Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's Bonus Post

Is it just me, or do these people look a little like the Olsen twins?

this kid

actress Maria Schneider (of Last Tango in Paris fame*)

*You can't imagine how difficult it was to find a close-up photo of her face.

Lament of the Fortunate

There has been much eating and drinking and celebrating of late at the Trattoria Breve. 'Tis the season.

The other day I ate (most of) a lobster the size of a small country, with melted butter served in a small soup bowl:

Today I am feeling guilty, not just because of my fine crustacean friend there who nobly gave his life so that I might eat shellfish, but because I am blogging and am safe and warm and fully fed while the majority of the world grapples with obtaining clean water, and because I am still feeling exhausted.

Ty and I turned down an invitation for tonight that would have guaranteed us a succulent dinner and entertaining conversation courtesy of some old friends. We just can't do it.

Right now, an ideal day for me would consist of never getting out of my pajamas, never making the bed, not worrying about bills or savings, not tracking my ovulatory cycles, not answering the phone, not grooming myself in any real way, or applying makeup, or even changing my socks, and making French toast while watching either Lifetime or one of those shows on VH1 or E! that consists of lots of little entertainment clips interspersed with minor celebrities mugging for the camera.

My second choice, oddly enough, would be just to spend a normal, quiet day chipping away at my mountain of work, interspersed with some blog-reading, stretching, and breaks for tea. Surprisingly enough, I actually like my work, much of the time. I will most likely get this wish sometime after the New Year, when the partying tapers off and ordinary time resumes. By then, of course, I will long for festive Christmas dinners and events that take me away from the rut of everyday life.

This year, I think my New Year's Resolution will be to make peace with mild discontent, to appreciate my many blessings, and to recognize grass-is-always-greener dissatisfactions as the normal ebb and flow of life that they are.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

An Open Letter to Denim Designers Everywhere

Dear Denim Designers,

Enough low rise!!! We don't need waistlines up to our chins, but it would be nice to go to the supermarket without seeing the buttcrack of a seventeen-year-old sexpot bending down to pick up a can of peaches in heavy syrup. Cling peaches; how appropriate. But I digress.

While we're at it, $250 is just too much money for a pair of jeans.



Writing daily, in front of an audience, is much harder than I expected. I am finding myself with no shortage of material to write about, and, frankly, I tend to think my initial thoughts and initial mental drafting are wonderful. Ideas tend to come to me at somewhat inopportune times, such as when I am vacuuming or on hold on the phone. I usually jot my ideas down in a notebook as soon as I can, and then I am excited to sit down and begin drafting the post.

This is where the trouble begins.

No matter how detailed my notes are, I inevitably find that all the wonderful things I planned to say have left my mind, and I can never make the writing as articulate as it seemed to me. I think that part of this is due to the imperfection of language, and that words can never fully express the things we think and feel. To me, this is the reason why beautiful writing is truly awe-inspiring; it is unbelievable that someone would be able to express the intangible with the written word. Whatever the reason, when I sit down to write, I become frustrated, and disappointment sets in.

Then, of course, there's the self-censorship. There are so many things I want to say--about my work, my friends, my view of my self, my goals. Some things I avoid saying because I don't want to risk alienating my few readers. Some things I can't say because they're just too personal; some things I can't say because I don't want to embarrass my family (although I probably do anyway); some things I can't say because I'm a professional. Some things I don't say because I feel stupid saying them. Of course, it's these latter things that typically provoke the best response when I actually do get up the courage to write about them. I have trouble striking a balance between what is entertaining and what is appropriate, and between what I want to say and what I am capable of articulating.

In the midst of all this, of course, the phone is ringing, the bell signaling the end of the dryer cycle goes off, I must eat breakfast, and I notice the lint all over the carpet. I have an important meeting; I must remember to buy more ibuprofen; I need to make an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. Life intervenes, and sometimes I have to put my writing aside and take care of things.

