Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

So what's new? I already mentioned that Tom brought me gorgeous tulips which I've been trying to maintain despite their suicide attempt on Monday. I woke up needing to use the bathroom. When I returned to my bedroom, I saw they'd jumped, plastic juice-jug vase and all, from my dresser. Many of the tulips were mangled and they made a mess of my open shirt drawer. (Perhaps now I'll remember to keep it closed.)

But getting back to my birthday, Saturday I found myself all alone in the restaurant. Carolina was trying to find a parking spot. Laura, Madrid and Tom were stuck on trains (the most popular NYC excuse for lateness--goodness knows I've used it myself. The best part is, half of the time it's true.) Tom was also slowed down by the fact that the first round of the NFL draft took way longer than expected. After thirty minutes of sitting there by myself, people started showing up. Then Madrid called to tell me I was as the wrong Two Boots location. Actually, the restaurant she was at has changed its name to Reboot. Hence the confusion.

We ate yummy food (though Madrid claims it used to be yummier), I got sweet presents (a rose from Madrid, home-made earrings and stationery from Carolina, a home-made bracelet from Laura and a Barenaked Ladies CD from Jenny. They also ordered me some cake (actually a "peanutbutter bomb") and sang to me as I blew out the candles. I'd originally planned to go dancing at Niagra after, but we were having fun talking, so we stayed at Reboot. Madrid was the first to go home, and we forgot to take a picture (see above) until after she left. Oops. We decided sometime soon we'll get cuted up again in the same clothes, take a photo of her and me and pretend it's from my birthday.

The next day, Tom and I went for bagels. Oh, how I love a good everything bagel. For lunch, we ate sandwiches while we watched The Science of Sleep, a trippy movie staring Gael Bernal Garcia. Thank goodness he's pretty or the movie wouldn't have worked. It's sort of a romance wherein a shy guy can't tell his dreams from his waking life. He does a few charming things (in that special way that crazy people are charming), but we'd never believe the girl liked him if he wasn't so pretty. Then I opened my present from Tom. Upon his female students' recommendations, he got me a handbag. A salesgirl helped him pick a straw handbag with brown leather handles. It's pretty, but now I may have to buy brown sandals.

After lunch, we met up with Tom's friend Debrah (Deborah? Debra?) and went to a bar called Pete's Candy Shop. I was disappointed to learn that it didn't actually sell candy. I totally think bars should sell candy, by the way. We were at this particular bar to meet up with Debrah's kickball team. They're city employees. Several of them work in a department that investigates charges against the police. Anyway, the team was called The Government Kick-Backs. We all made shirts with the team name on the front and our numbers and nicknames on the back. My number was 27 (because I turned 27 that day) and my nickname was Grafty Bitch.

In college my nickname, among some friends, was Crafty Bitch. My neighbors loved crafting, and whenever I crafted, I found it easier and my results were better. "You're like that crafty bitch in elementary school whose handprint turkey always turned out better than mine!" Julie exclaimed. So I just adjusted it a bit. Everyone was amused by my name, though I had to define graft for a few people ("practices, especially bribery, used to secure illicit gains in politics or business; corruption").

Brooklyn has a crazy kickball league! The picture does not do the insanity justice. Many of the teams were in costume. One team smeared themselves with fake blood and strapped on horns. Another team (mostly guys) wore denim vests and Daisy Dukes. Yet another team was pirates! We were pretty low-key in our t-shirts. Tom was awesome. Me? Not so much...but I was probably not the worst one on the team. We got killed (our opponents had been contenders the season before) but we had fun.

Some of the fun could be attributed to frequent trips to the bar across the street, not to mention how cool the kids on the team are. Unfortunately, I'll probably not see them again. You see, we played to have fun with Debrah. Debrah was there to support her girlfriend, who is team manager. Debrah and the manager broke up. Thus, no more kickball. But we didn't know that as we left the game. Tom drove me back to Harlem and we had supper at Melba's (He had a Po' Boy. I had a burger.) It was delicious! It was a nice day.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I turn 27 tomorrow!

It's been a rough, busy couple of weeks. I got all self-absorbed. I forgot to call Harmony for her birthday and Erika for her birthday and Gwen for her birthday. Sorry, guys! It's only when my birthday came that I realized how lax I'd been.

Honestly, I couldn't deal with my own birthday until yesterday. What did I want to do? How did I want to celebrate? My friends kept asking, and it made me cranky: not because I don't enjoy celebrating my birthday, but rather because I couldn't decide where to meet and what to do.

