Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Geography Redux

Geography. The Moriarty to my Sherlock. The Q to my Picard. The... Kanye to my Swift? It got away from me. 

I love maps and motion and naming capitals. I breathe easiest on moving trains and flying planes and highway lanes. (And if that's not a song lyric, it definitely should be. Looking at you, Swift.) I don't know why. It's not that I feel exceptionally untethered in those moments. That would imply I feel tethered when stationary. I don't. I'm not sure I've ever felt particularly anchored to a single geographical location. I certainly don't right now. Part of me loves that.

And part of me hates it. Hates. I hate distance. I hate geography. I hate that my friends and family are in England and Boston and Indiana and the next room over and everywhere in between. Being untethered is... maddening. I think I'm ready for some kind of anchor (or tether- I realize I have a lot of metaphors going here), but I haven't the faintest idea what it's going to look like or where I'm going to put it down. At 8:00 am, after a couple cups of coffee, it's thrilling. At 3:00 am after a couple drinks, it's horrifying.

This is why I feel like an alewife.

Wait, what?

This renewed interest I have in my dumb little corner of Internet inanity (this blog) got me thinking about the last place I was inspired to write: a nondescript office in Cambridge, MA. It's out by Alewife, the end of the Red Line and the only T-Station that doesn't exclusively use Helvetica in its signage (which, I'm proud to say, I noticed well before I read the Wikipedia article). I never thought much about the word "alewife," apart from occasionally pronouncing it "al-uh-'wiff-uh" in my head for fun (and subsequently getting this song stuck in my head). I had no idea, until last week, that the "alewife" is actually a type of fish. And it might be my new spirit animal. 

At first glance, it might not be the best fish to choose as a spirit animal. I mean, a fish isn't a great spirit animal to begin with. But this dude is particularly boring. Basically just your standard gray, coastal Atlantic fish. Apparently, it got the name "alewife" because it has a relatively large chestal region, which, since you can hardly say fish have chests (mermaids being the obvious exception), we can more safely refer to as a "general front area." I guess some colonial perv thought this slightly larger than average "front area" resembled the stereotypically plentiful bosom of a tavern proprietress. Sure.

Among its other less-than-desirable qualities (an above average chest being less-than-desirable only in this narrow context), is its penchant for invading. Back in the day, hordes of alewives swam their way into the Great Lakes, where they became a bit of a menace to the existing marine society. You know who else once left the East Coast for the Great Lakes region (and may or may not have become a menace)? Me

On the East Coast, the alewife's turf has historically stretched from Nova Scotia to North Carolina. Man made annoyances going back as far as the building of dams in the 1600s have caused their numbers to dwindle and their territory to shrink, but reintroduction efforts seem to be a major priority for... people who do that kind of thing. That's why it was a big deal when an alewife was spotted in the Bronx River a few years back. (Incidentally, I don't know who Stephen Paul DeVillo is, but his "Bronx River Stories" on the site I just linked to are excellent little nuggets of information.) A bar has since opened in Long Island City called Alewife. Apparently it's a Mecca of craft beer. You know who lives in New York and loves beer? Me.

The alewife also likes motion. In the spring, it leaves the ocean to spawn in freshwater rivers and streams. And it's sophisticated. In Canada, it's known as a gaspereau. "Gasp" as in "gasp for" and "eau" as in water. Because fish gasp for water, obviously. (I'm an expert in pretend francophonic etymology.) You know who else likes water? Me. (I.)

I know, a sloppy metaphor all around. In fact, the title of this post should be "Sloppy Metaphors." But the point is, I'm adopting the alewife as my spirit animal. Or at least my spirit fish. In some ways, I aspire to be like them; gray, scaly, and often used as bait. Just kidding. I like that they're also struggling with their geography, but they keep swimming along, unconcerned. (I don't think that's presumptuous. Fish barely have brains, right?) They seem scrappy. And I like the symmetry of an Alewife in Boston and an Alewife in New York. 

So... who wants to have a beer with me in Long Island City? 


