Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Brooklyn Thanksgiving (Part 2)

Thanksgiving dawned sunny and bright on the Gowannus canal, and thus, on my small apartment. We had, to my dissapointment, decided not to go to the parade (a childhood dream of mine) so that we could get the turkey in on time. The good news was that I got to sleep in. At 10, I yawned, stretched, and thought about what a great day it was going to be.

The first thing I saw when I wandered out of my bedroom was a raw turkey, spread eagle on the counter, with J's face disturbing close to the opening between it's legs. "Come here," he said. I furrowed my eyebrows and shook my head as a wave of nausea rolled over me. I hadn't even had my coffee yet.

"Look in there. Do you think I got everything?" I timidly cocked my head to the side to get a better view from where I was in the doorway.

"Uh, I don't know. Did you get the gizzards?" He reached in and pulled out something that I supposed could be called a gizzard.

"Is this it?" I shrugged. He threw it away and thrust his hand in again. "I don't feel anything else. Come look. Do you see anything else in there?" I didn't want to look, and I couldn't imagine that a small opening like that could really conceal anything else, but I did anyway. It was gross. And looked empty. And I wasn't about to put my hand in there.

Side note: Much, much later, when our friend Mike was picking the turkey clean, he pulled a plastic bag out of some dark recess of the bird and said, "Hey! Why didn't you guys throw out the innards?" Seriously, I have NO IDEA where they came from. And I hope no one gets cancer from us cooking plastic inside a turkey for several hours.

I pulled up Grandma's E-mail Instructions on Cooking a Turkey From a Woman Who's Done it 80 Bazillion Times and Made it Look Easy, and read verbatim to J while he pulled stuff out of it, rubbed stuff on it, flipped it around, put other stuff in it, and then tried to tie it all up with yarn because I don't have kitchen string. I am a helpful, thoughtful woman. Based on Grandma's calculations, we had 6 and 1/3 hours to burn once the turkey was in. The hot water in the apartment wasn't working for the fourth time that week, so I called the landlord and we sat around in our PJs drinking coffee and hoping the hot water would be fixed in time for showers before people started arriving.

It wasn't. And the good news is I believe I broke a world record for shortest shower in the history of showering. It was under a minute, people.

The rest of the day is a happy, warm (the apartment heated up to a balmy 85 degrees or so, despite opening the windows), glowy rush, with friends coming and going, good conversation, many bottles of wine, a turkey that just couldn't wait to be done (several hours early--though I refuse to blame this on Grandma's calculations and instead now believe that my oven is schizo), and a mad rush to make all of the side dishes before the turkey got cold. Granted, the turkey was a tad bit dry, and the green beans may have cooked a few minutes too long, and the football games--don't even get me started on how terrible the football games were--but nothing beats a big meal surrounded by people you love. And PIE.

And when the last couple of people left at 1:30 in the morning, and some (but by no means all) of the dishes had been washed, and the leftovers were put away in the fridge, J put on the soundtrack to "Charlie Brown's Christmas" and we sat in quiet happiness, ruminating on what we decided, on all counts, may have just been the best Thanksgiving ever.

I can't wait to do it all again next year.

A Brooklyn Thanksgiving (Part 1)

It felt like the first in many ways, even though I've been around for 27 of these now...27 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades, 27 turkeys, 27 burnt fingertips from pulling turkey skin off of a too-hot turkey, complete with pie, football, and family. The number of Thanksgivings I've spent without my immediate family is somewhere around 3. Most often, I am in Pittsburgh. But this year was different. This year was the first Thanksgiving J and I spent together. It was also the first year I hosted.

Five trips to the grocery store, one giant turkey roaster purchase, several meltdowns, and one narrowly avoided fight about the correct way to bind a turkey (trust me, it sounds like more fun than it is) later, and we had one of the best Thanksgivings in recent memory.

It all started several weeks before Thanksgiving, after J and I had decided to have a "quiet Thanksgiving at home" with just the 2 of us. This, of course, turned into "the boys don't have anywhere to go" and I said, "oh, I know a few people who don't have plans either" and before you know it -- POOF! -- I'm hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 6. No problem. 6 is totally manageable. Until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when 6 turned into 8, and the day of, when 8 turned into 10.