As it is, I chose a restaurant with three locations in the city and I'm afraid some of my friends might end up at the wrong one. (Oh, I hope not!) The thing is, it doesn't matter where we go or what we do -- as long as my best NYC friends and I are celebrating together. Wish me luck as I transition from my mid-twenties to my late-twenties.

P.S. Tom gave me dozens of gorgeous tulips! I didn't have a vase big enough, so I had to chop the top off a juice jug. (It was Tom's suggestion. He's a problem solver.) Aren't they pretty? And they've been getting prettier as they perk up and open a bit. It's so nice to receive flowers.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Six months, new books, new haircut!

Tom and I celebrated six months of dating on Friday. Madrid teased me about it until I reminded her it was my first relationship to last that long since I was a teenager back in 1999. (Hi, Paul!) I correctly deduced that six months is not a gift giving occasion, although I did give him a card.

"You bought me a card?" he asked, sounding a little worried that I'd bought him something, but he hadn't. "No," I replied. "I have a bunch of cards in my apartment. I didn't buy you a card, I just filled one out for you." I wrote a little note on the left side and a poem on the right. The note explained that the poem takes poetic license (it mentions forever, though I make no claims on his forever, etc,) and it included some levity to make the whole thing less sappy. He seemed to really like it. "I love your poems," he told me later. "I'm always more than flattered that you write some of them for me."

For dinner, I wore a green dress that I've been dying to wear for a year now. It has a satiny bodice with a deep-V neckline and a velvet skirt that flares a bit past the hips. I tied an open button-front black shirt over the dress to make it a little less formal and threw on my new black heels. When I arrived at his door, Tom said, "You look so hot, if I wasn't starving, Id take you now." Ah, how romantic. ;)

We went to an Italian restaurant where we had delicious food and wine. Tom toasted our six months together and said some things so sweet I blushed.

The next day, we ate tangerines and toast for breakfast. After that we watched a movie. Then we went to the bank, took a long walk in the glorious sun, and went grocery shopping to buy supplies to supplement our leftovers from the half-anniversary feast. We still had most of my delicious duck, duck sausage and beans. We bought a loaf of Italian bread and Asiago cheese at the gourmet store and went home for our gorgeous meal. Finally, we took a nap on the couch while watching sports.

I woke up just in time to go meet my friends in Manhattan for Mexican food at El Centro. Madrid brought woman who'd just been accepted to the Teaching Fellows and wanted our advice. We told her about the good, the bad and the ugly of it while eating delicious comida and steadily sipping on margaritas. I have no idea what that poor woman will decide. In the end I told her I was miserable at my job, but I didn't regret being in the Fellows program.

This morning, after more than a year without a haircut, I finally did it. I went to Aveda, splurged the sixty-some dollars (counting tip) and got a couple of inches trimmed off. (The hair ends about where the photo ends). In real life, I look cute as can be with my new haircut, but getting a flattering picture of it was so difficult. Part of the problem is bad lighting, part that I'm trying to take a picture of myself, and part that I'm sleepy. Photos when you've got bags under your eyes are rarely flattering.

Well, at least the photo acurately portrays how cute my hair looks! Those waves? Natural. Hooray! The last haircut revealed my hair's possibilities for wavy goodness, and I was a little afraid that my new haircut might not yield such good results. But it did. Phew. Plus, no more split ends. The stylist, Amanda, said it looked remarkably good for hair that hadn't been cut in a year, and I'm lucky I have strong hair.

Oh, and the new books! I promised to mention new books. Well, Tom's been supplying me with his books for a while now, books like Slaughterhouse 5, Cat's Cradle and A Prayer For Owen Meany. He complains, "At this rate, you'll have read all my books before I have!" Now he's started me on the Dune series, which he got started on and loved as a teen. He's still got a soft spot for it, I think. The first book is really good, as are all the books Tom supplies. Even so, for the first time in months, I heard the siren call of Barnes and Noble. I went in and bought one book a student has been begging for (the third Artemis Fowl book), Jeanette Winterson's latest (she's my favorite author), No Bliss Like This: Five Centuries of Love Poems by Women, and Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America (as recommended by Val). You know, books are one purchase I never regret. The mediocre ones entertain you. The good ones become a part of you. The best ones change you. You never know until it happens.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spring Break, Part 3: The End (and other random stuff)

Friday I met up with Laura for Italian food. Saturday I actually spent by myself running errands, cleaning my room, vegging out in front of the TV and relaxing. Sunday I went toPark Avenue United Methodist Church. Happy Easter! (The Easter Egg photo at left is is from I got to sing the Hallelujah Chorus, which rocks! It's one of the most-fun things for a singer to sing.