I don't know where I'll go with any of this. It's good to know, in spite of all the sturm und drang that surrounds the writing process, that with this blog, I have something each day in my life that I have complete control over, something that helps me understand and improve myself in many ways, and something that allows me to share some laughs with people in far-flung locations. As C.S. said to me, "At the very least, you're learning."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Eleven People Worth Knowing About

Friday, December 23, 2005

Humbuggy Goodness

When I logged onto blogger this morning, the fucking cheery little Santa hat over the "o" (hehe, "o") reminded me that I'm supposed to be merry and festive and wide-eyed and all that shit. It's not shit; I didn't mean that. I just meant that I'm having a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year, what with the (now finally over) transit strike and the eighteen-page list of work things to do and the blowing of the nose seven times a day and winding up with a tissue full of bloody mucus each time and the weird lightbulb that went out and that I don't know how to change and the sweaty feet resulting from my wearing tights under my pants because I don't own a pair of long underwear like a normal person and it's so frickin' cold (mom, don't you dare rush out and buy a pair as a last-minute Christmas present; I'll do it myself, now that the subways are up and running). I don't even understand the Christmas decal over the Google logo, and I haven't had any peppermint schnapps yet today. YET.

In flagrant violation of everything my excellent college creative writing teacher taught me ("Show us, don't tell us!"), I am posting this picture, taken last night on one of the fun hipster streets in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, complete with explanation, as a metaphor for the way I'm feeling:

See how the lights are all distant and fuzzy and hard to see through the smeared glass barricade of the windshield? Get it?

Since I seem to be in the mood for flagrant violations, I'll also post this picture of the ornament that I made for my ornament exchange person. I'm feeling guilty because I suspect it won't arrive in time for Christmas, given that I only mailed it on Wednesday (after spending over an hour on line at the post office, most of it spent waiting in front of the stamp machine that I would have gladly used had it not had a big handwritten sign saying "Sold Out" taped to its front--good timing, right?):

So, there it is, good and decent women who wait for their ornament recipients to be genuinely surprised and don't provide a preview on the Internet, in all its cozy, Christmassy domesticity. I apologize for what is likely the breaking of several Craft Exchangers Codes; I am a mean, cruel urban bitch and I am new at this, but I did draw and cut out a picture of a kitty, see? The kitty is happy, all curled up on the couch by the fire. You can't see it, but off to the side, in the next room, is a woman happily roasting chestnuts and stringing popcorn and definitely NOT choking anybody. I'm not all bad, even if I did order lavender bath products for someone else as a present and then kept them for myself.

In contrast, here, in my she-who-has-much-to-learn-about-posting-photos fashion, are the TWO beautiful ornaments that I received in a timely fashion from Mignon, who writes nice posts to her daughter and organizes ornament exchanges and packs her ornaments complete with green tissue paper and a very sweet card:

These ornaments make me very happy. I think this year I will focus on the fact that I have made several new Internet friends, that people read my writing and comment. I am safe and healthy and have a wonderful husband who made me loin of pork with sage, family who gave my husband a ride during the transit strike, and a Jewish best friend who fashioned an angel for my nativity scene out of paper towels. I am very lucky. In fact, I am truly blessed.

I am feeling a little bit better now. I hope that, whatever difficulties each of you are facing this time of year, that you are able to say the same, that you are truly blessed. I intend to keep posting fairly regularly next week, but, just in case, I want to wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, a Happy New Year, and a happy Any Other Holiday That You Might Be Celebrating.

All the best of the season. I hope you are able to take some time to enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Joy of Quitting

The kind and talented Jessica writes frequently about her ambivalence at being in a foreign country for a two-year term. I once posted in her comments section that I think quitting is often underrated. She has made a commitment to an organization for which she hopes to work for many years, and therefore is sticking to it. This I understand, and agree with, completely. However, where one has no contractual or moral obligations to stick with something sucky, other than vague, inspirational-poster notions that "I must not quit," I say, get over it.

Quitting can be a JOY.

When Mrs. Harridan and I met last Sunday, we exchanged tales of having left jobs that, for whatever reason(s), were less than fulfilling. We agreed that doing so can be truly satisfying. I hate the word "empowering," mostly because every Botoxed actress in Hollywood uses it to describe everything from horribly sappy "women's films" to posing naked in sleazy magazines to committing adultery, but if there's one thing that's "empowering," it's taking charge of a disaster that's spinning out of control and quitting.

In college, a friend of mine joined a sports team that had her waking up at some unreal hour in the morning, like 4:30, and going out and engaging in athletic activities in the freezing cold. Her body and mind were taxed to the limit, she was worried about her schoolwork, and she wasn't enjoying it. I know less about sports than I do about the intricacies of genetic cloning, but from what I understood, her absence would not have affected the rest of the team's performance. She debated quitting, then stayed with it to prove she could do it; I SO would have quit, and then taken the next day off and slept in.