Friday, January 10, 2014

The Desk Chair II: The New York Chair: Park Avenue

Welp, I didn't manage a single post in 2013. Which is especially hilarious because I seem to remember a New Year's Resolution that was something along the lines of "write a little every day." Ha! Best laid plans of mice and... dumb ladies.

You'd think a lot would have changed since November, 2012. I'm afraid I must report, as I tilt my head quizzically and look skyward, a lot has happened, but very little has changed. Hmm. If this were a blog about feelings, that might give me pause. (And then I'd be all, "How am I going to accomplish anything with these paws?!?") But this isn't a blog about feelings, thank goodness. I hesitate to even say "blog," really. "Blogs" are for sad people. But I need a forum to express myself. My genius needs an outlet. My words must be given life- sweet, digital life!

Just kidding. I think I speak for every loser who occasionally writes something on the Internet when I say I do it because I'm probably a little too self-involved and like feeling cool and smart in the eyes of the four or five people who read it. (There might be a sixth person, but that person probably thinks I'm an idiot.) So here we are.

I suppose one thing has changed since last I wrote. Geography. It has to be said: temping in New York is a lot more fun than temping in Boston. I feel this way for several reasons, all of which would make me sound like an unsophisticated rube if I were to elaborate. That being said, allow me to elaborate on what might be the most rube-ish of them all: my obsession with New York City food delivery.

You guys. The food world is your oyster. You dream it, they make it, a dude gets on a bike* and brings it to your face. This morning I felt like a latte and a hearty oatmeal (well, I felt like a girl who wanted a latte and a hearty oatmeal) and 20 minutes later it was in front of me. And we're not talking Quaker. Real oatmeal with fresh blueberries, almonds, honey, and a splash of whole milk. Could I have made it myself? Sure. But I hadn't. So $8.00 (with the latte, including tip, no delivery fee) felt like a perfectly reasonable price to pay to get my day started right. And did I ever!

Okay, I know you can get food delivered in any city. I can practically hear my Boston friends saying, "We have Seamless, too! We can order from places! You think you're better than me??" But the selection, you guys. The selection! Not only that, but a lot of these offices let you order whatever you want through their corporate account. A free lunch. The menu? All of New York.

*There is a downside. There can be no light without the dark. It's this: I'm pretty sure one of these bike delivery guys is going to kill me. Midtown Manhattan swarms with them at lunch time. And they are NOT to be trifled with. It seems inevitable that one will strike me. The food will go flying from his insulated pack. It will be tragic and beautiful and happen in slow motion. Does that happen in Premium Rush? I never saw it. Pretty sure it's not about Joseph Gordon- Levitt delivering food, though.

And just like that, it's 4:30 and I need to wrap things up. Guess this won't be one of those posts with "content." Look for that in 2015.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Desk Chair: Black Friday

Well I had a lovely Thanksgiving. My family got along, my homemade green been casserole was a hit, and I owned at Bananagrams. 

I don't want to complain too much about being in the office today, even though it's so quiet I swear I can hear the whir of subatomic particles. After all, I'm being paid to sit here. I'm warm, fed, and caffeinated. And it's actually not anywhere near as soul-crushing as working in retail or food service, despite what I may occasionally say to the contrary. So on this, Black Friday, day of the final Desk Chair installment, I would like to emphasize that I am grateful.

That being said, why on Earth am I here? The phone has rung twice today. Twice. There wasn't even anyone on the other end of the line the second time. And the first call was technically for another branch. So actually, I think we can safely say that there have been zero calls today. Zero. If I haven't already made this clear to you, answering the phone is my entire job

(Update: 3 times. But it was the same guy that called the first time. STILL ZERO.) 

Also, my boss ordered pizza for everyone. Perfect, I was hoping to complete my descent into morbid obesity before the end of the weekend. So far, I've avoided it by taking an angry walk to the store for a yogurt and an apple... but still. There are aromas to contend with. AROMAS. 