Then I returned to the apartment where I tried to make Dutch Letters. It was a disaster! Several things worked against me. I don't have a mixer or a pastry knife. I tried to get by with an actual fork, but forking chilled butter and flour until it's well-blended and then adding ice water until it forms a ball? Yeah, that was frustrating and unsuccessful, and I ended up having to add too much water. Plus, it's a chilled-dough recipe, and the apartment was really hot, so the dough got sticky and I over-worked it. The result was gross enough that I threw it out, but just good enough that I've kept the recipe to try again with better tools and better climate.

After cleaning up my kitchen mess (oh, all those almonds who had to die for that wasted almond paste filling!) I hopped a train for Brooklyn where Tom and I had dinner at Dom and Tori with Tom's friends. They're good people, though a touch heretical. (One proclaimed, "Happy Zombie Day!") Dinner was delicious ham with a fantastic glaze, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, asperagus and more. Then we watched Sopranos, which I'd never seen before. I don't like the show much (because I can't sympathize with the characters) but it's well-written so I can see why other people do like it.

For the next day and a half, Tom and I just blissfully hung out together and avoided mentioning the jobs we dreaded going back to. On the plus side, just two more days until the weekend! Only 54 days of school left!

Random Stuff

1- April 11, Tom and I will have been dating for six months. Is that a present-giving milestone? It probably is, but I have no idea what to give him. The last three presents I gave him (The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal for his birthday, a Mets blanket/throw for Christmas and a capuccino/espresso maker for Valentine's Day) were all big hits. But now I'm at a loss. He doesn't like generic presents. Who does, really? Framed photo of us? Maybe. Heavy metal, the Mets, coffee, beer and good food are the four things he enjoys most. Should I give him beer? I could cook for him, but he's so much better at it than I am. I'm at a loss.

2- I don't remember this, but Tori told Tom that on St. Patrick's Day, I tipsily told her that she and Tom's friends were rock stars, and I didn't know if I was rock'n'roll enough to run with the crew. She found the statement "charming." Hee.

3- I haven't had a haircut in more than a year. I need a haircut. I'm starting to get some funky split ends. So then why haven't I done it? If you're a loyal reader, you recall the trauma that was my last haircut. One guy butchered it so badly the salon owner volunteered to fix it and gave me an awesome cut. I can't afford the salon owner, and I'm scared of meeting up with another butcher. Also, at most salons, the longer your hair is, the more they charge. The problem is, the longer I wait due to money-tightness, the more it will cost me to eventually get a cut. I'm going to have to bite the bullet soon.

4- I am so tired of having broken-out skin. Strangers used to stop me on the street to tell me I had skin like porcelain. Girls in high school proclaimed, "Your skin is so perfect. I hate you!" People compared it to peaches and cream or strawberries and milk. In Spain, a man said I had skin like "rosas y azucenas," which translates to lillies and roses. Another said I glowed like a woman painted by Botticelli, and Tom once said I looked like a woman in a Degas painting. Okay, I know that those are more skin compliments than most people receive in a lifetime. Maybe it's all balancing out now? All I know is I now have pimples and pale pink dots from past pimples bracketing my mouth. I've switched products. Nothing seems to help. I'm not sure I can afford a dermatologist for a cosmetic issue like this. Besides, it may be caused by the stress from my job, and I'm leaving this job. I just wonder: will the problem go away? Will the scars fade?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Spring Break, Part 2: The Cherry Blossom Festival

Monday we got up early and ate breakfast, that took Tom's are in for an oil-change and a quick check-up. As that was being done, we went to a nearby store so I could look for a bathing suit. The hotel we booked had a pool, and my suimming suit is old and too big.

Tom didn't understand by reluctance and by antipathy for the whole suimsuit-shopping experience until he got to see what it was like. So many of the suits were tacky or the wrong color for me. Of the few non-tacky, right-colored suits, few had my size. Of the ones my size, I'd be spilling out the top or spilling out the bottom, but the next size up was just too big. Then I convinced Tom to try picking one, and of course the one he picked for me was perfect. Guys are great like that sometimes. (Later we would discover that the hotel's pool was closed, but that's okay. I needed a new suit anyway.)

We hit the road and the closer we got to D.C., the nicer the weather got and the bluer the sky was. We got stuck in traffic and arrived in the capital city later than we'd hoped, but it was still early enough to throw on some lighter clothes and see the sights.