A quick note on the layout of my apartment: I have a bedroom and a living room. I have no dining room and no dining room table. I have enough seats for 5. My kitchen is on one wall of my living room. I have maybe 2 square feet of counter space, and that's being generous.

We had, by Tuesday, been to the grocery store twice, and I had successfully purchased an enormous turkey roaster that I had no idea where i was going to store after the holiday. I had forgotten about the last minute crush at work the week before any holiday, and had to abandon my plans to clean the apartment and make yet another necessary grocery store run for more forgotten items. Instead, I worked 14 hours, took a car home, and collapsed into bed with the intention of getting to work early on Wednesday to leave by 2 (when the office "closed" but only if you were done with your work) so I could go home and bake pies.

A note about pies: In my family, pies may just be the most integral part of any Thanksgiving celebration. Turkey? In a pinch, we could do without one. Pie? UNTHINKABLE. Also, pie is a bit of an undertaking. You need time, focus, and an empty oven. Therefore, the pies needed to be done on Wednesday, when all of those things, theoretically, would be in ample supply.

J, thankfully, decided not to work on Wednesday. This was the only way we got everything done. I headed off to work an hour early, leaving a "to do" list a mile long in his possession. We were in good spirits. We were in control. We had a plan! Thanksgiving was going to happen after all!

Until I got to work and watched the extra hour I had given myself vanish while trying to turn on my computer. By the time IT had me up and running, I was back where I would have been if I had just come in when I usually do. Luckily, I had budgeted an extra hour into my work time that meant I could leave at 1 if nothing went wrong, and 2 if one hour's worth of things went wrong. I was now on a tight timeline to get done by 2. Nothing else could go wrong.

Meanwhile, J was ticking things off his list with lightening speed. Buy folding chairs: done! Go to the grocery store--again: done! Clean and mop the apartment--done and done!

Needless to say, my day wasn't going nearly so smoothly. The day before Thanksgiving is either incredibly busy or incredibly slow -- apparently, for all of my chatty coworkers, it was incredibly slow. I put in my headphones and put my head down. I was going to finish by 2. Until 11 am, when I got the news that we had done an entire section wrong and it would need to be rewritten. And I wouldn't get it until 5. Fine, the night editor could take care of it. Crisis averted! Until noon, when I remembered it was my day to buy cheese for our department's Wednesday wine and cheese. Fuck. I ran to the Amish Market, grabbed a Brie and and Gruyere, ran back to work, threw it on the community table, and went back to work. 2 o'clock was growing nearer and nearer. The e-mails were coming at lightening speed. People behind me were chatting louder and louder. The work seemed to be going slower and slower. My strength waned. I forgot about food. I just had to get done so I could go home and bake pies.

Finally, at 2:45, I packed up and walked out the door. I headed for Trader Joe's (grocery store run #4), and, laden with two more big bags of groceries, arrived home a little after 4. I promptly broke down and cried. I hated Thanksgiving, I said. I was never going to host again, I said. I haven't eaten since breakfast, I said. J hugged and consoled me, then heated up some soup. I blew my nose, ate my gumbo, and decided to suck it up. I just had to get through making pies.

By 5:30, I was elbows deep in Crisco and flour, and the stress seemed to melt away with every thrust of my pastry cutter. I took a deep breath. Everything was going to be okay.

Except that I didn't have a big enough cutting board to roll out the dough, and then the wax paper that I put down on the coffee table kept sliding around, and flour was getting all over the freshly mopped floor, and the dough wouldn't roll out and I couldn't figure out why.

Cue meltdown number two. J once again hugged and consoled me before softly suggesting that all the dough might need is a little water. Presto, bingo, why didn't I think of that?! And we're back on track once again.

I realize I don't have everything I need for the pumpkin pie, and J puts on his shoes for the 5th (and I'm hoping last) run to the grocery store. We're learning so much for next year! I'm thinking to myself as he shuts the door behind him. 45 minutes later, he walks back in, looking haggard and spent. A run on spices had occurred sometime since he'd been there that morning, and he narrowly avoided a fistfight with a large black woman over the last jar of powdered ginger. Luckily, he is not afraid of anything, not even large black women, and he prevailed. He is, truly, my hero.

