Monthly Archives: August 2011

One of my very few Midwestern hangups (as my mother calls them) has to do with the coverage of weather events on the East Coast, particularly in New York.  Weather there is always BIGGER, MORE, and WORSE than any weather anywhere else, every before, for as long as we all shall live.

I cite, as exhibit A, the snowstorm we had in Chicago (and other adjacent regions) this winter.  Thousands of people lost power.  I walked down the center of a totally closed Lake Shore Drive, past cars people had abandoned in the middle of traffic the night before. It took two people three and half hours to dig out my car a week later.  I didn’t go to work for two full days because there was no physical way to get there.

And yet, the reports about “snowpocalypse” and “snowmaggedon” (seriously, these terms need to be forever stricken from any writer’s “potential descriptions of weather events” arsenal) were all about New York.  When I complained about this in the days that followed, my mother patiently tried to describe how Everything Really Is Worse There.  Too many people and too much infrastructure in a much smaller space.  Six inches of snow really is a lot there.  They don’t have a Great Lake in which to dump great piles of frozen refuse.

Sitting, such as I was, in three sweatshirts and a hat next to a radiator which is seemingly governed by it own unpredictable hormones, I refused to be swayed.  And so I can’t decide today if I want New York to get truly, horrendously pummeled by this hurricane which is taking over every single website, blog, and news source I like to spend my workdays perusing, or if I want them to simply experience a gentle mist. 

Even if it’s the latter–it will truly be the very worst mist that too many people in too small a space have ever experienced, forever and ever, amen.

(PS This is what it’s doing in Chicago right now.  Happy Friday!)


Being in a long-distance relationship, such as I am with New York Magazine, can be a mixed bag.  Articles about fare hikes, congestion, pollution, violence, danger, mayhem, and soaring rents?  Thank goodness my mail is delivered elsewhere!  Articles about the latest Williamsburg-iron-foundry-turned-pizza-kitchen-and-community-pottery-studio?  I simply seethe with thwarted curiosity.

When in New York I like to maximize the number of experiences I can punctuate with the worn-out trope, “I’ve read about that.”  It’s not always easy–once something’s been profiled it’s either over or totally overrun, and NY Mag doesn’t highlight too many of the $3 Margarita joints frequented by me and my ilk.  Thus it was all but a total accident that I found myself wandering in the neighborhood of Jane’s Sweet Buns with forty minutes to spare on my very last morning in town.

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This Midwesterner just returned from eight slightly-soggy-but-blissful days in the Empire State visiting with friends, eating and drinking with reckless abandon, dodging raindrops, hopping trains and ferries, and tromping around exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Posts regarding my adventures in “God’s country”–as my mother’s family still calls New York City–to follow over the next few days.

Every attempt to explore themes beyond “I Ate This…And This” will be made–but I hate to promise things I’m not sure I can deliver.

Last night, as the closing credits rolled after the opening night showing of The Help, my friend Lucy and I had the following exchange:

Lucy: I’ve been sobbing nonstop for two hours.  I am emotionally and physically spent; let’s get out of here so I can go to bed.

Me: Ugh, tell me about it.  I have to go home a bake a pie.

Yes, a pie.  You see, we all have our faults, and my only one one of mine is that I require a lot of attention where potlucks are concerned.  I can’t just show up with a box of cookies or a tub of dip or even the contents of a box of cookies or a tub of dip arranged on a plate or in a nice ceramic bowl.

Rather, it’s essential that I earn the love, adulation, and resentment of everyone else at said potluck.  Anything other than that, or short of that, is commensurate with failure.

It should be noted that I pride myself on being exactly the opposite of my potluck self in real life (apparently, in my brain, potlucks occur outside the bounds of normal reality).  But a few years ago, shortly after starting my current job, I brought Thomasina’s Pumpkin Muffins to a Christmastime potluck lunch one day, and unto us a child was born: my insufferable potluck alter-ego.

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You know when you hear about something, become mildly grossed out by it, and think you’re moving on from it when suddenly it explodes and takes over your consciousness?  You do?  Well, great, then you’ve obviously heard about NBC’s Mad Men-emulating, Eddie Cibrian-starring, nauseous-making fall pilot The Playboy Club.

I heard talk of this terrible idea some months ago, but didn’t really stop to ponder it until I came across Linda Holmes’ thorough reflections on the network’s strange pitch scheme for NPR, namely, that the show puts forth the idea that Bunnies were among the most empowered women of their time, and network execs are featuring this dimension pretty strongly in their stump speeches.  A few days later, Jezebel followed up with an item expanding on Holmes’ piece, and maybe leaning a little too hard on the notion that Mad Men is the ultimate feminist portrayal of the 1960’s (more on that, almost definitely, in the future.)

Finally, Gloria Steinam, the original undercover Bunny, came out and suggested a boycott of the show, although I still think my own mother had the best take on the whole fiasco:

“I mean, you just know that Hugh Hefner’s whole life has been spent in a giant attempt to empower women, right?”

( Touché.)

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When I was a child, I loved to play office, or, rather, “work.”

Apparently I was employed in a high-octane fictional environment, because my office was always in crisis.  Phones were repeatedly answered and slammed back down in their cradles, my salmon pink Royal manual typewriter clacked and ding!-ed endlessly, and my lenseless tortoise shell glasses frames were forever being pulled from my face and flung down on my desk in frustration.

(I had a well-appointed fake office.)

A decade or two later, I now work in an office that’s not without its share of dramatics, but they seems to play out in such disappointing, passive aggressive ways.  The email that mentions “we” in quotation marks.  The pleasant meeting from which everyone emerges furious.  The thin, wrinkly wire across my computer monitor as all of our hopes and dreams the stock market plummets silently straight to hell.

Fortunately, there’s one profession still rife with public theatrics, and that’s The Trader.  For those of you who, like me, think raising your fists in the air or publicly screaming “I SAID ‘SELL!’, DAMMIT!” mid-workday could be cathartic, or even outright fun, then NPR’s slideshow “How to Act Like a Trader,” in the style of  the brilliant and ultra-relevant  “The Brokers With Hands On Their Faces Blog” is just the ticket.

Have you looked at it? I SAID LOOK AT IT, DAMMIT!

(I feel better now, but I might need new glasses.  And a phone.)

A number of years ago, my friend Meghan started a story with the following statement:

“I’ve got such a thing for primordial dwarves.”

I mean, sure.  This was around the time Little People, Big World premiered on TLC (Note: remember when TLC only featured actual educational programing about fish and medicine and wasn’t totally focused on people with unusual heights, numbers of children, birth stories, cakes, etc.?), and not only was she hooked on the program, she found herself googling facts about primordial dwarves, and seeking out other viewers.

Not my bag, maybe, but on the topic of weird fascinations, I can almost always see and raise your something odd with my something odd.  For example, I’ve had this thing about Joel Osteen, televangelist and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, for what must be more than five years now, and on Saturday night, he’s going to be just down the road at U.S. Cellular Field.

I am thrilled about this, and not just because a weird famous person is coming to my city and the traffic this weekend should at least carry a special air of distinction.  Rather, I’m excited because the the setup seems good enough as to have been ordained by God (terrible, I know, ten extra “Our Fathers”).

It’s the ultimate cosmic throw-down: Joel Osteen, most positive televangelist in the universe, is going to be spitting his game in a stadium that has essentially become a monument to misguided faith and the suffering of thousands, a place accustomed to hosting a team whose manager recently declared, “I want to cry” during a press conference.

Keep reading…