I am not yet pregnant, but already know that I won't even be attempting natural childbirth. If I could have an epidural NOW, I would.

On Monday, I received three cellphone messages from my mother, who was running around in a pre-Christmas frenzy. In the first, she told me that she was thinking of not making our usual Italian Christmas Eve fish dinner of shrimp scampi, informing me of the alternative, and asking for my opinion. The second told me that I should call her back on her cellphone, because she'd be out doing errands. The third told me not to bother, because what she'd be making for Christmas Eve would be reservations. You go, girl!

If you need any further inspiration, please check out the wonderful posters and greeting cards on this website. I have no involvement with this company, other than thinking that their products KICK ASS. They make great Christmas presents.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This One Goes to Eleven

It has occurred to me, first as a dating person and then as a married person, that we all have different “settings.” This is obvious in many ways—“taking it slow” in a relationship means different things to different people, as does "good Italian food”—and completely surprising in others (e.g., one’s way of winding down before going to sleep, the desire for conversation or silence while cooking, etc.).

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging and why it’s so appealing to write about my life and read other peoples’ writing about their lives. I’m sure part of it is linked to an inner exhibitionist/voyeur, but that’s not a strong enough force to explain it all.

With blogging, there is a rawness to the written word. Our posts aren’t generally tempered by an outside editor. Therefore, people whose settings may be a little more extreme than the norm can publish without going through the filter of someone else’s normal, professional settings. When you think about it, it’s really quite revolutionary. Even great historical diaries have gone through an editing process prior to publication, and have been filtered by others. This instant-self-publication medium makes blogging totally unique.

I don’t recall the source, but I’ve heard some variation of “May you live in exciting times” as an old curse. Perhaps exciting times aren’t all a curse.

Right now, I’m tempted to run this post by C.S., because I can’t think of a neat conclusion. I won’t, though, especially since I’ve just written about raw, unfiltered blogging. I’m doing this at the start of a busy day and don’t really have the time it would take to make it perfect. I like the idea of my writing’s rough edges being put out there, also, for your (hopeful) enjoyment.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Full Gallop, Full Circle

Yesterday Mrs. Harridan and I met up at McHale's, for burgers and beers, but really, from my perspective, at least, to meet each other. Our husbands tagged along to make sure neither of us pulled the other into a dark alley for a tussle, and to watch the event if we did. We found ourselves with an hour to kill before McHale's opened, and headed to another bar for a drink.

Mrs. Harridan is even more gorgeous in person. She is tall and slender and elegant, and has long red hair and bone structure to rival Dooce's. I spotted her across the street as she approached, cutely (Cutely? Is that a word? I'm still on thin ice from the Bastardized Phonetics Incident!) furrowing her brow like she does in her blog photo. The familiarity set me at ease. Within the first twenty minutes of our meeting, we were complimenting each other on having opted to wear such flattering colors (she was in green, I in red). Halfway through the first drink, we were chatting like old friends about our menstrual cycles while our husbands stuck to polite, socially appropriate topics like architecture and New York City geography. By the end of the evening, we were discussing girls who think that certain sex acts "doesn't count" in terms of virginity (I think by then our husbands were talking about bicycles) and we gave each other a parting hug. The afternoon was significantly better than a number of dates that I've been on.

Mrs. Harridan's old high school friend joined us for lunch. He was funny and sweet, and chatting with them virtually erased any lingering bad associations from my last trip to McHale's. It was very poignant; she was there with her friend, her good, decent old friend from high school, and she and I were becoming new friends. No one sought me out to insult me; instead, relative strangers smiled genuinely and complimented me on my writing and clothing colors. I've written a lot of personal shit on here, and withheld a lot, too, and my new friend understands and sympathizes.

I was still giddy (and a little bit tipsy) as we parted ways in Times Square. It felt so good to lay it all bare and make a new friend in the process. My husband gave me a kiss, and smiled at me, and then we went home.

Friday, December 16, 2005

An Italian Lesson

Since I am still traumatized from a dreaming about a bug, and then waking up and finding a DESSICATED BUG CORPSE in my bed and ASSORTED DRIED-OUT BUG PARTS on my pillow and on my husband's pajamas, my creative juices are running a little low.

Hence, today's post will be something soothing, and I will write it alongside a BIG frickin' mug of tea.

