Prep

Yesterday was both easy and difficult at the same time. I am not used to starting my day in the morning anymore. I go to work between 1500-1700, so I tend to wake up between 1100 and 1300, depending on how jazzed I am from the night before and what I have to do the next day. Flipping my schedule around for one day threw me into the “I got up on the wrong side of the bed and I’m very grumpy” set of feelings. I got two Rock Stars from 7-Eleven and I am not ashamed to say that I drank both of them. I did not sleep well the night before, and with prep, I have to be alert, because to not is to hurt oneself… badly. For instance, my first job was par cooking French Fries, so that the people on the line only have to drop them in the fryer for a minute or two before they’re ready. Therefore, I was standing in front of a 350 degree fryer for almost two and a half hours. Had I been sleepy, that could have ended with blisters, or waiting for them to bubble. Even when I’m at the top of my game, accidents happen. I think I burned off one of my fingerprints on Wednesday. I got some ice on it immediately, so no blister bubbled, but for the moment, at least, I have no feeling on the pad of my left index finger and part of my thumb.

I was proud of myself, because since I was able to get ice and extraordinarily cold water on the burns immediately, it allowed me to keep working steadily. It’s a long story, but we’ve changed lead line cooks again, and it was magical. The same give-and-take that was there with the last one is still there with him. I got the compliment of my life- “I’m going to put you on all my shifts, because you can keep up with me, and I’m fast.” Also, I was absolutely kidding, but I told my kitchen manager, “of all the line cooks in all the world, you had to pick a Yankees fan?” Turns out, he’s actually a Mets fan, but from Brooklyn, so as he said, “whaddya gonna do?” I’m not even that much of a baseball fan, though I will watch it more easily than anything else, save soccer, especially if the Giants or the Dodgers are playing…. especially against the Astros. I’ve spent too many years of my life rooting for the Dodgers and the Giants to give up now.

Here, I root for the Baltimore Orioles, for a nerdy reason specific only to me. I can’t get behind the “Walgreens W.” Come to find out, the W belonged to the Senators first, which makes me feel sort of bad about it. Still. Just. Can’t.

Fonts matter. Also love that they call the Os park “Birdland.”

I do like Bryce Harper and his ever changing hair, though. Believe it or don’t, the rumor is that the Nats are thinking of trading him to the Astros.

I am sure that I will eventually get on board with the Nationals, only because it’s so much easier to take the Metro to the park than it is to get on the Marc to Baltimore. When I was thinking about moving from Houston to the Mid-Atlantic, I actually thought about Baltimore in addition to DC, because as I said then, “I’m really more of a John Waters than a John Boehner.” But again, what changed my mind was the public transportation infrastructure, because I know how to drive, but don’t. The traffic and parking around here suck. DC barely has room for the cars that the people own who live there. Bringing them in from Maryland and Virginia is just a “goat-ropin’ clusterfuck,” my favorite Texas swear.

Plus, because of supply and demand, the cost of parking for even a couple of hours is outrageous. As long as I have the time, taking the train is is easy. If I have to get somewhere fast, the cost of an Uber is infinitely less expensive than even buying a cheap cash car and trying to maintain it, plus insurance, plus parking if I go anywhere near “the city….” I have proven over time that I need a lot of it. Such a stereotypical woman driver who gives my gender a bad name. I would much rather zone out in the back seat with a good book or podcast.

For instance, I got a Facebook direct message from Dan, who told me she wanted to watch Argo with me, because it seemed like it was my favorite movie. I told her it didn’t seem like that, it was that. So even though I just watched it last Saturday, we watched it again last night. It was perfect over a glass of wine and some Wheat Thins, of which I am very proud I did not eat the whole box.

For that reason alone, it was nice to be done with work by 1600. It was also nice that I still felt caffeinated, because otherwise, I would have fallen asleep five minutes into the movie, especially after a glass of wine.

Meeting Dan has been one of the great blessings of my life, because not only did she fold me into her own life, but introduced me to a great friend circle as well. She is the connector- every friend I’ve hung out with over the past two years has invariably come from a chance meeting at one of her parties. Jaime lives the closest to me, in Columbia Heights, a quick trip down 16th street or a short train ride away. But even going out to Alexandria is faster on the train than I could drive it, because the traffic between Silver Spring and anywhere in Virginia is atrocious.

Every time, I am thanked for making the trek out there, but it is really no sweat. The yellow line connects two stops from my house (at Ft. Totten), and I can take it all the way to Braddock, which is one stop past National (the day I call it Reagan will never come unless I’m senile- which, incidentally, objects in mirror are closer than they appear).

Slowly getting ready for my interview at University of Maryland on Tuesday, mostly surrounding what I should wear. Business casual has changed so much over the years. I have no idea what I’ll see when I show up. For some universities, a collared shirt will do. For others, everyone will be in jeans and t-shirts. Generally for an interview, I wear a suit, and I will probably do the same now. Although funny story- when I interviewed at Marylhurst, one of the things they said to me after I started was, “when you walked in wearing that suit, we thought, ‘she is going to eat us alive.'”

I, in fact, did not.

I am the Type B poster child, so by the time I actually started, I was in jeans and t-shirts and/or Polos just like everyone else…. and like in all offices, a coat or a hoodie for my constant battle against the air conditioner. I am always thirsty and cold, the temperature made worse by drinking cold water. As I joke with my friends, “I drink a lot.”

At Alert Logic, everyone could hear me coming because I put ice water and an energy drink packet in my Nalgene, so it sounded every day like I was shaking a martini on the way to my desk. I’m surprised no one asked to taste it just to make sure. 🙂

We also had a free Starbucks coffee machine, so there were many days in which I overdid it, because hey, free latte. It was amazing because it didn’t taste like hospital coffee. I spend most days wired for sound.

