit of Boston.  Anyway, she’ll be singing a few songs for us tonight.  And don’t miss next month, when we’re going to have Miss Massachusetts come and speak!”

… You know how sometimes you forget to think before you talk?  You know.  Like when you half-shout, “Uggggghhhhh REALLY??  I’m SO SORRY, everyone!!!”

To which someone responded, “At least you don’t have to follow that act.”  Fair point.  So, they may forget about me next month as they gaze upon the beautiful face of Miss Massachusetts, but what can ya do. 

In any case, I got up, stuffy nose and all, and did my little half-hour show.  Mostly jazz stuff (duh), but I DID throw in one of my mother’s originals (which was very well received) and closed out the set with the entirely incongruous choice of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You.”  Which I decided to throw in because my father always said it was the greatest rock song ever written.  Out of place given the jazz-centric set, perhaps, but I dedicated that one to him. 

Overall, it was an entertaining experience.  And people seemed to enjoy it.  Always a plus. 

Also, upon reviewing the recording, I learned that:
1) Head colds and notes at the top and bottom of my range are enemies,
2) I make a lot of really awkward faces when I’m nervous, and…
3) I have no idea what the F*CK to do with my hands when I don’t have a mic.  Lots of weird arm movements, flapping fingers, opening / closing hands for no apparent reason.  Gotta get my stage presence together, that’s for damn sure.

But I did it!  First solo gig ever.  And I didn’t get kidnapped on the way there.  Two big wins in my book.

Just for funsies, here's my mom's original, "Serves Me Right."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Literary Failures and Musical Procrastination

Baahhh… EPIC fail on the reading-and-writing-more endeavor.

I mean, I wrote something every day... if, of course, you count talking to my friends on Gchat.  Sigh.  Other than that, it was a very lame attempt.  And I got about 5 pages into an incredibly old copy of A Farewell to Arms on the first day of the “challenge” and have not, as of yet, reopened it. 

SOMEONE save me from my computer addiction.  Any thoughts on kicking the habit?

I did make one (rather expensive) effort to tempt myself into reading more – a few nights ago in very sleepy, half-lucid haze, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to buy a Kindle Fire.  Like an iPad, but half the price (which, if you do the math, is still pretty pricey for someone who makes her living on tips). 

That said, I am very pleased with my new toy.  The first thing I did was download all the free books I wanted to read!

…And the second thing I did was install my email and download a bunch of useless apps.  We shall see which element proves more captivating.

This week I’ll read a book.  Cross my heart. 

Other than an expensive new gadget, the big news of the week is that I have a GIG tomorrow.  Yes, a gig.  Like, singing.  For people.  By myself.  For 45 minutes.  And they’re paying me.  What?

The elegant, high-profile event for which my talents have been requested iiissss…. ready for it?

One of the monthly meetings of the MOAA – Military Officers Association of America!  30 people!  70 years and older!  At a bar in Weymouth!  Just me and my iPod!

All right, so it’s nothing huge.  But I’ve certainly never done this before – a whole set of just me?  Ought to be interesting.  True to my procrastinatory (yes, it’s a word… or it is now, anyway) roots, I waited until abooouutttt 15 minutes ago to finalize my set list.  Standard.

I also, of course, woke up with a totally stuffed up head yesterday – so as of  now, my first song will come out sounding much like “Iiii’ve got by loooove to keep be waaarb…”

Luckily, one of the regulars at the Bistro gave me some advice as he watched me sniffle through my shift:

Rob:  You should make a drink, I swear it works – hot water, lemon, honey, and a lot of brandy.
Me:  So then what, I drink it and I’ll just feel better instantly?
Rob:  Well… you’ll be a little drunk.
Me:  But then I’ll wake up in the morning and feel better?
Rob:  Well… you’ll be a little hungover.  But THEN you’ll feel better.

Sounds promising.  Wish me luck tomorrow…

Monday, February 27, 2012

And We're Back...

Aww jeez.  So easy to fall off the blog wagon.

First of all, it’s been a bit of a busy couple weeks.  But more to the point is the fact that I kept looking at my last entry and going, “Well, kind of hard to follow this with an I-went-to-the-gym-today post…”

But, gotta keep it going somehow.  So we forge ahead with a quick summary of the last 11 days –

–  I’m on the job hunt.  Had an interview at a digital advertising agency – which was awesome, and went well enough… but, as tends to happen, my lack of experience is making it difficult for me to find somewhere to get experience.  Love that.
–  Consequently, I’ve been working the “connections” angle, pestering anyone I know that might know someone that might know someone.  Because it is clear, after many applications sent in online to no response whatsoever, that “knowing someone” is the only real option.  Some of those job sites are cruel enough to tell you how many other people have applied for the job you just applied for... REALLY??  I wish you’d told me that 1,000 people had already sent in applications before I spent two hours perfecting mine.
   And along with the blog wagon, I also fell off the healthy eating wagon a bit last week… far too much food that I did not make myself.  I am shamed.

