Saturday, December 20, 2008

Strange Fruit, indeed

Instant tears of hilarity, every time.

You can hear the whole essay, along with pieces by Anne Lamott and Sarah Vowell, here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stay inside 'til somebody finds us, do whatever the TV tells us

I recently bought a new album, Boxer, by The National. I thought about it for a long time--I acquired their song "Fake Empire" awhile back, and then Chuck used it once this season (along with Bon Iver's "Skinny Love," which is another story altogether, and a perfect confluence of totally different but totally complementary songs), and I found myself listening to it all the time. I decided a mental monopoly was worth $9.99, and bought the album.

First of all, I think I've figured out why I love "Fake Empire" so much. It starts out with this line: "stay out super-late tonight, picking apples, making pies." And, you see, it is exactly the kind of music I would like to listen to as I stay up super-late, picking apples*, making pies. Family and friends will tell you that I am not a late-night anything, and that is mostly true, except: I am a late-night baker. There's something hugely relaxing and hugely satisfying about mixing up some sweets after bedtime (and eating them warm, whatever they are, immediately prior to falling into bed). For this weird ritual, only the best music will do: the most singable, the most groovable, the most a part of me. This album is midnight baking music already. See how cool that is? It's like a little onomatopoeia of life.

Second, I once had a conversation with a friend about the absence of non-tenor pop stars. He was right: the lower registers get the shaft in the pop recording world. Which is why I love The National's frontman's voice: he's a deep, deep baritone, and it's always simultaneously surprising and strangely comforting. I feel like I will listen to this album next time I'm feeling sad, or when I'm trying to sleep in an unfamiliar place. It's a nice feeling, having it even when I'm happy at home, just in case.

You can watch The National on Youtube ("Fake Empire," "Apartment Story," etc.), but I almost think it's better if you can't see them. Turn the videos on, then turn around or something. Then stay up and make a pie, just because.

*Why one would stay up super-late picking apples is unclear--wouldn't they be hard to see?--but I'm going to just go with it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 of 12: December

Merry and happy 12 of 12, everybody! This project is the brainchild of Chad Darnell; I just participate, along with lots of other people. Let's ring out the old year with 12 final photos, shall we?

6:50 - Conscious, even though it is dark outside, which seems like an obvious clue that being awake is unnatural. Who's with me?

7:43 - N4 bus to Farragut Square. Friday is a good day to try out new public transit routes (the "where does this bus go?" game): less traffic and less chance of being catastrophically late. I try to take advantage of this.

10:25 - Hopping back on the Metro to run a work-related errand.

10:45 - Foggy Bottom is a funny name, and always makes me think of woot canals. Aaron Sorkin ruined me for this city before I even got here.

10:51 - This is the thing about suddenly living in our nation's capitol: you're walking along, minding your own business, and suddenly, Washington Monument! Right there! And this is the thing about being new: you still notice.

11:32 - I am a now badge-carrying employee of the U.S. government. You can only know how exciting this is if you've ever been escorted everywhere for three weeks of your life.

11:48 - Celebratory pumpkin bread on a celebratory trip to Starbuck's, because I can.

2:44 - This is "Liz takes pictures of her thumbs" month, apparently. I don't care if you're doing work in the middle of a long, dreary Friday. Just put on "Christmas Time is Here" and TRY not to feel a little festive. You can throw your head back and sing with your half-circle mouth, if it helps. (Oh, Vince Guaraldi and Charles Schulz. I heart you guys.)

5:35 - Math problem: I know one person, other than my coworkers, in DC. What are the odds that we end up in the same Metro car at rush hour on a Friday evening? And yet: here is Sarah on the freakishly tall Dupont Circle escalator, wishing she knew how to follow her own directions. She is less blurry in real life.

7:22 - You know, I think that if I had the head-size-to-body-size ratio that Giada DeLaurentiis does, I would go for smaller hair. I'm afraid she's going to tip over, you know?

7:53 - I was going to have pasta with tomato sauce and all of its lycopene-induced benefits. But they were CALLING to me, I swear: "Cheese and garlic! Cheese and garlic!" So, yay, white food?

9:59 - My evening in a nutshell: top-secret (oops!) Christmas knitting, my favorite monkey slippers, and Bridget Jones's Diary, which will never leave me or forsake me. (Hey, I'm exhausted and in a new city, and anyway, nobody gets handknits if I'm out being normal and sociable with all of my nonexistent acquaintances. Friends in 2009, I say!)