In fact, I’m prepping for it today.

 

The Top of My Game

I go to work in a little over two hours, and I really don’t want to. It’s not that I hate my job or anything. I absolutely love it. But between the pain and the shingles, I am still worn down to a nub and having to work at 100%, anyway. I am very proud of my body for allowing me to do this. During the adrenaline rush of service, I don’t physically feel anything. It’s nice to get a break, but then afterwards, I wilt like a flower. So far, the only thing I’ve done outside of work is sleep and watch Netflix.

I wish I had more energy. The laundry is piling up and I just can’t force myself to care. The most frustrating part is not knowing how long the shingles are going to last. Once they scab over, I am no longer contagious and can go about my normal life. But I am not quite to that stage yet, although I know it’s coming soon because it seems like it should be long enough by now. But even after passing the contagion stage, that doesn’t mean they go away. It just means I can complain around other people. All of my coworkers have had chicken pox, thank God. It would be worse to lose hours at work than has been to force myself to go…. and yesterday was actually really fun. Rachel (my chef’s knife) and I got to spend a few hours together and nothing makes me happier than taking her on a workout. She sliced through five pounds of carrots like they were nothing. God bless Chicago Cutlery. For the price point, they are seriously the best knives ever…. and having used really expensive knives before, I can tell you that it seems true to me that they need sharpening and honing more often. Perhaps it’s that the metal is softer- who knows?

When I finish tonight, it starts my weekend. I have Friday and Saturday off. In some ways, I hope I get called in anyway, because what cook knows what to do with themselves on Friday and Saturday nights? Please. The good part is that on my days off, I can actually go to bed early and sleep with my natural circadian rhythm so that I get even more rest than normal. There’s such a difference between sleeping and resting, because the sleep I get on off hours just isn’t as deep. I rarely dream anymore, which just tells me that I am only superficially asleep.

On my weekends, I get the chance to truly restore lactic acid to my muscles and don’t have to depend quite so much on pain meds (Aleve and Tylenol, no narcotics) and caffeine. It’s interesting to me that I am more experienced, more valued now as a cook than I ever have been… and right when I get to the top of my game, my body starts falling apart. The axiom “youth is wasted on the young” has never seemed more true. I have never felt more like an old person, having all these aches and pains and acid reflux and God knows what else is coming down the pike…….

But again, I am very proud of myself. I am at the top of my game, thriving even when service feels like drinking from a fire hose. Last night, I even took the time to take the pub up on a shift drink, because I burned the hell out of my thumb while cleaning the flat top (huge griddle). The alcohol is neither a pain reliever nor an anti-inflammatory, but it did make me forget I was in pain, and that’s not nothin.’ It was a Hefeweizen with a slice of lemon called “Foam Party,” reminiscent of one of the first Oregon beers I tried- Widmer Bros. Hefe. It brought me right back to shivering on the banks of the Willamette during Fourth of July fireworks.

For those who are unfamiliar with beer, Hefeweizen is a German style which is unfiltered, so it’s cloudy, hoppy, and just generally the best summer beer ever. I am smitten…. and yet, too old to enjoy too much, because did I mention acid reflux?

I take medication for it, but my biggest triggers are alcohol and tomatoes, not unusual for anyone, and I’d rather save the medication for an unlimited supply of strong coffee. It helps that I put whole milk in it- the fat is padding, because if there is anything I hate, it is coffee made too weakly to actually be called coffee in the first place. Right now I am buying different kinds of beans and mixing them all together, the way my grandmother made her cereal- buying six different kinds and putting them all in the same container. It’s delicious- some dark roast, some medium, some blonde. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Brands don’t really matter. I just buy whatever’s on sale that week. It’s the mixing of the roasts that make it pop.

And the word “pop” reminds me that it’s time to take a shower and get ready for service. It really means a lot to me, because I am still so sad about losing Anthony Bourdain that being in a kitchen feels like the best way to honor his memory. On Facebook, I often use the hashtag #DoitforTony when I’m checking in to the pub. If you’re a cook yourself, I’d be honored if you used it, too. Because he was such an inspiration to me, sometimes I still have to breathe deeply when I walk in and change into my kitchen shoes and apron.

That one still moment energizes me, and I think it’s what helps in terms of being at the top of my game…. inspiration and motivation all rolled into one.

I suppose I am just preparing myself to really let go, but I’m not there yet. Perhaps I never will be, and that’s okay. It can’t be a bad thing that his memory drives me forward in everything I do. I don’t think I’ll ever be half the journeyman cook he was, but perhaps writing about cooking and food is where our minds truly meet. It is as if my mind has opened up and said, “Anthony, you live here now. Welcome. There’s drinks on Thursdays and a pool in the back.” It is not unlike the way Obi Wan Kenobi lives in Luke Skywalker.

Now I feel like he’s nagging me to shower because I said I was going to five minutes ago.

That guy………

Throwing it Together

My kitchen manager could not have been more supportive of me. When I walked in last evening, he said, “I know your work ethic. What happened?” I said, “I would have stayed until everything was put away, but I got kicked out of the kitchen because it was so late.” He said, “I knew it must have been something like that, because it never would have happened under your watch.” And then he hugged me. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t exactly remember the words, but that’s the gist. So, everything worked out despite my stomach being in knots and practically tearing up all the way to work. There was just one slight problem.

I couldn’t explain it in Spanish. So, the person who had to come in at 9:00 AM and see all my mistakes couldn’t possibly fathom why I’d “fucked everything up.” I was completely speechless because I was all up in my head trying to pick a phrase I actually knew that would help. I had nothin,’ and no one to translate for me. My kitchen manager speaks better Spanish than me, but not enough to express everything I wanted to say. So he made up for it by letting her off early. I hope it was enough.