We walked from our hotel to the White House, next the World War II Memorial, then over to the Basin where the blossoming of the cherry trees is most spectacular. We made it all the way to the Jefferson Monument. By then, I was feeling peckish, so we took a train up to Georgetown to find a restaurant.

In Georgetown, we wandered onto some side-streets and found a French Bistro. They took us to the patio (patio dining is an essential part of life in D.C.) where a man was playing guitar. He was silver-haired, in his 60s and had an accent we couldn't quite discern (from somewhere in Central or South America, perhaps?). The food was not remarkable, but the musician's set list certainly was. It included such hits as "Sunshiny Day," "Girl From Ipanema," "Funiculi," "Bippity Boppity Boo," "Yellow Submarine," "Karma Chameleon," "Proud Mary," "Country Road (Take Me Home)," "Livin' La Vida Loca," and "My Girl." We were shaking from trying not to laugh out loud, but somehow we managed it. It was chilly as we walked back to the hotel.

Tuesday I put on a pretty dress -- my long, black Betsy Johnson with the tiny pink flowers printed all over it. I paired it with my cute pink cardigan, with makes the dress look more pink than black. We bought sandwhiches at Whole Foods and had a picnic on a patch of grass in the Mall. Then I took Tom to the Smithsonian Castle. Behind it are beautiful gardens and sculptural elements and cherry trees blooming. I took a photo of Tom and asked him to take one of me, but he wanted to wait for a backdrop he liked more.

After that we went to a gallery and sculpture garden. In the garden, Yoko Ono had left a tree for people to tie wishes on (see photo at left, downloaded from A woman was going to get more wish slips as we circled the tree reading wishes in many languages, written by children and adults. Some were innocent ("I want a puppy." "I wish every little girl has a dolly to play with."), greedy ("I wish I had a million dollars."), altruistic ("I wish for world peace.") or sad ("I wish my mommy didn't cry so much.")

We passed a crazy sculpture that I had to get a shot of, and I took pictures of Tom, too. Then we went to the National Gallery so I could use the bathroom. We looked at the beautiful paintings and sculptures, then they shooed us out because it was closing. We tried to get to the Library of Congress before it closed, but we were too late. We made a plan to go to the hotel, then walk to Adams Morgan to find a restaurant.

I told Tom I really wanted to get a picture of us. The next thing I knew, we were on the escalator down to the train, and I was upset. He saw the look on my face and asked what was wrong. "I had one thing I wanted to do today: get a picture of us, and we didn't." I am embarrassed to admit, I even cried a little, less because of the picture than because I felt like he wasn't listening to me. He promised we'd get a picture, but I was skeptical. During the train ride, he exclaimed, "If you grab your stuff, we could jump off right now at this stop and we'd be at the Basin in a couple of minutes." But it was too split-second for me to decide. Besides, I'd been crying, which is rarely a good look for me.

We went back to the hotel to take showers (it was hot and quite polleny. I had a rash, perhaps from the new sunscreen I got). Then we got all dressed up and walked to Adams Morgan. I took Tom to an Ethiopian restaurant Rose had introduced me to. Tom really liked the place. Then we took a cab home because it was chilly and I was exhausted. In fact, I fell asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. I didn't even follow my usual evening ritual of scrubbing my face and applying lotion.

The next morning, it was the day we were scheduled to leave. The sky was white, the weather drizzly. For the past two days, my hair had been perfect and my outfits adorable. Wednesday my hair was frizzy, my clothing was warm but not notably cute, my rash was worse, my ankle hurt and my eyes were puffy and dark from my allergies. Oh, I felt attractive. Nonetheless, Tom offered to go out so I could get my picture. After how upset I was the night before, I couldn't really say no, so we trooped over to the Lincoln Monument.

He snapped an unattractive profile of me on the way and a nice fellow-tourist snapped a shot of the two of us on the steps that I had to heavily doctor on my computer. (She framed it strangely and didn't use a flash, so Tom and I looked like a silhouette.) Anyway, I managed to let all my grumpiness go, because he was really trying to make me happy. Then we checked out and headed for home.