HOWEVER, I got back in the game a bit this weekend.  I made a pizza, with – are you ready? – a crust made out of – wait for it…


Indeed.  Cauliflower.

Grated cauliflower
After yet another battle with the oven (with Noah to the rescue once again, teaching me how to reignite the pilot light), and far too much time spent bent over a cheese grater shredding my cruciferous dough-substitute (time which would have been cut down significantly had I known how to operate our food processor… it really is a wonder how I function in a kitchen…) I emerged with a surprisingly delicious product.

Skeptical... looks like a pile of fried rice...

The crust is only cauliflower, shredded mozzarella, an egg, and spices.  Smashing the seemingly flimsy concoction onto a baking sheet, I was dubious… it seemed highly unlikely that this would cook into something substantial enough to bear the many toppings I had planned for it. 

Looking better after baking, but still skeptical...
Okay, fine.

But since when have I had any culinary intuition?

As per usual, the recipe was right.  I was wrong. It worked and was suuuper tasty.
Recipe wins again.


I also made whole wheat banana muffins!

Blurry and health-tastic
Not quite as decadent as my favorite white-flour-lots-of-butter-full-fat-sour-cream-sugar-loaded-chocolate-chip banana muffins… although I guess they really can’t be compared.  A different beast entirely.  But they’re still way yummy.

So that was the last couple weeks. 

Coming up – I wanted a less-computer-and-TV challenge, wherein I’d limit myself to an hour of TV / recreational internet-ing a day, or something.  But I decided instead on the following – for the month of March, I’m going to make myself write SOMETHING every day (whether it’s blog, journal, or Harry Potter fan fiction… I meeeaannn… what?) and read one book a week, which will, I’m assuming, automatically mean less time being a slug in front of my computer.  So basically, time to add mental wellness to physical wellness.  Because I do not.  Need to watch.  How I Met Your Mother.  In its entirety.  Again.

Backing away from the computer…

PS –  I do not – I repeat, DO NOT – write Harry Potter fan fiction. 

But if I did, it would be awesome.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If You Were In A Room With Jim, You Were Smiling

We, as a culture, are hardwired to commemorate various anniversaries.  The day we were born and the day we married are to be celebrated.  Other anniversaries are more somber and reflective. Sad, even.  But we recognize them nonetheless – maybe not with grand displays, maybe we don’t verbalize them at all, but we know they’re there. Those dates stick with you.

I didn’t really want to give this day power.  It is what it is, and it feels pointless to pay homage to the pain year after year.  Buuuuttt like I said – I can’t help it.  Hardwired.  And we haven’t gotten to year after year yet – this is the first one.  A year ago today, my dad died.  Though it’s obviously still crushing to think about, that’s the case any day – the year anniversary is also proving to be just… weird.  Surreal.  It feels like it happened yesterday and a million years ago.  Which is not an uncommon feeling, I guess.

So I debated for a while on whether I wanted to, in fact, commemorate the day via blog.  Like I said in my first post, I don’t mean any of this to sound self-pitying, or aggressively melodramatic, or like I’m trying to collect condolences.  I just figured that everyone experiences loss at some point, and so everyone can connect to this in some way. 

And also, my dad was always so proud that I followed in his literary footsteps that I felt I had to post something.

But I decided that what I really wanted to do was bring some levity to the remembrance (which I am 100% certain he’d want) by sharing some of the hilarious anecdotes / heartfelt thoughts that people wrote about him and sent our way last year, highlighting what a brilliant, ridiculous, sweet guy he was.  I laughed and cried my way through reading these again – they are awesome.  So, without further ado…

As Jim was the soul of humor, smarts, wit and ironic insight, it would be hard to pick just one memory.  So saying, what instantly sprang to my mind happened probably 20 years ago.  I was walking in your front door for what would be (I knew) a delicious Jim-cooked feast.  You and your father were on the floor in front of the TV set watching the Evening News and President H. W. Bush was speaking.  As I entered Jim turned to me, eyes alight, absolutely beaming with pride and recounted, “Marika just said, 'Daddy, the President is a pin-head!’"  No father was ever prouder of a three-year-old daughter.

After being dragged up to a cabin in the woods by my family, Jim reluctantly emerged from the car, looked around at all that nature and announced, "I don't trust air I can't see.”

I am a pretty good cook, and Jim once made the mistake of suggesting an alternate way to prepare something.  I did not say anything, I just looked at him, and then he said, after his characteristic pause for greatest effect,  "I never believed in channeling someone, but your mother has just gotten into your kitchen."  My mom was not known for her patience and gentleness.

It was truly beautiful to see the sublime love that he expressed for you and your mother every time I was around him.  I've never seen a man with such a total dedication to family and friends – really connecting with them on the most heartfelt level.