I would have been home pretty early last night if the dishwasher hadn’t decided to dump water all over the floor. Though technically, it wasn’t my fault, I am still taking one for the team on this one. I emptied all the traps as I’d been shown, but what I didn’t know is that you had to use a shop vac to get out all the water, too. That part of the training had been left out, through no fault of anyone’s, just an oversight. So, the kitchen manager and I stayed a little later with dry (at first) mops and got up everything we could, then turned on big fans. By now, it’s dry… or here’s hoping, anyway. 😛

By the time I left the kitchen last night, my mood had lifted, because I got fired up listening to Eminem and got it handled, as if Olivia Pope (Scandal) worked in a brewpub. My shift drink was a Mexican-style cola, one of the few things I attribute as a gift from God directly. Beer is one thing. Sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and a heavy syrup to soda water ratio that brings one right back to the drug store (that reference ages me) is quite another. As I have said before, it is on my “chef’s game” last meal list.

This morning, because it was after Eid, I made real Irish imported steel-cut oatmeal for my roommate, Abdel, and me… along with homemade coffee. And by this, I do not mean that I brewed it myself. I mean that one of my friends buys green beans and roasts them herself. It is insane.

I asked Abdel about something I’d always wanted to know. During Ramadan, do children fast? He said that unofficially, fasting begins at seven, but officially, it begins after puberty…. but that most of the time, children compete to fast so they can be just like Mommy and Daddy.

It reminded me so much of both Christianity and Judaism. In the Catholic church, seven is “the age of reason,” when you are accountable to God for your sins and start confession. In Judaism, puberty is also the sign that you are an adult. Dear God, we have so much in common, all children of Abraham. I just wish more people could see it.

Don’t get me started on Israel and Palestine, and the unwavering USG support of Israel. It just makes my blood boil, especially with one word- settlements. Never mind that Israel has a fully-functioning army (possibly a nuclear weapon, definitely chemical assault capability) AND a world-famous intelligence agency, Mossad…. Palestine has homemade bombs and rocks. They can barely sit up to Israel, much less stand. I realize that atrocities have been committed on both sides. I am not immune to the news. But the whole thing is ridiculous. Not our circus, not our monkeys…. mostly because the United States is such a young country that we legitimately have no concept of tribal wars that have been going on for centuries, and yet, we have unilaterally decided that Israel can do no wrong. And yes, I realize that the state of Israel is young, but the concept of an Israeli is not, and neither is the concept of a Palestinian.

I told you not to get me started.

All I can say now is “thank God for Ireland,” because without them, I would not have had the good breakfast I need to be happy enough to let go of this and move on to something else.

Lindsay is coming to town tonight, and this is my Friday, so we’ll have two evenings together before she goes back to Houston. I got her an amazing birthday present- I hope it scores big. Lindsay’s birthday is on June 17th, which often lines up with Father’s Day… so she still gets him a present, even though she is the ultimate gift.

I got my dad Eric Ripert’s autobiography, 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, and a multi-tool he’d forgotten he’d put on his Amazon Wish List. I was going to get him Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook for home cooks, Appetite, but unsurprisingly, it is out of stock…. or at least it was before Father’s Day. Thanks, Obama.

The Kindle version was available, but a Kindle cookbook seems somewhat useless. I mean, what is a cookbook without notes in the margins and stains that make some of the pages stick together? How ELSE would you make a ground beef trifle (that reference ages me)? It might have been okay, I guess. A few Christmases ago I got my dad a cutting board that has a slot for a tablet in case you’re cooking with a YouTube video. Still, though, not as good.

I am not a fan of cookbooks, because I won’t use them. First of all, I have no place to store them except my Kindle, and secondly, I trust my own palate and can throw together pretty much anything. The only time I ever need a recipe is when I’m baking, because cooking is an art and baking is a science; it’s a totally different skill set.

In cooking, though, I know innately what something needs to make it pop, and how to correct mistakes (acid balances salt, etc.). I remember fondly the days when Dana would make soup, taste it, then look at me and say, “fix this.” It is not that either of us is a better cook than the other, we just have different strengths. For her, it’s technique (unsurprisingly- Cordon Bleu trained). For me, it’s palate. One is not more important than the other.

For instance, I could beat the pants off Karen’s potato salad.

Shelanagans, etc.

As predicted, I’m going to miss Walk-Up Wednesday at the African American Museum of History and Culture. Time, again, has gotten away from me. I even set reminders and they didn’t help. I woke up later than I usually do (0700 as opposed to 0500), and for some reason have the urgency to nest rather than to people. Had I not waited until the last minute, I would have been excited to see the museum, but there was always another Wednesday until now. Perhaps I will wait until someone in my family comes to visit so that we have something touristy to do together that I haven’t done already.

I have found that I am somewhat of an anomaly in D.C., because I’ve met few people around here that are willing to brave the crowds of tourists and would rather stay in their bubbles than constantly “staycation.” In fact, I’ve had roommates in the past that have never been to The Mall for the fireworks on Fourth of July even though they’ve lived here their whole lives. My excuse is that I just haven’t been here long enough to do everything, but it will happen.

One of the reasons I love D.C. so damn much is that it is a wonderland of free stuff to do… not that I’m opposed to paying for good entertainment, but why? The government has seen to it that I get a marvelous education in all sorts of subjects for the cost of a Metro ticket. The only museum that actually cost money that I’m desperate to see is the Newseum, which I saw in 2001 but has had a complete overhaul since. My greatest memory of the old building is standing in front of Helen Thomas’ press pass with tears in my eyes.