In case anyone's been wondering, in between worrying about paying bills, tracking menstrual cycles, keeping children healthy, and dealing with family issues at Christmas, about the proper pronunciation of "Trattoria Breve," here it is, in some strange approximation of dictionary phonetics:

trah-tor-EE-uh BREH-vay*

Not being sufficiently soothed, I'll also add the pronunciation of one of my favorite things in the world, "gnocchi." If this doesn't soothe me, nothing will:


If you haven't tasted gnocchi yet, and I emphasize the "yet," because YOU HAVE TO AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, it is a kind of pasta dumpling made from potato flour. Italian comfort food, so to speak. It is very rich and hearty, and wonderful in winter. It's best enjoyed freshly made, as opposed to frozen or packaged. Some rainy weekend, I will spend a day making fresh pasta, like I said I would long ago, with my Ronco pasta maker. I'll also make gnocchi with the potato ricer my grandmother gave me. I'll post pictures of the food and additional pictures of my backside the following Monday.

Please feel free to teach me how to pronounce food words in any language other than English or Italian, as I love ethnic food and hate not being able to say food names properly.

Mangiare! (mon-JAR-eh)

Buon weekend! (no phonetics, or translation, necessary)

*I have performed special Saturday-morning edits to these words after C.S. informed me that I placed the emphasis on the wrong syllable and thereby allowed me to save pretentious face (thanks, C.S.). I blame the dead bug.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Nevertheless, please allow me to list some of my favorite Christmas movies for you, in random order:

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation--For anyone who's ever had family, and had their Currier & Ives holiday fantasies burst into flames (literally). Also notable for a young Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki (of later Roseanne fame).

Sample Lines:

Uncle Clark: "Nervous, or excited?"

Little Ruby Sue: "Shittin' bricks."

Uncle Clark: "You shouldn't use that word."

Ruby Sue (in earnest): "Sorry. Shittin' rocks."

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas--It just never, never, ever gets old.

3. A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim version)--Surprisingly funny at times, and the lines are priceless.

4. Scrooged--My brother and I still say, "Ooohhh, it's a TOASTER!" before we fake-hit each other with household objects.

5. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street--Will this be the year I subject Ty to it? Is he ready for my tears upon seeing Mr. Hooper?

6. Diary of a Mad Housewife--A woman thinks she's going crazy as chaos (holiday and otherwise) swirls around her. While not strictly a Christmas movie, it is very much worth searching out at any time of year. I can't believe that it hasn't been released on DVD; it is too good to be forgotten. The late, great Carrie Snodgress is funny, sweet, and brilliant. One of my all-time favorites.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Two Posts in One

I. I Love Coq...Au Vin

Arabella (sarcastically): When the recipe says "dry red wine," that means we should use the last of my bottle of beaujolais nouveau, right?

C.S. (sarcastically): Riiiggght. Beaujolais nouveau is the driest red wine ever.


Arabella: How did we get to be such yuppies? We used to pass our time picking the lint out of your carpet.


C.S. (deadpan): You know, we really can't cook with beaujolais nouveau, because it's best enjoyed chilled.

II. My Current Favorite Beauty Products

I love beauty products so much that my collection doesn't all fit in the bathroom; I had to purchase a separate small table with drawers that sits outside the bathroom in the hallway.

1. Aqua Glycolic Face cream: good for exfoliating and keeping my winter skin smooth.

2. Lac-Hydrin 5 moisturizer: ditto, but for my body.

3. Dove White Beauty Bar: a classic. The best non-drying cleanser. I use it on my body in the shower and on my face at night.

4. Cetaphil face wash: another classic. I use it in the morning, in the shower, after I use...

5. Queen Helene Mint Julep Scrub: love the minty morning freshness.

6. Neutrogena foundation: Smooth, feels good, and perfectly matches my skin tone.

7. Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque: the best face mask I've found. You can see it pulling the oil out of your pores.

I really need a lucrative endorsement deal.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


This morning the doorbell rang while I was sitting on the toilet. I stopped my urine mid-stream, pulled on my pants, and ran to answer it. I was fortunate that the loud sound didn't jar me enough to unseat me and make me spray my own pant leg. When I returned, the phone was in the process of ringing. I suspected marketing or survey-taking was afoot, having received approximately four such calls in the past two days, and did not answer it, instead listening with one ear as I pulled on a warmer sweater. I figured any glass to be cut during the day would have to be handled without the benefit of my chilled girl-parts. The caller left no message, and I finished the soggy cereal I had abandoned for my bathroom emergency.

