Tuesday, March 27, 2018

End of Honeymoon Phase?

I think my honeymoon phase might be ending. Nothing specific has happened. I think it's that I've started planning trips out of the city. Until very recently, I didn't want to leave at all. But now I'm eager to get out, to take a break. I'm hoping to do a day hike in Jersey this weekend.

I still enjoy the people-watching and the sense of constant activity, but the awe and wonder has started to fade. Does this mean I'm turning into a real New Yorker? I don't want to lose the sense of awe and wonder. I hope I never stop noticing the architectural details in the tall buildings around me, or wondering about the lives of the strangers I see on the subway.

But these days I'm definitely more likely to read on the subway than to simply stare around. I stopped sleeping with the window open, because the creak and hiss of the bus that stops across the street, and the constant police or ambulance sirens, are no longer thrilling sounds as I lie in bed.

I'm settling into a routine. To make sure I don't stop doing new things, yesterday I sat down and put together a NYC bucket list: fun, free things to do around the city. I'll be sure to make time for these things in the next few weeks. Can't leave my faithful readers with nothing new to read about!

The snow last week did fill me with awe and wonder.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Birthplace of American Democracy!

I spent all of Saturday in Philadelphia! It was a beautifully sunny day, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking and biking around with my high school friend Ashley, who lives there.

We ate shakshuka breakfasts outside! A bit chilly but the building blocked the wind, and the sun felt amazing.

Our Independence Hall tour guide, Joanne, was excellent. Full of great little anecdotes about the Founding Fathers.

Took this selfie in the Museum of the American Revolution, for my brother Dylan, who loves war and guns and history. 
According to the museum curators, we are the Future Faces of the Revolution!

We visited this glorious House of Cheese on South 9th St.

I'm a sucker for this stuff. I spent like $30 here on little preserved fruit jars.

Philly is home to America's oldest continually operating outdoor market!

So beautiful, and so much cheaper than NYC...

Riding bikes toward City Hall

Schuylkill River
Boathouse Row

I picked up a special hummus dinner from a local Michelin-star chef before catching my Megabus home. Getting out of the city was really nice, and so was catching up with an old friend. And it was really fun learning about American history in, as Hamilton says, "the room where it happened."  If I keep living in NYC, I'll have to be intentional about getting out of the city regularly. As soon as I finish typing this, I'm going to start making a list of day hikes accessible by public transit... if those exist around here.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Food Justice // Botox

Today was a study in contrasts.

The first half of my day was energizing and inspiring: I attended the 2018 Just Food Conference in upper Manhattan. It pumps me up to see and hear from people who are passionate and action-oriented. I especially loved the AM Plenary session, where a panel of 100% female/nonbinary and mostly (if not all) people of color shared their perspectives on how to "Feed the Resistance."

AM Plenary panel

My favorite breakout session was an anti-racism workshop I attended. Designed for white people, the workshop addressed implicit bias, privilege, and spheres of influence/power. I realized for the first time that I wear my own privilege with an oxymoronic heaviness. In reality, by nature, it should be light: making my life easier, opening doors. But my awareness of it makes it feel heavy: a sense of obligation, of responsibility: to do my best to level the playing field for others who were born into less privilege than me.

At the end of the sessions, we paired up to discuss personal commitments to fighting racism. I told my partner I've been reading more novels by people of color (aka POC), especially black writers. I just finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and am almost through Americanah. Both really immersive, thought-provoking reads. Last week I happened to watch the 2004 film Crash, another piece of media that has me thinking a lot about racism. Other things I can do better include diversifying my circle of friends (easier said than done) and including more POC voices in my own writing/stories.

session on food sovereignty (a very difficult word to spell)

Other things I liked about the conference: emphasis on community and collaboration, on dismantling patriarchy, on being open and respectful, on speaking your own truth, on taking action and getting comfortable with discomfort.

I also liked that the breakfast was delicious

and the whole conference was zero-waste (or close to it)!

I walked away feeling empowered and hopeful.

I left the conference and walked into a new friend's living room — a WASPy room that depleted my newly refreshed social justice energy. I met this woman through a mutual friend, and she invited me to a women's hang-out that she regularly hosts in her home. I know all conversations can't be about philosophy or policy, but I have a distinctly low tolerance for multi-hour conversations with a range restricted to topics like fashion, cats, celebrities, and Botox. These are the actual topics that were discussed. Despite the fact that every woman in the room was still in her twenties, more than one of them has gotten Botox and others discussed their plans to.

I may be only 25, but it's really hard for me to relate to that life decision. I can talk about cats for a little while, and I'm interested if you have something new to say about fashion, but I have zero interest in discussing the lives of famous performers or where to go for the best Botox experience.

As I nibbled cheese and crackers and sipped rosé with the Botox ladies, conference attendees were mingling and networking in the post-conference reception — where I should have been.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

NYC Is Weird

like, why grafitti "F-word" with a heart on someone's stoop?
and why are these vocabulary cards all over the sidewalk?
I found it kind of unnerving.

Could someone use dogma to construe these cards as artifacts?

this situation is the opposite of "meticulous"

Monday, March 19, 2018

Friends Are Fun

I hosted a dinner party on Friday night. It was lovely. 
We played Pictionary, which the boys were bad at. This is them after a series of defeats. 
On Saturday, after spending several hours writing, I went to a St. Patrick's Day/birthday party where there were a lot of journalists and some twinkly lights.