The little guilty voice is saying, "some people don't have food at all and you're complaining about aromas?" If I were a person who said "first world problems," I'd probably say it now. But I'm not, because I find it insulting somehow. To everyone. One of these days I'll figure out precisely why. I have a feeling my reasons are at least three-fold. For now, I trust you're intelligent enough to recognize that humorously describing one's relatively minor daily trials and having a keen understanding of the world's many complicated ills are not mutually exclusive. 

Anyway, since we're wrapping things up (I'm taking next week off for Artslife* purposes), I thought I'd do a quick blurb about a few of the suggestions I never got around to:

Parking Tickets
Jessi suggested this. I don't know why. Maybe she got one recently? I haven't gotten a parking ticket in a while. I did, however, get a ticket on the Tobin Bridge recently because I didn't have enough money for the toll. They take down your license plate and bill you later... so you can imagine my delight at finding the guy had written some random combination of letters and numbers that weren't mine at all. He even said they were Connecticut plates. I think he was doing me a solid. I sincerely hope that guy has a wonderful holiday season. 
I believe I've mentioned before that my friend Sarah refers to my singing endeavors as "Artslife." It's also sort of a catch-all phrase for any number of things that make her really uncomfortable. For example, "Oh my God, there was this table of drunk Artslife kids who would NOT stop singing Les Miserables" or "That friend of yours is really dramatic. Is she super Artslife or what?" Additionally, it comes in handy if I have something going on that I don't feel like explaining: "Sorry, can't come out this weekend." "Why?" "Oh, you know, Artslife."  
Hugo Chavez

Seems appropriate to end with what was actually the first suggested topic for The Desk Chair series. I've decided that this daunting subject is better left to The Armchair proper and plan to revisit it in the near future. In the meantime, here's a fun fact: Chavez apparently once wanted to be a painter. And a baseball player. And a priest. So. There you have it. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Desk Chair: Banter

Elyse (not to be confused with Elise) suggested a great topic last night: banter. It sprang from a conversation we were having about how I keep accidentally flirting with this one guy at work and how, in my desire to be non-flirtatious (there's no actual interest there), I over-correct and say ridiculous things like, "Well that's a sharp portfolio you got there!" Yes, that is an actual thing I said to another human. The problem is, he always comes up with a witty response to my nonsense and the whole thing circles back and feels like flirting again. Just not talking seems to be the best solution. 

Turns out, though, that writing about "banter" wasn't as fun or as easy I was expecting. I went down this whole weird road from flirting to feminism to my concern with the "Lemonization of the American female" and I started to have no idea what I was talking about. So I scrapped it. 

Elyse had other sub-suggestions. Some of her, uh, requests - for instance, that I should post a picture of Vince Vaughn because he's "good at banter" - I was confident she expected me to ignore. But really, what can you say about it? Nothing. You just do it. And it's fun. And if you're me, you try to win at it because it's totally a competition. 

So instead I looked into another question that arose from the whole incident. My use of the word "portfolio." I realized as soon as I said it that what I really meant was simply "folio," which, as far as I can tell, is just a Trapper Keeper for grownups. I don't totally get the point of it. Especially if you're just going from one room to another within the office. Can't you just... carry whatever it is you need? Are you worried someone's going to come around the corner and everything will shift to black and white and suddenly they won't be able to maintain a hold of their coffee cup and your document will be destroyed

Anyway, it's obvious to me now (and surely to you) that I should have stuck with my original plan to write something about Thanksgiving. So here's something about Thanksgiving: if you say "turkey day" to me I will slap you with the force of a thousand wattles. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Desk Chair: Rain Storms

I'm going to phone this one in. Hard. I don't have yesterday's manic "tea" energy. Maybe because it's a Tuesday and Tuesdays are the worst. Or maybe because it's a holiday week and my thoughts are going something like, "Stuffing. Stuffing. Stuffing. My nose itches. Stuffing. I'm kind of thirsty. Stuffing. I wonder if Richard Branson is genuinely happy? ...Stuffing." But I will soldier on in the name of dumb personal challenges! 

My friend Elise (not to be confused with Elyse, who is also a beautiful brunette from New York) recently offered "rain storms" as a possible topic. I know it's mainly a reference to a semi-inappropriate inside joke we have, but I think I'll just pretend it was suggested out of innocent meteorological curiosity and proceed. 