This evening, I was unloading the dishwasher while talking about the movie about the Pope on the phone with my mother and thinking that I heard something about that at some point in the past couple months, but don't remember watching any TV at all this week, let alone a two-parter. The Caller ID tone sounded, and I seized the brief pause between calls to emit the fart that had been building in my intestines, a side effect of too much milk in my afternoon serenity tea.

Not knowing how to work the complicated phone, even after 2 1/2 years, I missed the second call and disconnected the first. I attempted to check my blog for comments while redialing my mother. Her line was busy, so I sorted whites and colors and then called her again.

We reconnected and chatted briefly while I noticed and scrutinized a piece of mouse poop and tried to discern whether it was sufficiently dessicated that it could have originated before Operation Stove Removal and Hole Plugging, or whether it was fresh. The jury's still out on that one. Needless to say, I cleaned it up immediately and threw in a load of laundry as my intestines grumbled, "We're not done with you yet," and then hung up the phone. As I started reading my comments, the phone rang again; my mom had forgotten to tell me something. Right after we hung up, Ty called.

The marketer/survey-taker finally called while I was perched on a chair, attempting to disconnect the overly sensitive smoke detector that was angry at my having optimistically preheated the oven to make a pumpkin pie. I released several more loud farts as I scurried down to check the Caller ID.

As I sit writing this, the smoke detector is on the table in front of me, chirping loudly and intermittently despite my repeat pressure on the "Hush" button. No pie for us. A single strand of Christmas lights, our one nod thus far to the season, not having had time to haul out the 50-pound nativity set, blinks on "Seizure Mode." My colon is preparing a sneak attack, the likes of which will only intensify after tonight's rare takeout meal, given that I'm too exhausted to cook and Ty is sick and exhausted, which means that I should be sick in a few days, too. (In the middle of typing that last sentence, the doorbell rang and the takeout food arrived.) Did I mention that it's 9 pm?

I have conveniently avoided writing about everything that happened in the course of my workday, too, as I don't want to max out my space allotment on Blogger, but let me tell you, it makes my downtime look relaxing.

This is pretty much a typical day (with the exception of the not cooking). It's like living the opening scene of Diary of a Mad Housewife, and I don't even have children yet. How on earth do you people do it?

UPDATE: As I sat proofreading and posting this entry on Friday morning, the doorbell rang again, and I ran to answer it in my pajamas with the little shoes all over them.

SECOND UPDATE: The phone rang twice during my ten-minute shower. Based on this traffic, you'd think that I would have been more popular in high school.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Thursday Morning Potpourri

I just learned that "Cold Stone, Warm Heart" posted three times yesterday. Why didn't anybody tell me? Would you let me sit through a job interview with lipstick on my teeth, too? It's not like a hideous mole that I can't do anything about; just tell me and I'll fix it! Or do you not scroll down and repeatedly re-read my previous posts, cherishing every word like so much succulent lobster meat dripping in drawn butter?

I got carded this evening. Granted, I was buying peppermint schnapps to mix in my hot chocolate, and the bottle had cute little candy cane emblems on it and everything, but I imagine the ceremonial carding would not have taken place if I resembled Yoda, so it looks like I've still got a few good years left in me. Those do-it-yourself face peels must be working. Perhaps by the time I hit middle age, do-it-yourself liposuction will be available at Rite-Aid and I'll get carded while buying fuzzy navel mix. The last time I got carded was my honeymoon, and despite the Midori sour, I strongly suspect the bartender was only buttering up my husband in anticipation of a good tip.

(Let's see if I can work butter into the third paragraph, too, shall we?)

I know I'm a pretentious yuppie, but, still, I kinda miss the K-mart wineglasses I had years ago, with seams down the sides, that could go in the dishwasher. Hand-blown stemware is beautiful, but it sure is a pain to clean. Plus, for what the really good stuff costs, it should hold your wine, beautifully reflect light, pick up your dry cleaning, vacuum your apartment, fold your laundry, take out the garbage, and re-stock your refrigerator, yet in reality it's so fragile that it's easily broken while you engage in its initial (hand) washing. It's like repeatedly paying for dinner and not getting so much as a kiss. Ty wants to upgrade to Reidel, but I'm happy to stick with Crate and Barrel for now; at least it's only like treating to brick-oven pizza instead of Jean Georges.