Three pies (a very good looking apple and pecan, and a somewhat not-so-appetizing-looking pumpkin) and several cinnamon doo-bops later, I snuggled into that place under his left arm and looked out over the landscape of pies with exhausted happines. We had done it, and with only two meltdowns on my part. We were ready for Thanksgiving. It felt like a giant victory, all around.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When all else fails...

April?! My last post was in April? Sweet Lord, I had no idea it had been that long.

My apologies, my sweet little crumb muffins. I lost track of time. I was busy soaking in as much sun as I could to delay the winter doldrums that are always just around the corner. I was driving through the night over the east-midwest and spending saturdays lolling around deciding whether or not I would get dressed. I was being in love, and going to work, and writing in Tudor City Park as many lunch hours as possible, and cursing the ever-present rain in June, and fighting mice to the death in the wee hours of the night. Really, there's no excuse. I was somewhere else. But I'm here now.

And I haven't got much to say, really.

I've made the decision, once again, to apply for MFA programs for creative writing this fall. This, of course, has had a seriously devastating effect on my writing, which has screeched to a nasty and frustrating halt. I sent the boy off this afternoon (which was particularly suited to writing--cool, rainy, not much going on) so I could write, and then spent the next 4 hours reading essays on writing, writing about how frustrated i was about writing, writing a paragraph or two on the story i'm working on, hating it, writing some more about my writing frustrations, getting a snack, doing some pushups, checking the scores of all the college football games...all to end up with 10 frustratingly scratched pages in my journal and loads of frustration.

And now, here I am. When all else fails, there is still blogging.

I'm trying to trick myself into finishing the story I'm working on, the story I'd like to submit to MFA programs, the story that now HAS TO BE PERFECT, by telling myself that I'm just writing, no big deal, it doesn't matter, I'm just getting ideas on paper. But inside, I'm wrung tight like a wet dishtowel, I can't let go and just let it flow through me, it's like when you're deep breathing through an injury--it doesn't take the pain away, it just distracts you a little.

Basically, I'm fucked.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

printemps (springtime)

walking through dim stony corridors
the delicious cool warmness of new spring breeze
rolling across my skin
cross-hatching of sun-dappled avenues
the yellow-gray plaid of the city
speckled with a melange of wool-coated
and leather-booted pessimists, dewy browed,
and bare-forearmed optimists, the occassional
peeking set of toes or flash
of bare calf glinting in the sun
the occassional god
or goddess, perfectly suited
for the exact degree, percentage humidity,
miles-per-hour of wind,
and the rest of us wonder
how their contract with the devil reads
shimmering, slinky, silver, glass,
and marble gargoyle-encrusted towers
part perfectly just in this spot
the acoustics transforming
the churning, swirling belly of a cement mixer
into a humming choir.

the great library rises
swathed in bright yellow sun glaze
the steps pillowed with soft warm soaking bodies and
resurrection falls like fairy's dust from the buds
in the opening trees
we take a collective breath, deeper
and happier today than a week ago
amazed, perhaps, by the affect of a few degrees
and storm clouds on our outlook on life.

daffodils dance in evenly spaced clay pots
on the sidewalk, an approximation of spring
as the scarf makes the metamorphosis
from necessity to accessory
from tightly wound cocoon to floating butterfly wings
three carefully chosen hardbacks
tucked under my arm
the steps, the lolling masses wave for me to join them,
i long to lay for a moment,
to flip through these newly acquired treasures
i glance at the time and turn the other direction,
poems rustling as I walk about the nature of spring in New York.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Church of the MTA

My morning subway ride began like most others. I sat on the 4 or 5 train, whichever had come first, in my usual car, on one of my usual benches, iPod tuned to the Flaming Lips (after several weeks of Sufjan, while I read Lolita), reading The Loved Ones, by Evelyn Waugh. I noticed this morning my tendency to do this, listen to one artist while I read a book, switching only when I've finished.

As happens about once a week on this particular commute, a man entered the train somewhere downtown, maybe Wall Street, and began speaking. Usually when this happens, it is loud and annoying, and I sit in my seat, staring at the floor, cringing and waiting for it to all be over. Often, it is a man who says that he has sandwiches for the poor and homeless, and that he is accepting donations. Occasionally, it is a homeless person apologizing for the interruption and asking for spare change. Last week, it was a man who yelled loudly and somewhat incoherently, punctuating his words by slamming his fist into the ceiling, yelling that the immigrants needed to stop sending their money home and that the Muslims should go home, and New Yorkers needed to protect "the 'hood." He talked for so long and seemed so disturbed that I finally got up and moved to another car.