Obviously, storms are on our collective mind right now. I love storms. I always have. But these days, every new storm seems to be a little less fun and a little more scary. When I take off my Glib Hat (Gibb Hat?) and put on my Fundamentally Concerned About World Issues Hat, I find the lack of dialogue on climate change nothing short of shocking. 

But I have degrees in music. And I'm phoning it in today. So here's an article by someone else: 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Desk Chair: Tea Time

My dear friend Molly, who currently resides in the United Kingdom, suggested I make a wee posting on tea. I will oblige. Noblesse oblige. Cheryl Tiegs. Cheryl... Tea-gs? This is weird. 

Anyway, I have a complicated relationship with tea. As a devoted coffee drinker, my usual attitude is that of quiet indifference. But as a singer, an Anglophile, and a quasi-adherent to natural remedies, I occasionally feel a strong compulsion to partake. Have I been seen purchasing absurdly expensive teas from my local health food store? Yes, yes I have. Did I have a tea set as a child? You betcha. Have I turned to tea in times of crisis? Absolutely. 

Actually, the more I think about, tea has actually played quite an important role in my life. And here I was thinking about it as nothing more than the lesser hot caffeinated beverage. Jokes aside for a minute, when I look back on a particularly horrible day in college when a serious tragedy caused a great deal of grief among my friends, one of the things I remember most vividly is gathering together and drinking tea. It was the only thing to do. It couldn't be coffee, it couldn't be food, but it had to be something. It never occurred to me how completely British that was. It's amazing the elements of culture we hang on to without even realizing it. Last Christmas, my mother was desperate for the perfect whistling tea kettle. I honestly can't picture my mother ever drinking a cup of tea. But something about a whistling tea kettle is comforting to her. Lately, when my hands have been cold here in the office, I've taken to getting myself a mug of tea. Less for drinking, more for hand warming. But it's always Constant Comment because it's the tea I grew up with (that I don't recall my mother ever drinking) and I find it soothing. (I also made a joke in the kitchen one day about loving it so much that I commented on it constantly. Only in a sterile office workplace would that joke kill. And it did.) 

The list goes on. On my 21st birthday, my parents took me to high tea at the Four Seasons in Boston- one of five memorable tiny-sandwich-tea-times I've experienced in my life. (Gross, how outrageously wasp of me.) In Indiana, my girlfriends and I had a cherished tradition (for like, a year) of Tuesday Night Tea. And obviously there's the whole Boston Tea Party/birth of America thing. Tea! It's everywhere!

Literally. I'm sure we would all have guessed that China is the world's top producer of tea (and, you know, everything else). But would you have guessed that Turkey and Iran also make the top ten? Or Kenya and Argentina? I would have ignorantly assumed it all came from countries in the Asia-Pacific area. But one thing is clear: from Chai to Oolong, from elaborate rituals to every day hospitality- we really are a planet obsessed with tea. Best sentence I've ever written? Probably.* 

Here's an important tea question: Do you believe that "herbal tea" counts as "tea?" I think the purist would make a distinction between real "tea" and "herbal infusions." This topic could get really complicated and I don't care enough to get into it. Peruse the Wikipedia article if you're feeling curious. (General heads-up, if you Google "tea," don't let the existence of the Texas Education Agency, or "TEA," confuse you. Do not pour boiling water over them.) 

Finally, I can't wrap this up without first sharing with you a tea that I HATELapsang Souchong. It is vile. It's like someone liquefied a campfire, but in a bad way. My friend Carl loves it. Carl is an idiot. 

*Best sentence I've read recently: "After gaining 500 feet, I felt like an insect flying over an enormous conveyor belt in a croissant factory." George Steinmetz on sand dunes. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Desk Chair: The Feast

Ok, so the content of this post was not inspired by anyone's suggestion, but in a moment, you'll understand why there was no other option but to write the following. 