(Guess not.)

Am I the only person who doesn't understand how so many women can wear high-heeled shoes without pantyhose? I know pantyhose is "out," but if I tried wearing pumps with bare feet, I'd need to hijack the butter from the dinner table and rub it on my heels to ease the friction. (There it is again.) Plus, not for anything, but you could freeze a cheek this time of year. Or two.

Actually, I hate potpourri. It gathers dust and makes me sneeze. I'd rather spritz the room with Citrus Basil body spray. Even my personal care items involve food.

Cold Stone, Warm Heart

Start spreading the news....

After last Friday night's burgers, C.S. led Ty and I into Times Square for our first Cold Stone Creamery experience. Being uninitiated, I ordered French Vanilla with mix-ins, and then developed hard-core Ice Cream Envy after sampling C.S.'s Cake Batter with chocolate chips.

The Ice Cream Envy continued all weekend, and on Monday, I had about an hour to kill before meeting C.S. for a lecture. Cold Stone it was.

I'm leaving today....

I exited the subway station at 42nd Street. Despite the freezing cold weather, the crowds of people were even larger than they normally are in Times Square in December. I noticed that several of them were also uniformed. Once I realized that it was not a terrorist attack, I was hugely relieved. Then, like the jaded New Yorker I am, I learned what it really was, and I was pissed.

It was a movie premiere for King Kong.

I want to be a part of it, New York New York....

About five years ago, I would have been eager to stick around and try to get a glimpse of Naomi Watts et. al. while standing around in a crowd and developing frostbite in my extremities. Now, however, all I could think about was the sweet, sweet ice cream.

I dutifully let Security lead me through one detour after another, until, exasperated, I finally said to one of the guards, "Look, I just want to go to Cold Stone. Can I do that?" He glanced across the street.

"If it's open, they have to let you in," he replied. "But it looks like they're closed."

But it didn't. Moving on...

I managed to cross the street and find another guard who said, "Sure. Just tell the woman checking the tickets that you're going to Cold Stone."

I told the woman checking the tickets. "We're not letting anyone through until the movie has started."

"When will that be?"

"I don't know."

If I can make it there I'll make it anywhere.....

Exasperated, I called C.S. at work and explained the situation. "I want you to look up the phone number of the Times Square Cold Stone. I'm going to call them and tell them I can't get to them."

"And what will that accomplish?"

"It's something to do."

She gave it to me. I called and explained the situation.

"Well, we can have someone from here bring you the ice cream if you can't get to us."

"Are you serious?"

"Sure. Just tell us what you want."

"I'll have a 'Like It' with Cake Batter ice cream, almonds, and chocolate chips."

"Are you sure you don't want a 'Love It'? It's only 70 cents more."

"I'm sure. I'm wearing a red coat."

"It'll be $5.25. I'll look for you."

I called C.S. "They're bringing me the ice cream outside."

"Are you serious???"


"You'd better tip them good."

"How much?"

"At least two dollars." C.S. consulted with her humorously disgruntled coworker, Viggo. He agreed.

"I've gotta go. She's here."

In front of me was the cutest girl I've ever seen, shivering in her short-sleeved Cold Stone T-shirt and looking all around. I waved to her.

"I'm sorry; should I have brought you a bag?"

"No, no, it's just fine. Thank you so much!"

I'll make a brand new start of it...

I actually found a quiet place to sit in the middle of Times Square. With my gloved hands, I ate every last drop. Licking my lips, I put my trash in the bin, pulled out my MetroCard, and ran off to meet my friend.

Even if someone insults you on Friday night, on Monday, someone else will mix your ice cream for you and bring it to you as you stand outside the barricade that separates you from the celebrities a hundred yards away.

It's up to you, New York, New York.

(Great song, Kander and Ebb. So, so true.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

The End of an Era

When I was a child, I never threw anything away. I would happily horde soaps shaped like animals, pretty ribbons from gift boxes, old gum wrappers from gum chewed on memorable days--virtually anything. While attempting to clean my room, my exasperated mother would cry, over my protestations, "Arabella, you have fifty thousand things in this room and every single one of them is precious." Had Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lived in our town, I surely would have been sent over there for some gingerbread and tea and a magic remedy on a cold midwinter day.