A few years before, I’d gotten to meet my hero when she came to University of Houston for a continuing legal education course at the law school, and I went as a reporter for our Information Technology newsletter. I asked her how being a reporter had changed in the age of the Internet, and she told me it was a great question and expounded on the 24-hour news cycle. My hero, badass reporter, told me I asked a great question. Touch me.

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My favorite story that she told involved a Halloween party at The White House, where a pilot tried to crash his plane intentionally on the grounds to kill President Clinton. Luckily, his plan failed miserably, but she said she’d never forget thinking that if he’d succeeded, Vice President Gore would have had to take the Oath of Office dressed as Frankenstein.

My second favorite story involved President Reagan. He invited Helen to take part in breaking ground for the Lebanese Culture Center (or something like it- can’t remember exactly). Then, after it was over, Reagan told her that as she dug the first hole, he could hear the ghosts of all the former presidents saying PUSH HER IN!!!

The first time I came to Washington (to visit), I was in second grade and eight years old. Though I loved The White House, I am infinitely grateful that I’ve come back as an adult so that I can better appreciate everything the city has to offer. For instance, I learned recently that Gore Vidal is buried here, so that’s my next cemetery trip. Perhaps writing advice will come to me by osmosis.

At this point, I’m willing to try anything.

It’s almost time to start writing the review for The 11:05 Murders, and I still owe Finn Bell an Amazon review for Dead Lemons (Finn, if you’re reading this, I haven’t forgotten). My morning coffee has turned into my afternoon coffee for this very reason. Trying to stay sharp despite the medication I’m taking is not effortless. I read somewhere that Lexapro has an effect on cognitive function and thought, great. Something else to make me dumber. I really don’t need help in that department. I also try to stay away from Klonopin unless I’m really distressed because it makes me sleepy. Perhaps that’s the point. It doesn’t solve anxiety so much as make you tired enough you don’t care you’re anxious.

Speaking of which, I need to read Dead Lemons again, and not because of the review. There’s a great therapist character in it with solid advice that I’d like to go back over. I’d tell you what it is, but I want you to buy the book.

Technically, I want you to buy all the books I mention, because then I’ll be able to discuss them with people who already know the end and I’m not responsible for spoiling the whole thing.

A great discussion about a book might make up for not going to the museum.

Right now, though, Brian O’Hare and Finn Bell are counting on me, so perhaps waiting is for the best. My sister and Pri Diddy are both coming to town soon, and who knows what “shelanagans” we’ll create. I would stay tuned if I were you.

I know I will.

Staying Awake

I thought seriously about boycotting Starbucks until I realized that I still had money on my gift cards. I reasoned that my coffee had already been purchased, and if the boycott persisted beyond that, I wouldn’t spend my own money there.philadelphia_sbux Thanks to social media wisdom, though, I realized something important. There are thousands of black baristas, and this one shop in Philly was the problem, not Starbucks as a whole. If that sounds callous and racist, I am very sorry. But the truth is that I live in a neighborhood with lots of black people. Some are African-American. Others are immigrants, mostly from Cameroon, Nigeria, and Eritrea. Boycotting my local store might lead to cutting down on employees as they get less busy, and I am not about to contribute to it.

The plain truth is that this is not a Starbucks problem. It is the top-down system of oppression that has been in power for hundreds of years. For instance, why didn’t the police officers just laugh in the barista’s face? Why, after explaining the situation, were the men still cuffed?

There is blame to be had all the way around, and when the police were called, they had absolutely no reason to follow through. What about the barista’s story made any damn sense except the police being as racist as the barista? I don’t even have a jacket as nice as the one the man on the left is wearing, and I guarantee you I’ve looked worse in a hoodie and jeans stumbling into a coffee shop than the man on the right. This is not to say that every black person who walks into a Starbucks must be dressed a certain way. I am only making the observation that if the barista and the police were looking for people making trouble, these men weren’t it.

Memorize their faces. Memorize the man on the left looking down with his hands in his pockets. Memorize the man on the right making a pained face as if this is not the first time this bullshit has happened to him. I can’t think of any situation that makes me feel more helpless and angry…. but I have to think it through. I have to think about all the ways I, as a white woman, can use the platform I’ve been given, both here and out in the world. I am generally not assertive when things happen to me personally (like truly repulsive comments regarding watching lesbians by men, for instance), but it’s a whole other thing when my mother lion gets engaged.

I am one of those hopeful people who’s been crushed by the amount of racism in my area, because DC is overwhelmingly black (a little under 50% of the population). I mistakenly thought things like that couldn’t happen here, or at least, more rarely than they actually do. I’ve cut way down on the optimism lately, anxiety rising like bile in the back of my throat.

I am no expert on race relations in DC, but it seems as if racially mixed neighborhoods have existed forever, even before gentrification…. keeping in mind that this is not every neighborhood’s case, but more often than in, say, the rest of the South. Technically, DC and Maryland are still the South because they’re under the Mason-Dixon line, but God help you if you mention it. No one around here wants to be compared with Alabama. We’d like to think we’re more progressive than that. Racial makeup of the neighborhood ceases to matter when you’re just trying to find a place you can afford.

In some ways, we are that progressive. In others, we’re not any better; we’d like to think of ourselves as liberal and inclusive, sweeping the incidents where we’re not way, way, way under the rug. If it doesn’t fit with the image we have of ourselves, it didn’t happen, definitely not a two-way street. White people just can’t be afraid of black people in the same way. I will never be afraid that a black person is going to call the police on me for anything…. ever.

Moreover, people of color absolutely cannot be racist, because racism, again, is a top-down entrenched system of oppression. They can, however, be prejudiced, stereotyping white people because they have to. They don’t know ahead of time if a friend or foe is approaching. Prejudice exists for a reason, and for people of color, it is self-preservation…. a fear that, as white people, we are absolutely responsible for creating.