This morning, when I heard a man's voice over my earphones, I thought, "Ugh. Here we go again." I was tired from working late and sleeping little last night. I was annoyed. But this guy wasn't yelling. He wasn't asking for anything. His voice was loud enough to hear, but it's tone was one of conviction and sincerity. I could see him from his belly down out of the corner of my eye as I stared at my book. He squeezed a dark knit cap in his pale left hand, which he raised and lowered as he spoke. I was curious. I stopped reading to listen to what he had to say. When I worked up the courage to look at him, I saw that his curly black hair was streaked with gray. He looked like he was of Jewish descent. He stared straight ahead as he spoke, not looking at me when I looked at him.

"Please consider," he said, "The love that God has for you. That he loved you so much that he sent his only son, Jesus, to suffer and die for you, so that you could be cleansed of your sins and have eternal life."

In a clear, even voice, he went through the whole story. God loves you. We are sinners. God sent his son Jesus to die in our place so that we could live eternally. God loves you. Life is hard, but at the end is eternal life if we believe in God, and repent of our sins. And God wants you to do so, because he loves you.

I have certainly heard this message in many ways, in many places, in many voices. I knew the verses he was going to quote before he said them, reciting them along with him in my head. But what I haven't heard in the more than two years that I've lived in this city is someone who is trying to tell people about Jesus do it in such a humble, unobtrusive way. I know that preaching on the subway is hardly unobtrusive, and as someone who hates it when people do this, I have to say that this man struck me, not only because he was obviously not mentally disturbed, not yelling, and not damnating, but because of his message of God's love in such a humble and sincere voice. The weight and burden of his message seemed to cause him almost physical pain.

Much of my criticism of Christians is that they make God look bad. I wanted to hug this man because he did not.

When I got off the train at 42 Street, he had finished his message. I believe he quietly left the car behind me. I prayed that God would bless this man who, counter to the many who alienate people with their, i'm sure, often sincere but misguided attempts at pushing God at the masses, is quietly preaching a message of God's love.

I left Grand Central feeling as though I had been to church.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

i love a little (bad) poetry after supper

I am in love.

When I am in love, I write bad poetry.

See how that works? Love = bad poetry.

Want to hear some? I wonder if it's an inverse relationship? As in, the better the love, the worse the poetry? Maybe just for me.

This doesn't have a title, and I don't think it's finished, as in, I probably won't finish it, but if I were to finish it, it would need finishing. Also, please be gentle. Here goes:

I want to sleep in your belly
Make a nest out of your blood vessels
and use your heart as a pillow
Letting the soft thud-thud, thud-thud
Lull me to sleep.

I'll sprawl over you,
tucking my toes into your intestines
and wrapping my arms around your lungs
Letting the soft whoosh-whoosh rise
and fall be the tide of my dreams.

That's it so far. Maybe it needs another, um, stanza, or something. I dunno.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

To keep or not to keep...

...the resolvements, that is.

So, as I was lying in my bed last night thinking some more about my new year's resolutions, I wondered about whether or not I could/would actually keep them. I'd like to, of course, and I think the problem generally is that resolutions are either

1) too unsavory
2) too vague
3) too un-documentable

to be kept. So, in all of the brilliance that is the moments right before falling asleep, I came up with a plan to document my resolution keeping.

Warning: we are going into serious nerd territory.

So, you remember when you were a kid and you had a list on the fridge of all of your chores or whatever, and then every time you did a chore, your mom put up a gold star and then when you had enough stars you got your allowance? Or something? I don't. What I do remember is trying to implement a system similar to this one at least quarterly from the time I was maybe 8 until I was 12 or 13. The problem was not with me. It was with my mother, who just couldn't be bothered to put up a freaking foil star next to my (albeit meager) accomplishments, or to care at all except whether the bathroom had been cleaned or not. Also, for all of my efforts for a system of (what I believed to be more than fair) compensation for hard work, I maybe got an allowance once. Maybe.