On Sunday morning I got coffee with the Wieners! who were in town for a wedding

We were going to eat at the birthplace of the cronut, but there was a line down the block so we went to a tiny and cute cafe nearby instead.

and then I ate brunch with a Duke friend and her roommate and their friend! 
It really does seem miraculous to me when I get invited to things, because I didn't know enough (or the right kind of) people to get invited to much in Nashville. And in Austin I would've been too busy working to do things like this. Having friends is so fun!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Strangest Night of My Life

I know that's a bold claim, but I honestly cannot think of another night that hosted such a series of disorientingly unexpected events.

Everything was normal until I got to work. Our chef, Eder, came out to tell us the specials and to let us know that we'd have a VIP diner that night (this happens a lot, as we're James Beard Award semifinalists and our chefs have a Michelin star at our sister restaurant). I didn't catch the name when he said it, but he pulled up photos on his phone — and it was MARK BITTMAN. Only the most famous modern American food writer. (except prob Michael Pollan). He wrote a food column in the New York Times for 13 years. Eder said he'd probably sit at the bar, but we should all be aware of him in case he took a table. (No one else at the restaurant knew who he was, which surprised me at first, until I realized I'm a food writer and therefore a million times more likely to be aware of other food writers.)

Around 6pm, Mark Bittman walked in. And SAT IN MY SECTION. I have never panicked because of a person's celebrity before. It meant nothing to me that I've served Tim McGraw and Jennifer Garner (in Nashville). I wouldn't even blink if it were Bono or Morgan Freeman. But somehow serving Mark Bittman made me panic. My heart was pounding and I could hardly string words into a sentence. I approached him and said, "I'm a big fan of your writing." He gave a gracious "thank you" and that was it. I didn't tell him I was also a food writer and that his writing inspired me, so he had no reason to ask me anything about myself. Regrets, regrets.

He asked me to describe the Rezebal Blanco txakoli, and I could not think of a single thing to say. I said "well-balanced" with a stutter, and he ordered it and seemed to like it, but unfortunately it is not at all well-balanced: It's super tart and upfront. Intense bright fresh fruit flavors. I can't believe I told him it was well-balanced. I went to the back and basically banged my head against the wall.

I took some deep breaths and gave myself a stern talking-to. He's just a person, I told myself.

The rest of the night went fine. I did drop his friend's knife onto his plate with a huge clatter when trying to reset the table — but because the knife was oily and not because I was nervous, I think?? I described all the food appropriately, which is more important to me than wine, even though I know I really should know both to the same extent. Mostly I tried to stay out of their way, because I was so afraid of hovering. They both left generous tips.

Later that night I tried tweeting at him, but I doubt he'll see it or respond. I am going to try emailing him, too.

this was supposed to be a dazed face.
got his autograph!!!

The same night, John T. Edge walked in!!! Two of America's best food writers, in the same room with me, and I talked to both of them! My head was spinning. (John T., if you don't know, is the director of Southern Foodways Alliance and author of the recently published Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South. I highly recommend it. So does the New York Times.)

I felt off-balance the whole night. To cap things off, my train ride home was very strange as well. The train driver fell asleep at the wheel or something, because he zoomed through my stop and then screeched to a stop just past it. I was in a middle car. Over the loudspeaker, he announced that anyone wanting to get off should walk to the rear car to exit through one door that had been manually opened by a MTA employee. They couldn't open all the doors without endangering passengers in the front cars, who were stuck in the tunnel past the station. So weird.

"WHO'S DRIVING THIS TRAIN?" An angry woman shouted as we de-boarded.

The same capricious higher powers that sent me Mark Bittman and John T. Edge in the same night, I thought.

different night, but I'm going to include this here because it is also strange.

I watched this man

devour four hot dogs

one after another

and then lick his fingers when done.

Monday, March 12, 2018

scroll down for cute animal pic

Look who came to visit!

Jack landed a press pass to the ACC tournament at Barclays, so he stayed with me in Brooklyn from Thursday morning through Sunday morning. We only got two half-days to hang out, though, because we were both working a lot — him reporting on the games, and me doing my podcast thing and working at Txikito. But the time we did spend together was really special :)

Fun things we did:
oysters at Chelsea Market! 

ramen at Jun-Men Ramen Bar!


We visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which I obviously wouldn't call "fun" but was totally worthwhile. I'd been before, back in the summer of 2014 when Papa and Nana visited me here. It was good to be able to linger on the parts I'd had to rush through before. There is so much information and emotion to absorb while you're there — you either have to take hours or else skip stuff.

This is the only photo I took there:
I wish more Americans knew this. And accepted it.

The parts of the museum that hit me hardest were the goodbye calls from the passengers and flight attendants on the planes before they crashed. The museum has actual recordings from voicemails those people left for their life partners. Seriously heartbreaking. 

And the parts about people jumping from the burning towers. It reminds me of that David Foster Wallace quote about suicide:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

Which reminds me of my friend Priya, who quoted DFW on her GoFundMe page to raise money to help her parents with her hospital bills. Priya put together the GoFundMe before she killed herself.

"It's said that people who choose to take their own lives are selfish. That they aren't thinking of the ones they're leaving behind. The truth is, I've spent the last six years thinking about what I'd leave behind. More importantly, whom," she wrote.

"But to be honest, I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of feeling like a prisoner in my own body. Like a spectator of my own life. That's what mental illness does to you. I tried to hold out for as long as I could. But every bad day, every disappointment, every heartbreak, every anxiety attack just reminded me that my time here had an expiration date."

One more association: Florence's song "Falling," which is among my favorites.

Ok, enough of the heavy stuff. That night I went to bed at 6pm in part because the museum was pretty emotionally exhausting. And because I hadn't really paused to catch my breath in a few days.

Now for some comfort from the natural world! At the American Museum of Natural History the next day, I learned about this adorably funky animal:
the rare and secretive okapi - the only known relative of the giraffe!