For the most part, though, when we’re all on the Metro together, the racism and prejudice is left at the station. For instance, once I was waiting for the Orange Line back to Metro Center from Landover, and one of the WMATA employees came up to me and asked me if he could give me a hug, because I had a Black Lives Matter button pinned to my jacket. We just stood there and held each other, healing energy running between both of us.

While I have trouble believing that racism will be solved in my lifetime, I definitely hope.  Interestingly enough, I think Marvel has taken it upon itself to help. Movies like Black Panther and Captain America: Civil War, and television shows like Luke Cage are challenging the status quo, because they portray black people in a way that few pieces of media do. Marvel can’t be responsible for solving every racial issue, but movies and TV shows that are popular can’t hurt. For instance, nothing did more to help the queer community be seen as regular people than Will & Grace, with Six Feet Under a close second. Progress is still slow, but it’s faster than it used to be with the help of visibility.

The difference is that I only have to be afraid for my life when I’m walking hand in hand with another woman. Alone, people can only guess that I’m a minority. There is no covering up every inch of your skin. However, I do empathize because I, too, look over my shoulder for unenlightened white people. We are definitely not in the same boat, but I often believe we’re in the same part of the ocean.

As I sip my coffee, I wonder if this entire essay is going to make me look like a basic bitch. I want my thoughts to go toward some good…. perhaps make some people think. I know it reaches me. I could spend an entire afternoon brainstorming about all the ways society needs to change and what I might be able to do in bringing it forward. The most concrete way I know for myself is challenging all the microaggressions I think I don’t have. Being white is just a series of privileges that run so far under your skin you don’t even realize you’re broadcasting it.

The one good thing I can say for myself right this moment is that I can say I have black friends without lip service. I have people to teach me when I’m being a jackass without any awareness. I am lucky that my friends are willing to attribute my flaws to idiocy and not malice, because I guarantee that in terms of staying woke, I need to pay more attention when I become “sleepy.” I am lucky to have friends that have no problem calling me out on the carpet about it, even when it’s hard…. because sometimes you want to fix the whole world, and are at a complete loss as to what would help.

Although I know that at least my infinitely small part of the world will change, as long as I’m paying attention.

Coffee helps in keeping my mind busy and my eyes open. However, I cannot stay awake forever. That’s where you come in, batting relief.

[_])

Refill?

Maxwell House Max

This morning I am sitting in the sun room with a large cup of Maxwell House™ Max, a new product that has 1.75x the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. I have some errands to run and chores to do, so I don’t feel bad about front loading a lot of chemical fortitude. If I had to take a wild guess, brewed coffee is getting its ass kicked by energy drinks, and this is basically “shots fired.” I like it black with a good amount of Splenda,™ because there are a lot of chocolate undertones you miss if you add creamer.

Plus, it’s not very expensive. Coffee can just be a beverage again instead of a lifestyle choice. Even I can’t pinpoint the percentage of my income that has gone to outrageously expensive beans, but I guarantee that it’s astronomical. That being said, I do save a lot of money even with buying expensive beans, because it’s still cheaper than going to a coffee shop and paying for one cup at a time.

Sometimes I marvel at how we got here- that the market will bear $3 for a plain cup of coffee. I save a little bit at Starbucks, because people give me gift cards all the time, and because I’m a Gold Member, I get free refills on coffee & tea. Because of this, I have learned that Venti is Italian for “too lazy to get up.” Also, pro tip- SBUX coffee is so much better if you buy the beans and brew them in your own coffee pot… two reasons. You can make it to your own taste, and you know exactly how long it’s been sitting there.

I’d like to support my local indie coffee shops, but since I get gift cards to Starbucks, free coffee is too good to pass up. One $15 gift card will keep me in coffee for two weeks.

However, I am guessing that you don’t come to this web site to hear me extol the virtues of coffee… well, at least, not all of you. You want to know what’s been going on in my life, and I haven’t updated you in a while.

Samantha has signed up for cosmetology school at the Aveda Institute, which is 223 feet from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop. She’d never taken public transit before, so she wanted me to go with her on a “dry run” to make sure she knew where she was going on the first day. It was absolutely adorable, really. I don’t know anyone who is better at “winning friends and influencing people,” so not only did we get where we were going fairly fast, on the way back we made friends with the bus driver… well, she did, anyway. I just sat back and interjected into the conversation, as I am wont to do. He told us that he was from Haiti, and he was about my age, so I asked him, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but did you come here to escape Baby Doc? He said, and this is a direct quote, how the fuck did you know that? Get off this bus. He made a big show of opening the door. It was a Slumdog Millionaire moment as I remembered that my dad was a missionary in Haiti in the ’80s.

Then, a couple of days later, we had a wind storm that sounded like a freight train, blowing the side door open at our house and blowing debris and branches all over the ciy. So far, I only know of one person that died, a six-year-old who was hit by a branch in just the right spot to cause his mortality. In terms of history, one of the trees that President Washington planted at Mount Vernon was knocked over, as well.

Everyone in our household stayed safe, and we didn’t lose electricity… even though the wind at National Airport reached 70mph. As Ron White so eloquently put it, it’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing. He was talking about a tornado, but the point is the same. You might be able to outrun the wind itself, but not the car bumper it’s carrying.

I am now reading my second book for review, an advance copy that’s not even on Amazon yet… I suppose you would say that I’m a beta reader, because this is far past first draft work. I’m not far enough along in the book to tell you if the story is better than The Reel Sisters, but I can tell you that the writing style is much more advanced and closer to the fiction I’ve enjoyed before I started reviewing professionally.

I’m hoping my editor sticks with me, because even though I can’t send her a copy of the book (I’m sworn to secrecy), she can at least tell me if the review is good enough for publication or to go back to the drawing board.