Happy 2008, everybody. Thanks for letting me share it with you, and I'll see you in the brand new year.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Just another Monday night

Yep, definitely Monday night. I checked. Just finished Monday. Tomorrow's Tuesday. Sounds about right. And yet, so many moments of happy, all in one night! Only the bullet points can contain my joy:

- Home, clothes changed, and to Whole Foods and back by 6:45

- Whole Paycheck carries both (1) bratwurst AND (2) kale, unlike Giant AND Safeway some grocery stores I could name. (Jimmy Dean's does not a sausage section make, my friends.) And they have a parking garage, and even a left-turn arrow to get you across the scary Wisconsin Ave. rush-hour traffic. It's a wonderland!

- Sweet housewarming present from dear friend Stacy waiting in my mailbox. A much-loved book from a kindred spirit is heartwarming, indeed.

- Downright swoony Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote. If I die an early death, people, you will know it was the German food.

- Knowing the answer to Final Jeopardy, for once.

- Chuck. How is one to contain oneself with Bruce Boxleitner, Morgan Fairchild, and Dixon from Alias all appearing in one big three-ring circus of geek? I propose an entire episode dedicated to the Elder Awesome dinner party. Here, I'll say it: the Awesome/Bartowski clan eating dinner is plot enough for me. Subpoint: Sarah and her feelings, "whatever they may be," kill me. Sub-subpoint: This show is the best iPhone ad ever. What if someone chains me to the counter of a frozen-yogurt store, huh? What'll I do then? Call for help like a big noisy dork? THAT'S IT. I'M GETTING THE PHONE.

- Having a hotshot techie friend who is not only knowledgeable enough but nice enough to fix your wireless internet over the phone. Thanks, Luke. I would say, "You have no idea what this means to me," but I know you do.

I am warm and happy. Of course, that could also be the wine. Either way, yay.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Message received, self.

Raise your hand if you are at all surprised that, after the last month of my life, I am sick.

Yeah, me neither.

It's my fault. I moved and then drove and then moved again and then started a new job and then had houseguests and then went to the Sondre Lerche show at the 9:30 Club (totally worth it, BTW--I don't care who you are or what kind of music you like, you will like Sondre Lerche), and then my body said OKAY, WE'RE NOT DOING THIS ANYMORE, and so here I am, sniffling and sweating and leaving a trail of Kleenex behind me. It's miserable, but it's not very mysterious.

The good news is that, in a moment of prophetic grocery shopping, I bought a box of frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas the other day. When all other foods seem disgusting, when I simply can't conceive of keeping anything else down, the frozen banana saves all with its cold, tangy goodness. Nice one, self. Keep it up with the therapeutic snack foods.

The other good news is that I'm hopping a flight to New York tonight, heading up to some relatives for Thanksgiving. Of course, this would all be better if I were not in danger of a) passing out in the middle of Dulles International, or b) infecting an entire plane full of people with the plague, but I am excited about seeing this side of the family, about a big Thanksgiving meal (ironic; also, if I'm not eating properly by tomorrow, heads will roll), and about doing whatever it is New York people do as fall turns to winter. It's going to be good times, and I hope your Thanksgivings are also wonderful, no matter what you're doing.

I'm having a banana and going back to bed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Long haul: Pittsburgh - Silver Spring, MD

PSA: Whatever you have heard about Pittsburgh, PA, forget it (unless you've heard that Pittsburgh is beautiful and amazing; that, you can hang on to). Christine and I have a city crush on Pittsburgh and on Mr. Rogers's Literal Neighborhood and on Luthor Towers the Pittsburgh Plate & Glass building, and potentially on many other things in our new favorite Western-Pennsylvania metropolis.

I repeat: Pittsburgh rules. (This is Station Square, which you can reach by car or by funicular. Funicular!)

The Grand Concourse, train-station-cum-restaurant. So, so beautiful. We ate at the bar.

More of the Grand Concourse. You should see the bathrooms (but the pictures didn't turn out).

Pennsylvania, late fall.

Long haul: Chicago - Pittsburgh

The view of Lake Michigan from Michigan. Or, maybe Michigan City, Indiana? Either way, it's big. And cold. And windy.

I got to listen to Sufjan Stevens's album Greetings from Michigan on the sweetest little Michigan freeway ever. Look how cute!

Oh, Ohio. You're adorable.

Who wouldn't want to live in the Cleve?

It is sad to me that Christine and her lovely friend Jewel are standing in front of the enormous jugs of wine that are fermenting in Jewel's basement in Cleveland, because it is a lot of wine. But she made us Ina Garten's beef stew and fixed my knitting woes, so all is forgiven.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

12 of 12: Long-Haul November Edition

Welcome to 12 of 12: Long Haul/November Edition! For details on 12 of 12 and other people's entries, check out Chad Darnell's blog.