Today was the office's "family feast." Delicious Thanksgiving catering, an employee side-dish contest, and general (booze-free) merriment. Part of the party took place in the large conference room directly to my right. The boundary is a plate glass operation complete with large, plate glass doors. For the occasion, one of said doors was propped open for easier access to pie and comradery (by the way, look into the spelling of comradery if you feel like being confused).

Now, I can't even begin to explain why, but the presence of one shut door and one open door side by side really confused people. So much so, that one of the facilities guys... wait for it... walked directly into the closed door. I heard a sound that can only be described as a cartoon "boiiiiiing" and looked over to see a stricken Jose (name changed to protect the potentially mortified) rubbing his face and swallowing his pride. A contingent of marketing and HR girls who saw the whole thing go down were admirably stone faced as they asked whether he was okay. He was. Which is good because as soon as I saw the comical smear his face left on the glass, I couldn't contain my laughter. 

As soon as he was safely gone, I went in to the conference room to confirm that I had seen what I thought I'd seen. A fit of hysteria ensued, during which I learned that the whole situation was especially hilarious to the people in the conference room because someone else had done the same thing earlier... from the other side

The moral of the story? I have no idea. Two different dudes tried to walk through the same plate glass door today. That's all I got. 

Um, also: If you're wondering why a Google image search for "walking into glass door" gets you a bunch of pictures of Justin Bieber, this is why. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Desk Chair: The Bus Game

If you noticed my two day hiatus- awesome. I hope you've been waiting with bated breath for a new post. If, on the other hand, the last 48 hours were sheer torture for you, it's possible you're a little too into me. Or you don't recognize mediocre writing. Or both. 

Anyway, I was away from The Desk Chair because I was, literally, away from the desk chair, engaging in, you know, relevant real life activities. (Well, insofar as classical singing is "relevant." A debate for a different blog...) As is often the case, part of my most recent real life adventure involved riding a bus to New York. Arguably, the worst thing ever. 

Ok, not the worst thing. Especially now that I have it down to a science. If you've never had the pleasure, allow me to offer you some tips:

For a slightly better than horrible ride, you will need:

  • Dramamine
  • Ear plugs
For a tolerable ride:

  • Dramamine
  • Ear plugs
  • Socks and Blanket
  • Snacks 
For an almost pleasant ride:

  • Dramamine
  • Ear plugs
  • Socks
  • Snacks
  • Fully charged electronic device and charger
  • Reading material
For an actually, quite lovely ride:

  • Dramamine
  • Ear plugs
  • Socks and Blanket
  • Snacks
  • Fully charged electronic device and charger
  • Reading material
  • Working electrical sockets
  • A seat to yourself

Ah, the seat to oneself. Beautiful. Elusive. Worth fighting for

But how?

First of all, unless you're a real amateur, you're in line early and you're one of the first to board. Otherwise, I can't help you. No one can. Yours is a fight for mere survival. As the bus fills, anyone traveling alone will naturally fill any empty two seat unit. (With the exception of this one girl last night who asked to sit with someone even though there were still empty two-seaters... anarchy!) Once there's at least one person in each two-seat unit, you've reached the tricky part. If, like me, you've counted the number of people waiting for the bus and compared it to the bus capacity, you know your next move. If it's clear the bus will be completely filled, you give up. You organize your belongings in the best possible way and hope against hope that your seat partner isn't enormous and/or smelly (I suggest making eye contact with the first tolerable person that comes down the aisle to improve your odds). But, if it's clear that the number of remaining passengers means some singles will have seat partners and others won't, it's game time

Here's what usually works for me:
  • Immediately upon taking your seat, spread out all of your belongings. 
  • Find something that crinkles, like a wrapper or a piece of trash. Crinkle it with abandon.
  • Unpack and repack at will as though you're desperately looking for something.
  • Sigh loudly. (A step below muttering.)
  • Look out the window as though you're waiting for someone.
  • Furiously text.
  • Don't commit to either seat. Straddle both and/or stand while you crinkle, unpack, and loudly sigh. 

Admittedly, the whole process would be a lot easier if I weren't resistant to looking actually crazy and not just frazzled and annoying... or if I didn't mind straight-up refusing to let anyone sit with me. As I mentioned in a recent facebook status, not being a sociopath is really inconvenient.