As I told her, no one in formal writing makes it on their own…. or they lie. When my first review got published, my e-mail to her said, we did it.

This web site is absolutely not formal writing. It’s just whatever I’m thinking that day… and the very next day, I might say the exact opposite. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes it’s just cognitive dissonance in which each idea is true to me and I carry them both.

I don’t have a problem with thinking two opposite things at once. It’s like love. You never forget that your partner is an amazing part of your world, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t occasionally fantasize about smothering them in their sleep and collecting the insurance money when they haven’t taken out the garbage like you asked them to do two days ago.

Because I’m single, I get the pleasure of being annoyed at myself for those things. I can’t decide if that’s better or worse. Probably better, because I haven’t broken up with me yet…. even on the days I wish I could, like when I’m really mean to me before I’ve had my coffee.

When the Weather Report is Wrong

The Capital Weather Gang wrote a long article about how they thought snow was over for the season. I have never been happier that they were wrong. Living in a sub-tropical climate for all those years renders snow magical for me…. especially when it is big, fluffy, ski-worthy weather without ice and sleet. Of course, it could turn into that later on, but for now, the goal of the day is to take my laptop downstairs to the picture window in front of the porch and just think. I finally figured out how to start the clock running on my book review, therefore, I have more time than I thought I did to get it done.

I am finished with the basics, but not the editing. So far, it’s turning out to be interesting, even though the book was not something I’d have chosen on my own. I can’t tell you much, only that I chose it because it covers a subject in which I know nothing, and I love Knowing Stuff.™ There’s enough character development so that it’s not all about the sport at hand, but should I want to engage in such sport later on, I’ve found myself a solid foundation. The web site I’m working with has been around for years, which is how I know it’s the real deal, and not just a way to get authors to submit their work for free…. I also found a web site for freelance authors, but I don’t think I’ll sign up for that one. It’s because I think that the ads for work should be paid for by the employers, and this one is $100/month. It says that satisfaction is guaranteed as long as you can prove you’ve actually done the work, but there are better ways to go about freelance writing than having to pay money in the hope you’ll get something. Besides, this is not a job so much as a side hustle.

I’ve applied for jobs in several restaurants because I’ve noticed that I do not have time to write if I am tethered to my phone and laptop with IT. Now, I would not turn down a job in IT should it come along, but there is something to be said regarding being done with a shift and going home to write, rather than having your phone ding at all hours of the night with clients expecting a 30 minute service license agreement. The hard part is finding a job in a restaurant that will cover all my bills in the meantime. It’s a good thing I put in an application at both Starbucks and Costco, because both pay well and offer benefits. With my fanatical devotion to good coffee, it also doesn’t suck that I’m also gifted a bag a week. I also don’t want to go a minute longer without a Starbucks baseball cap. I had a friend in college that worked there for three weeks just to get the hat and the apron and then quit, because he was a Linux server administrator. I will not be doing that, but it was funny at the time.

For those who are wondering why I would rather work at SBUX than an independently owned shop, it has to do with health insurance and not much else. I also learned that once you’re in the system, you can take a vacation to anywhere and pick up shifts wherever there are stores. This was a piece of advice given to me while I was waiting in line at Dupont Circle, from a barista that “took off a month” and went to the original store in Pike’s Market (Seattle, of course).

The biggest problem I have is in getting around the city, because it would be a godsend to work in Silver Spring or downtown DC. If I got a job in the tech corridor or Annapolis/Baltimore, it would take me over two hours every morning to get to work with what would be a 20-40 minute drive. Of course it would be more than that with traffic, but with computer jobs, there are generally programs for both working at home and off-hours so that traffic would be a non-issue. Fingers crossed. This is because everything on the server is keyed by changes in file time and tied to user account. I could work anywhere in the world, but I am reticent to leave the 32-inch monitor on my desk…. although I did once see a guy drag a 22-inch iMac to Starbucks.

Believe it or don’t, there are even terminal programs for iPads and Android tablets, which, to me means my laptop just lost six pounds. Full-size Bluetooth keyboards have made my backpack lighter and my muscles hurt less. Plus, the weight of my backpack with my laptop and all the things I need in order to keep from going back to the house bothers my corkscrew scoliosis so that one part of my spine is absolutely scraped to bits. I even had Hayat (landlady) cover the rip in Neosporin and a thick bandage, to no avail.

I talked to my old friend Meag, an RMT in Ottawa about it, and sent her a picture. She told me she couldn’t wait to get her hands on me, but nine hours is an excruciating trip without a car…. and would make the trip prohibitively expensive whether I was flying or taking an Uber. If I was going to go to a clinic that specialized in both massage therapy and chiropractic medicne, she’s the only one I’d want to see. In Canada, the requirements for getting licensed are much steeper than in the United States, and she is one of the people on the legislative board who approves others. I have been told that eventually I will need surgery, but not for another 15-20 years or so. Until then, I just have to nurse my pain. Making my bag as light as possible is as good as it gets- for the moment, anyway.

It was nice being able to stash my bag in my car while it lasted, but here’s the thing about that. Like most people, I do not like to exercise. Walking and taking the bus/train is the only workout I get, because I don’t even notice I’m doing it. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the destination is being mentally healthy. Medication and a great diet help, but there is nothing greater than natural endorphins that adds fuel to the fire. Silver Spring Station is only two miles from my house, and when the weather is nice, I’ll generally walk at least one direction, possibly both. Though I don’t often walk fast enough for true cardio, the landscape is hilly enough to add incline. Plus, the bus schedule for the main road back to my neighborhood runs every ten minutes, in those moments where I just cannot even, I have someone to bail me out (Hiiiiiii, George!) It is absolutely amazing how much walking overclocks my processor, though I wish I could add memory….. and then I think to myself, God will provide the RAM.