That night, Tom made me delicious pasta with tomato and zucchini and just enough cheese. It was light and fresh and I managed to eat a few chunks of zucchini before it started making me gag. I've learned that I don't mind zucchini as a flavoring in a dish and I can handle small amounts of it, lightly cooked. So once it made me gag, I started eatting around it and went back for seconds and thirds. He's such a great cook! For dessert we had lightly sugared strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

As we were talking about our trip, he told me, "You know, when we passed Yoko's tree, I couldn't think of anything to wish for, besides ending war or curing diseases -- cheesy stuff like that. I thought, 'There's nothing I want right now. '" He mentioned how lucky he was to feel that way. "You know what?" I replied, "I had the exact same thought!" And it's true. As I looked at that tree, I was glad they'd run out of strips of paper to wish on, because I couldn't think of anything I really needed. Life was as perfect as it can be.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spring Break, Part 1: Spring Awakening

Friday night, Tom showed up at my door and began kissing me the minute I opened it. We kissed through the apartment and into my bedroom. It was almost 10 p.m. by the time we finally ordered and got our food delivered. It was pretty yummy.

The next day, we tried to go to Melba's for brunch, but it was closed, so we ended up at the utterly inferior Euro Corner. Meh.

After that, Tom said to me, "What do you want to do today?" I said, "How about a matinee?" He made a face, and asked, "Is there really anything out that you want to see?" "No, I replied, not a movie! A play!" He agreed enthusiastically, and as my internet connection was messed up (Grr!) we headed down to Times Square and wandered to some of the theaters that had shows we were interested in.

A kind man at the Spring Awakening box office told sent us to the TKTS booth. For the amount of cash that would have put us in the back row, we got seats in the eleventh row, center. Yow! And for once, the lines weren't horrific! It was still a little pricey, but worth it.

See photo at left of Jonathan Groth and Lea Michele, downloaded from They're both amazing. (However, he spits a LOT when he annunciates.) The show is based on a 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind. At the time, no one would put it on, because it was too racy. It explored the differences between bourgeois and bohemian values of the era. It suggests that when you try to shelter children, you often damage them. Turning a blind eye to their problems can be just as damaging. The adults in the play claim they're doing what's best for their children, but often it's just what's most comfortable for the parents.

The sets are beautiful, original and stark. (See photo below, downloaded from It's set in the round, with audience members flanking the stage on risers, and the actors sit among them when they aren't in a scene. That was interesting, though I'm still trying to work out the purpose of it. The choreography...well, most of it is awful. The actors are amazing actors with fabulous, rich voices, but most of them are NOT dancers. The choreographer, upon seeing this, should have toned things down a notch...or twelve. The arm motions remind me of some of the cheers our squad did in high school, only we made tighter, cleaner movements. The music is fresh and rousing, but the strongest numbers are in the first half of the show, as are the most exciting events. As a result, the play was really good, but anticlimactic. The thing is, without completely changing the events of the play, I don't know how it could be remedied. The upshot? I've always loved RENT, but its ending left me incredulous. Now, I forgive Larson everything. He had to end it that way to avoid the anticlimactic-problem Spring Awakening is experiencing.

The funny thing is, I've listed a ton of things wrong with the show, but Tom and I still really liked it. We thought that was actually one of the most remarkable things about it: this show has issues, but it's so charismatic and likable!P.S. as we were leaving, we saw Stockard Channing. She looked pretty.

Then we (Tom and I. Stockard didn't come.) went for Thai food on Nineth Ave. It was scrumptious, especially the chicken coconut soup. I was supposed to go out with Laura and Carolina that night, but I ended up going home and falling asleep right away. Tom went to his friend Terrence's birthday party. The next day, he called me to join him and his friends for grilled food and the Mets' opening game at Mike and Brit's house. I agreed, but first I had some packing to do for a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Washington, D.C. we had planned. I met him in Brooklyn in a light rain, lugging a big bag of stuff. A cherry tree across the street was blooming. "Those will be everywhere in DC tomorrow," I said. "And it's supposed to be 80 degrees," he replied.

Tom's friends were lots of fun (Coincidentally, Brit and her sister, Afton, are Iowans.) and provided great food. I dozed a bit during the actual game, but I don't think anyone noticed. They're the kind of people who would have teased me if they had. But in a nice way.

Tom later told me,"Saturday night, there was a lag in the conversation, so I said, 'Guess what I did today? Erin and I went to a Broadway show.'" They were all surprised, and Tori said to him, "Can you talk to Dom about doing things?" Heh. Tom said, "To me, that's half the reason to have a girlfriend. So you have someone to do things with." (By "do things," we mean go to the park, a museum, a play, have a picnic, etc. Anything that gets you out of the apartment and enjoying your surroundings.) "No," I replied, "You're right. I definitely do more things now that were dating than I did when I was single. Well, I did things on my own, sometimes... especially in the summer... especially that summer when I didn't have air conditioning. But that's not the point. The point is, I love doing things with you."