I'm more discriminating now. Mostly. Still, some things are precious, and the thought of losing them makes me want to cry.

Ty took this gorgeous photo of McHale's last Friday night. We wanted something to remember it by.

Because McHale's is closing in January.

Inside, you'd never know it but for some farewell graffiti on the wall from its uniquely varied patrons--cops, investment bankers, firemen, Broadway dancers, law students. This past Friday our group of 6 waited over two hours for a table in the dining room. No one wants to leave McHale's.

Its burgers are the best I've ever had. Thick, juicy, huge. In a town with $12 martinis (and a neighborhood with a standard tourist mark-up), bacon costs an extra fifty cents. Every time period collides inside McHale's. The art-deco etched glass lettering on the windows reads "Gaiety Cafe," from a time when that meant something different. The '70's-era wood paneling in the dining room reminds me of a friend's description of our college bar: "It's as if Greg Brady designed a sex pit." The lamps at the wonderfully circular wooden booths have old-fashioned double-pronged plugs. I fancied that the baseball bat in the ladies' room had been thoughtfully placed there for old-fashioned Brooklyn-style self-defense, until C.S. pointed out that it was anchored to the sink for support.

It is a divey bar where single women feel comfortable, yet men are still men. Busloads of tourists flock to the overpriced restaurants in its immediate vicinity, but nary a one ventures inside McHale's. There is a refreshing absence of silicone and pretense. Outside, you can cross the street and choose between pornographic DVD's and "I Heart NY" t-shirts.

I've been to McHale's as a single young student, accompanied by men who were not my husband. I've been there with my brother and my parents, who sipped beer and contentedly recalled their old college hangout, reveling in the circularity of life. I've been there with my husband by my side, squeezing my knee, a young married couple enjoying one of the few inexpensive meals in the Theatre District. I've been there with friends, sharing the few remaining seats at the bar. I've been hit on there while pushing thirty and feeling my age. When it closes, part of my youth will slip away with it.

Cheers, McHale's. Thanks for it all.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

Happy birthday to my brother!!!

In honor of Blog Against Racism (hat tip to Mignon), I thought I'd do what I do best and write about food.

This is what we cooked for dinner last night:

My mouth was watering as I laid out le pere, i pepi, il rosmarino, la cipolla, i funghi, l'agnello, e l'aglio per il foto (I don't know the word for "butternut squash" and am too busy to look it up). Being Italian-American has had a tremendous impact on my enjoyment of food.

One evening last week, while I was home for Thanksgiving, my parents and I sheepishly discussed whether we would watch one of our favorite films, Goodfellas. Its filmmaking merit is without question. The script is superb. The "hostess party" scene, in my opinion, could singlehandedly inspire a "Best Scene" category at the Academy Awards.

But, you know, there's that whole violent-and-tacky-Italians stereotype. The tackiness bothers me more than the violence, because I occasionally feel driven to inflict grievous bodily injury--when I've tried 8 times, unsuccessfully, to upload a simple photo to my blog, for example. But look at what my people eat for dinner and tell me that we're tacky.

My parents, Goodfellas aside, have virtually zero tolerance for mobster depictions of Italians in the media. They write letters and participate in Italian cultural organizations. I used to be similarly strict, but I've loosened up a little bit. When you realize that you're laughing at Groundskeeper Willie's antics alongside your Scottish husband, you start to apply the same standards to your own ethnicity.

There's been a lot of back-and-forth about The Sopranos and the way it depicts Italian-Americans. I recall once being singled out in a group, as an Italian, and being asked to defend my position that The Sopranos depicted Italians negatively. When the show first became popular, I think a lot of people took the public position that it didn't depict Italians negatively because they enjoyed the show and didn't want to think of themselves as racist or biased, or even just participants in a cycle of making and enjoying ethnic humor.

So, I believe that The Sopranos does depict Italians negatively. I also believe that it's OK to enjoy the show; I just wish we could acknowledge it for the guilty pleasure that it is. Maybe some ethnic humor can be acknowledged, discussed, and enjoyed? This would involve a collective ability to identify and appreciate ethnic humor while also discrediting it to some extent. That is difficult. I wonder if it's even possible in our mainstream society. I also wonder if it's only possible with certain groups. I do think that some of the more edgy and interesting contemporary artists and pop culture icons acknowledge this tension between enjoyable mocking and respectful reverence.

The dinner was delicious.