But seriously, folks, I do my best writing while mobile. My head space is just so positive, and God help me if I don’t have my phone. I used to carry a notebook, but if I write things down, I have to retype everything when I get home. I now use Google Keep, but my favorite words in the English language used to be, Siri… open Notepad. This seems like a no-brainer, but I have to use my phone rather than my tablet (if you have 3G on yours, that’s fine, too) so that the notes sync immediately. I am a nerd that needs my information on all my devices instead of just the one I have to hunt down- because of course I’ve dropped it somewhere in my house and the battery has died.

Still using my old iPhone while I search for my Android. I am operating system agnostic, so the only reason I really want to find my Android is that I am missing the tons of extra space I have on it due to the fact that expansion slots are par for the course. Apple just makes extra space prohibitively expensive. Yes, Apple devices are designed well, but so are Android. And for less than half the price of a new iPhone, I can get an Android with 128 GB of space. It’s especially useful now that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will let you download movies and TV directly to your device. But, if you want to pay $1,000 for a phone that you’ll fill up in two weeks, who am I to stop you?

The amount I know about IT is somewhere between organ grinder and monkey.

Well, that’s not true. At least I, most of the time, remember to buy my own bananas.

Caffeine and Football

This morning I’m drinking Turkish coffee, actually a product of Lebanon. It’s spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric… I think. I threw out the bag in favor of refilling a coffee can with a tight lid. I’m not drinking it the way the Lebanese do, though. I just put it in a regular cone filter so that there’s not “mud” at the end of every cup. It’s just as strong, though. Of that I made sure. I’m sure someone will either comment or @ me about it, that the “mud” is an essential part of the experience, I’m bucking a thousand years of tradition, etc. While all that may be true, I don’t need the pomp and circumstance every morning. I got it on Thanksgiving in tiny Redskins cups. I have no idea where one would purchase a Redskins Turkish coffee set, but they exist, apparently. Nothin’ says lovin’ like caffeine and football.

I’m gearing up to go out in the cold because I have a couple errands to run and I’m dragging ass this morning. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t have an answer…. oh, wait. Yes, I do. I’m 40. I think I’m officially “I’m going to drag ass every morning for the rest of my life” years old. Insert platitude about how every sunrise is a gift here.

I am sipping frequently as I write because snow is supposed to start falling during afternoon drive, and I want to get home before it starts so I can sit next to the picture window and watch. Snow in DC is magnificent, truly. I mean, not all the time. Sometimes it just looks dirty and gross like an ice rink when the Zamboni driver gets fired…. but newfallen snow on the monuments is the closest version of heaven on earth I’ll ever reach. I wait until the active snowing has stopped, then get outside as soon as I can. Then I just photograph everything…. from the houses in the neighborhood to the Supreme Court. It’s all magic to someone who’s spent most of their lives in a subtropical climate.

It just dawned on me that I am almost old enough to have spent more time out of Texas than in. Wow, that’s a sobering thought, especially since I haven’t drunk any alcohol since Christmas vacation. Is there such a thing as being more than sober? You know, like infamous? I wish I could remember what it was that I drank, because it tasted expensive.

I know it was whiskey or bourbon- I wouldn’t have thought anything else was worth it… and by “worth it,” I mean worth losing brain power. I don’t drink that much because I’m not a 100-watt bulb to begin with. Plus, if I drink more than one shot of something, if I do something stupid I won’t remember it well enough to embarrass myself properly on this web site…. because out of stupid things comes great writing. I have a good time with self-deprecating humor. It’s one of my specialties, because if I didn’t laugh at myself, I would continually cry. There’s just so much material to work with. If my medium was visual art, I’d have enough for three museums.

….with coffee shops.

Nothing

Today, I did nothing. Not the kind of nothing that means wrapped in the covers. The kind of nothing where my dad had to take care of a few things and I was just the running buddy who held stuff. I have a big backpack, and I have a lot of practice. My main job as a PK was to ride along with my dad and hold stuff. Maybe I should figure out a way to work it into my resume. Great at following people around and when they say, “will you hold this?,” will always say “yes.” I was almost to body man level when I forgot the most important thing. We were transferring everything from my dad’s rental car to his actual car because it was finally finished at the shop. His checkbook had fallen into a crevice, and it was the only thing I didn’t see. I did get the empty Fritos bag, though, so I got that goin’ for me.

Right now he’s at rehearsal for Christmas Eve services, but before he left, he let me play his brand new horn. I was amazed- I was playing better than I had in years, because the horn was designed to be able to do more with less air. Apparently, I am less full of hot air than I used to be, so the notes floated off effortlessly, even though I can’t remember the last time I even thought about my embouchure. I wasn’t trying for crazy high notes or anything. Those days are gone. But I remembered how to get that fat, lazy tone I had in high school, the kind you can fit inside if you close your eyes. My dad asked me if I wanted to come with him and play. I ultimately declined, but I thought about it. Playing on the brass line at Second Baptist is a lot of fun, because even if I have extreme theological differences with other brass players, they won’t come up. We’re too busy busting each other’s balls. That’s so universal it’s a light bulb joke.

How many trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?

Five. One to actually change the bulb and four more to stand around and tell him/her how much better they could have done it.

I swear to Christ, trumpet players don’t mentally age past fifteen when their horns are in their hands.