Last summer, your parents came to visit us in LA.  The only condition – set by your father – was that he would cook dinner for us.  All we had to do was round up the usual suspects and provide the kitchen.  They arrived at about 4:00, LADEN with grocery bags  – no doorbell ringing – just them and bags of food.  And not just food from ordinary grocery stores.  No – they had stopped at an Italian market for rice for risotto, some Thai or Vietnamese place for shrimp, an exotic bakery for cheesecake, was it?  Who remembers – at the time, none of stopped to remember each detail.  It was just Jim – his generous, abundant, warm, funny self doing what he always did – feeding us and making us so happy.

Upon seeing Jim’s name as contributor to a food blog while reading a restaurant review on that blog, I asked Marty, “What else does this mysterious man do?”  That helps summarize my never-ending awe, respect and astonishment at his continually appearing facets, layers and interests.

Jim always made me feel better being around him; expressed understanding of my point of view – even if he didn't embrace it; and created a peaceful balance among disparate and feisty friends when we gathered together – all topped with the impish smile of a knowing and benevolent rascal.

If you were in a room with Jim, you were smiling.

Several years ago, we were having dinner and discussing the war in Afghanistan.  We got quite serious discussing the plight of the refugees fleeing over the Kyber Pass and into Peshawar.  Quietly at first and then building, Jim started humming, "My kind of town, Peshawar is... my kind of town.”  That ended the erudite discussion and all descended into fractious frivolity.

I always think about what a supremely unique combination of characteristics Jim had – gentle, thoughtful, intelligent, funny, caring, and quirky.  He was his own man, and not one who met our culture's ideals necessarily (and I doubt he or any of us who cared for him would want him to), yet he still managed to operate with grace and fluidity within our strange and sometimes cruel world.

The thing I loved most about Jimmy was his equanimity.  He could cook rings around me blindfolded, but was so very graciously complimentary about my cooking, even when I naively served Italian to him and Marty.  Then, after my first meal at his house – rigatoni, meatballs, sausage, peppers in a heavenly red sauce – I knew it would be Chinese take-out next time he visited us.  By the same token, Jimmy was patient and generous when he played in our poker game.  I don't think any of us realized how skilled he was, but still he didn't win every time and let others at the table take home a few bucks.  Occasionally.

I remember vividly the goodness in his smile, the merriment in his eyes and the optimism flying off the slope of his nose, the warm and loving feeling he wrapped us in, the blissful comfort foods he cooked for us, his impish laughter and hilarious storytelling, but I cannot remember any of the words...

He was such an incredibly kind man – it's unbelievable the kindness he showed to me.  He went way out of his way to help me, and I was just this kid he barely even knew.

One bit I heard from him at dinner one night was that the only regret he had about living in California was that Marika had never gotten to experience the joys and subsequent well-embroidered stories of sitting at the dining table with all the "old girls" in the family. Marika was sitting right at the table with me and my sister, and then Jim looked around at us, waited a beat and said, "Oh my God!  You guys ARE the old girls!”

The day I met Jim he did the most stone cold, spot on imitation of Mervyn Dymally I've ever heard. Then he said, "Never trust anyone with three Ys in his name."  I knew our friendship had a future.

Thinking back over my fund of Jim stories, the one that I recall most vividly related to the horror movie he wrote for a friend back in the day.  I may have the words wrong but he said something like, “I was watching the movie that I'd written when the fucking mummy started spouting Nietzsche.  I wondered who the fuck had written those lines, because I sure didn't.”


And here’s one of my own, which comes from a home movie of ours.  My dad decided to videotape the preparations for my first Halloween… well, not my first, but the first for which I had any idea what was going on.  I was two and a half, dressed as a tiny pirate (or, as I said with my horrendous speech impediment, “piwate”).  As I was playing with the candy meant for trick or treaters, and I asked, “Daddy, are we going to take the candy with us?”  To which he responded from behind the camera, “No sweetie, because the point of this holiday is to extort candy from other people.”

He could make me laugh just by saying the word “fart.”  He invented characters and voices for each and every one of my stuffed animals, as well as a sock puppet he named “Barfy.”  He spoiled me rotten without actually making me rotten.  He was my mentor and my friend.  And in my 14 years of almost year-round soccer, much of which was played many hours from home, in pouring rain, in scorching heat… the man missed two games.  TWO.  IN 14 YEARS.

I could not have asked for a more supportive, loving, witty, brilliant, generous father.  So this hasn’t necessarily gotten easier over the last year, but we press on.  My dad had faith in me even (and especially) when I didn’t have it in myself – and that’s what has kept me going. 

So, that’s that.  I appreciate anyone getting all the way through any of my posts, but if you made it through this one, special thanks.  And now, my final word on the subject will be the first and greatest lesson I ever learned from my father, and one not to be forgotten –

Never eat anything bigger than your head.