A little context for people just dropping for 12 of 12: This is day five of an eight-day road trip across the U.S., part of my moving from San Francisco to Washington, DC for a new job. The twelfth just happened to fall on day of rest in Chicago, which is way more exciting than twelve pictures of me going to regular work, don't you think?

8:47 - Up and at 'em! Not early, but I've earned a sleep-in day.

9:40 - My battle wound from last night's crab-leg incident. Those guys are spiky.

10:25 - Adorable Mount Prospect.

10:37 - The Metra train. If you know me and my unnatural love for public transit, you know how exciting this was. Double-decker commuter trains where you can buy your ticket on the train. It's like Switzerland!

11:48 - Visiting the Bean, my new favorite piece of public art. Who doesn't love this? It's such an easy crowd-pleaser. That's Christine and me down there in the lower left.

11:50 - Me, kaleidoscoped on the underside of the Bean. Would that make it the seedy underbelly?

12:30 - The fancy seventh-floor food court at Macy's, aka The Artist Formerly Known as Marshall Fields. My poor road-food-saturated self was so happy to see the greens and goat-cheese salad I ate.

2:54 - American Gothic. I once saw this sculpted life-size in butter at the Iowa State Fair, though the real thing is almost as cool. Christine tells me I need to work on my "disapproving" face. Apparently I look like I'm going to spit out something disgusting.

5:20 - Giordano's for Chicago-style pizza, with checkered tablecloths and everything. It was delicious, though it appears that Zachary's is a pretty good imitation. So that's a relief.

6:34 - The bridges in Chicago make me feel like I'm in High Fidelity, even at night.

7:02 - We missed the train back to Mount Prospect and had to console ourselves with cinnamon cream cake. Oops.

8:45 - This should be called Portrait of the Easiest Houseguests Ever. Give us our laptops, and we're low-maintenance.

Good day. Nice to meet you, Chicago. Let's do this again some day?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long haul: Omaha - Chicago

Iowa, basically. (I did get to see some of the red grass Willa Cather writes about in My Antonia, which was cool. This observation has been brought to you by Lit Nerds Anonymous International.)

A note to future road-trippers: Long drive getting you down? Plug your laptop into your car speakers and watch/listen to old episodes of Gilmore Girls. (The keen-eyed and geek-hearted will recognize this as "The Lorelais' First Day at Chilton." We started at the beginning, as one should.) Best time-killer ever.

The mighty Mississippi.

As a reward for our days of hard driving, Christine and I took ourselves and our lovely Chicago hostess out to the (apparently) famous Bob Chinn's Crab House for fresh King Crab legs and dorky photographs. For food porn, see below.

The fork here doesn't really give a sense of scale. These crab legs were huge. And I ate all of them, and I don't regret it at all, because this was a top-ten-worthy meal. Maybe worth driving to Chicago for, and that's saying something.

Tomorrow: A day of rest/museum-hopping in Chicago. Much-deserved.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Long haul: Estes Park - Omaha

So, first things first: the Rockies are gorgeous. Look! Look at the mountains! And then you come around some random bend and there's a whole HERD of elk. Everywhere. Crossing the street behind you, looking all freaked out. (Also, bighorn sheep.) See?

You'll note that all of the pictures here are of Colorado, and that we actually drove across Nebraska as well. This is partially because my camera battery ran out, and partially because the Cornhusker State and I are on what might be considered chilly terms, mostly because of the weather. Like, it might have tried to kill us. Also, a lot of it was in the dark. So we'll have to start the Midwest tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow: Chicago! (Assuming the weather is nice, which is a big assumption. We may be doing Winterset, Iowa instead.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Long haul: Salt Lake City - Estes Park, CO

This was a good day. Truthfully, any day that begins with a waffle-maker at breakfast, continues with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (live!) and a stuffed penguin from the Shackleford expedition, and ends with soup and bread in a hotel room in the Rocky Mountains can't be all bad. To wit:

The choir. I *guess* they were okay, if you like that perfection stuff. (CAYAC could totally take them, for we are small but scrappy.)

The Mormon temple. I can't go in, being neither Mormon nor male, but hey. They've got a cool golden angel up there, so that's something.

Utah. I kind of expect John Tesh to show up, don't you?

Little America, kitschy mid-Wyoming pit stop extraordinaire. I assume they got the sign wrong; shouldn't it actually read "Real America"?

An actual penguin from the Shackleford expedition, which was supposed to have been live but, uh, failed in that regard. Maybe Little America had something to do with it.

Wyoming. This is the whole thing. But check that weather!

Catch you tomorrow in Omaha.