But last night, I think I finally found the golden ticket. 

Hummus. In a moment of inspiration, I opened it. Then I sort of held it out, almost in the aisle, while I did my normal rifling-through-stuff routine. Worked like a charm. Smelly and messy enough to discourage a potential seat partner, but not so smelly and messy that it elicited any kind of serious ire from nearby travel companions. I think I was one of two people without a seat partner by game's end. HUMMUS WINS AGAIN. (Incidentally, I really like those little Sabra hummus and pretzel combos, but the pretzel to hummus ratio is seriously off, amiright?)

Come back tomorrow. I think I'm going to take Molly up on her tea suggestion.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Desk Chair: Spooning

Last week, something amazing happened in the kitchen. 

For some reason, this office seems to have a plethora of over-sized spoons. You know the kind: too small to be a serving utensil, but somehow big enough to make it look like your yogurt has shrunk. So I assumed the gentleman determinedly rifling through the silverware drawer was trying to locate one of the few, illusive normal spoons. When I said as much, I discovered that he was, in fact, looking for his favorite spoon. A spoon unrivaled in modern design. A spoon praised (by this guy) for it's weight, balance, and vaguely Japanese decoration. When at last he found it and showed it to me, I realized with alarm...

...it was my spoon. 

Well, technically it's my roommate David's spoon. I brought it to work a while back and forgot about it after putting it in the dishwasher. Of course, I made the mistake of mentioning this to Spoon Guy (new nickname) and we had to have a whole awkward exchange about whether or not I wanted it back. "No, no! Please, just keep it, " I said, assuring him we had about fifty more just like it. Apparently I don't have a problem playing fast and loose with David's possessions. Hopefully it's not some rare set of spoons that's been passed down for generations. 

I happen to know, now, thanks to Spoon Guy, that the random spoon in your office could, in fact, be valuable. For example, he once found a lovely stainless steel spoon in the kitchen that struck his fancy. A collector of such things, he researched its resale value and discovered it was worth about $65. A single spoon. $65. Being an upstanding gentleman, Spoon Guy asked around the office, but nobody claimed it. 

The moral of the story is this: run to your nearest shared kitchen space and find a valuable spoon of your own! (And don't tell David I gave his away.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Desk Chair: My Favorite Crop

One of Sally's suggestions at the beginning of this project was to write about my "favorite crop." Since one of my more recent posts was a rambling piece of idiocy about corn, I thought another post about anything agricultural was best avoided for the time being. But, I'm running out of suggestions (pump it up, guys) and it seemed like a good, weird choice for a Friday afternoon when I'm running on fumes.

So, without further ado, here is my favorite crop:

Just kidding. See what I did there? It's a haircut. A cropped haircut. 

But anyway, the answer to this question is that I don't have a favorite crop. Does anyone? Yes. Sally's favorite crop, as I correctly guessed, is soy. I'm not sure why. Maybe she should write a guest segment outlining her reasons. I assume it's not because it wreaks havoc with our hormones. 

Where to begin? This subject could take us in a number of directions. The world's oldest crops. The world's weirdest crops. Crop circles. Cropped photos. The impending food shortage. Crops and robbers. Crop tarts. Crop goes the weasel. Frankly, I don't know. I think I'll go the cop out (crop out) route and make a list. 

Crop Facts

  • China is the world's largest wheat producer. 
  • 95% of the flaxseed grown in the United States is grown in North Dakota
  • Sorry Sally, but Iowa grows the most soybeans with 15% of the nation's harvest
  • Iowa also wins at corn
  • Unsurprisingly, 32% (the majority) of Italy's sunflower seeds come from Toscana. Piemonte, on the other hand, is only at 1%. Step up your game, Piemonte!
  • In Germany, Brandenburg wins for Rye production. And concertos. 
  • Cropped pants are almost universally unflattering. But we all wear them anyway. 

Have a nice weekend and please take a moment to congratulate me, silently or aloud, for "writing" every day this week.