I just knew that even if a few notes came out perfectly, that didn’t mean I had enough endurance to last a whole rehearsal, much less a performance, and the balance would be different if I was there for one and not the other. I didn’t even take a horn to DC, not having anywhere to practice and wanting to focus solely on singing, anyway. Now, I’m not even doing that. I should, though. I was doing some really good work back in the day, amazed at how my voice teacher was able to unlock me into a solo artist when before, I’d always felt like a trumpet player who faked it….. even though I started singing when I was three, and didn’t pick up trumpet until I was 11. Well, technically I was 12 or 13. My first year in band, I played the baritone/euphonium, because the mouthpiece was a lot bigger and therefore, did not press on my braces. Once the braces were off, I switched instruments- mostly because the euphonium was almost bigger than me.

I was an incredible trumpet player alone in a practice room, but I got stage fright so badly that it’s a miracle anyone ever asked me to play for anything. I’d also get so nervous that I’d get lost, and once, during a solo, I came in a measure early. The entire band caught me so that no one would notice, and the band director said he wished he could take them all out for a beer afterward. With singing, though, I am ten times more confident, and it shows. I’m not sure I can count any better, though. 😛

It feels weird not to be singing anywhere for Christmas, but I am glad to be free of the insane rehearsal schedule this year, just sitting back and watching. Advent and Christmas are all about watching, anyway. This year, I’m just taking it literally.

Doing nothing, but not the kind that means wrapped in the covers.

 

A40

A 38 and A 40 were my seat assignments- the first from National to Midway, the second from Midway to Hobby. I did not expect this in the slightest. Unbeknownst to me, my dad had added Early Bird check-in to my ticket. On the first flight, I sat in the bulkhead for the extra legroom. The guy next to me coughed on me twice. By the time we landed in Chicago, I was coughing, too. Apparently, germs are a thing.

I mean, of course I know they exist. I just didn’t know how fast they could spread. But then again, it might not have been that guy’s fault at all. It could have been anyone on the plane and all that recycled air.I could also be incorrect in that germs don’t spread that fast, and I was already getting sick before I boarded the plane, anyway, and I just noticed it when a big dude coughed down on my head. If that is the case, I indeed apologize to everyone on board.

On the second flight, I sat on the second row- less legroom, but I did not like having to stow my backpack in the overhead bin and the lack of a tray table. Luckily, that flight was short. In fact, in true Southwest fashion, the announcements were hilarious….. Chicago is our home city and we’re done for the day after this, so you’re officially on the fastest flight in the fleet.

My plane to Hobby was delayed by about an hour and a half, so I did what most people do when they have extra time in Chicago. I went looking for pizza. I did not find classic Chicago style, but it was delicious. I hadn’t had anything but three cups of coffee up to that point, and a simple margherita was the perfect antidote.

I would also like to say that even though I went to Chicago, I am still alive and mostly well (you’re welcome, five readers who get that joke).

I landed at Hobby about 9:30, but by the time I collected my bags, it was closer to 10:00 before my dad and I left for Sugar Land. He took me through downtown and showed me all the Christmas lights, the new additions to the hospital where Angela works, and the performing arts center that’s basically on our street. So much has changed since the last time I was here. When I came to Houston in October, I didn’t come to Sugar Land at all. It’s nice to see how much the city has grown and changed- I hardly recognized it.

When we got to the house, my dad showed me my room. It is painted 18% grey, the only color that’s completely neutral in photographs, because it’s Angela’s office/studio… or, at least, it used to be. I seem to remember a few years ago Angela saying that the dogs were jumping out the window in her studio, and I was very confused, hoping they weren’t injured. I didn’t know that since the studio had moved, the window she was talking about was a foot off the floor. I thought they were jumping out the second story.

The paint is very close to my favorite color, which is also grey, but a bit darker. I don’t know the percentage, but it’s #333333 for HTML purposes and you can Google it, because I’m typing on a tablet and it’s a pain in the ass to look it up for you. 😛

My dad was so sweet- he put a coffee machine and a refrigerator in my room, stocked with HEB Diet Wild Red, one of the things I actually miss about living here. If HEB existed in the DMV, I think the region would be closer to divinity than it already is. Technically, I just want a Central Market within walking distance of my house. That’s probably too much to ask, but a girl can dream.

In addition to having my favorite sodas cold, my dad made sure that I had a Roku that tapped into the cable so I have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and………. wait for it……… BBC AMERICA!!!!!! There’s a Doctor Who marathon running right now, which I have turned off and am sitting in the quiet. Otherwise, I will just watch it all night…. Just one more episode…. one more….. one more…. oh, look… now the sun’s up. I made sure that either my dad or Lindsay had BBCA because I cannot miss the Christmas special. They’re always good, but this year’s has a regeneration. I have a very good feeling that Jodie Whitaker isn’t going to pop onto the screen with Alex Kingston saying, “hello, sweetie,” but again, a girl can dream.

River Song is one of my favorite characters because I’ve had a celebrity crush on Alex Kingston since ER. I don’t know whether I’ll end up feeling the same way about Jodie or not- in Broadchurch, she was in grief the whole time, and though my heart bled watching her on screen, I tend to crush out on people who’ve got that humor thing down. There’s just not a whole lot of room for funny when your son dies in the first episode. She was, however, brilliant in the role, and because of that pain, I can totally see The Doctor’s history weighing on her already. I want to say for the record that I have high hopes for Jodie as The Doctor, not The First Female Doctor. That’s cool and all, but I don’t think it’s the radical change people think it’s going to be, because I’d be very surprised if The Doctor’s new gender, and, by extension, sexual orientation, is even made an issue. Doctor Who is about adventure, and hardly ever romance, anyway. It is more about deep and loyal friendships, and those happen with any combination of genders.

I would, however, like to see The Doctor as a wife. But that’s just my own personal taste. There may not be a way to bring River Song back, but with a time travel show, who knows? I just think it’s important to show that when you fall in love with a personality, outward appearance ceases to matter.

There are things that matter so much more, like a coffee machine in my room.