Which brings me to the present day list of New Year's Resolutions. I've condensed them down to the really important, actionable ones:

1. No douchebags
2. No smoking
3. Exercise
4. Write
5. Once a week fun

My goals for exercise and writing are 3 times per week each. Exercise only counts if I'm in proper exercise attire and actually exercising on purpose (so, not walking around the block at lunch), generally at the gym. Writing is defined as FICTION writing, so blogging and journaling, which I will continue to do, do not count towards the three times a week (since I tend to use blogging and journaling as excuses not to write fiction).

Now, what if, every day that I do one of these things, I write the corresponding number in the corner of that day in my datebook? So, say, a day when I exercise and don't smoke and avoid douchebags, is a 1,2,3. And a day when I don't smoke and I write, and I avoid douchebags is a 1,2,4. And so on. And that way, I can have visible proof to myself that I'm doing what i said I wanted to do, while keeping it at the top of my mind by writing it down every day.

So Far!
Monday: 1,2,3
Tuesday: 1,2,4

I really don't know if this is going to do any good, and I haven't gotten to the rewards part of this yet, as monetary rewards don't really motivate me, nor do buying myself presents, so...suggestions welcome!

Happy New Year's Resolutions keeping. What are your resolutions? How are you planning on keeping them? Or do you think resolutions are stupid?

Monday, January 5, 2009


Ah yes, it's that time of year again, my fluffy marshmallows. Resolution time! During which I "spontaneously" make the exact same list as last year to be studiously followed for somewhere between 1 and 48 hours before unceremoniously forgotten, after, of course, the requisite amounts of consternation and guilt about not really planning to lose weight or quit smoking. I mean, I mean to do those things, but somehow, my resolve just isn't, I don't know, resolved enough. Or something. Or resolutions are stupid and just make people feel like failures.

In that happy, optimistic vein, then, I offer you my Lizzie's New Year's Resolutions 2009 Edition, in which I resolve to do things I know I should do or I really really want to do, but in such broad, vague terms that the actual doing of the things will require many many smaller steps that I'm not going to think about now, and then when those smaller steps come up to be done, I'll probably just ignore them. But resolutions are what we Americans do, and by dammit, I want to at least appear patriotic.

1. No more douchebags

Originally, this one applied to sex only, but I've since broadened it out to other parts of my life, like people I know, and people on the Subway, and world political leaders. See? Broad generalizations, the small steps of which I'm cleverly avoiding. No, but seriously, I'm tired of guy douchebags especially, and the plan is to be a little more careful in the coming year about who I date and etc. Also, the eradications of "friends" who are really just douchebags who know me who I'm not sleeping with. I won't go into specifics here, but let's just say that if you've been a douchebag in the recent past and I stop talking to you, you probably are on the list.

2. No more cigarettes

Sigh. If only they could make them healthy. But alas. This is something I will actually be working toward, in small, measured steps. I've wanted to quit forever for real for a long time, and though my smoking is generally sporadic, I'd like to stop for real. If only it weren't so damn enjoyable! Ah well, we all have to grow up sometime. Or get lung cancer.

3. The requisite resolution to work out more.

You know, because everyone is doing it. Resolving to, anyway. The truth is that exercising helps curb the smoking and is pretty much the only way I cut back and/or quit ever, so they're pretty entertwined. Besides, all the douchebags need to see how hot and sexy I am now that I'm not wasting my time on them. Yes? Yes. It is all about making boys jealous. Always. And other girls. That is where self-esteem comes from.

4. No suicide

Since #1 is going to take a serious toll on my love life, and #2 is going to take a serious toll on my social life, and i know that being in shape isn't everything, I figure a resolution is in order to make sure that my resolutions don't kill me.

5. No homocide

Or anyone else.

6. Do one fun, new thing every week by myself

I figured I'd throw in a semi-pleasureable one because a) no one ever resolves to do anything fun or exciting and b) I need something to do to keep me from smoking and sleeping with douchebags. And no, I don't know what I'll be doing yet this week, though I'm probably going to hit up a museum after work Friday.

Oh, and 7...

7. Write more, write consistently, stop being so goddamn self-loathing about writing, and maybe think about trying to publish something.

Ugh. We'll see about this one.