Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pizza boner.

So I’ve got this bad new habit.

This bad, bad new habit.

Called going out to dinner alone.

And drafting blog entries while I do it.

I don’t mean just-me-in-this-café-with-a-sandwich-and-my-laptop alone. I’m talking full-blown, table-for-one-please sit-down dining, with a menu and a waitstaff and a bill that makes me cringe. Like a proper, empowered adult. I began doing Hump Day dinner dates with myself a few weeks ago, and the ritual has since entered the canon. Since everything I do requires a twee nickname, I’ve entitled them Hump Dates. How empowered and adult of me.

Being alone in public places is one of my favorite pastimes. I consider myself a “faux extrovert”—I’m not at all shy, and I find people fascinating, but I also find them exhausting. I treasure recreational alone time. Conversation can add dimension to a meal, but if I’m craving one without the other, I would consider it an insult to drag someone else along as a prop. If I ask you to hang out, you’d better believe that I really want to see you. Quality time with quality food satisfies a different desire. Should I get lonely, I can always flirt with the waiter.

The problem with dining solo? Limited sampling capability. Given the number of prospects on my Oops I Ate New York spreadsheet, repeat visits are a rarity—and while I’m not above ordering two meals (hello, eggs Norwegian and bourbon hazelnut waffles at my birthday brunch), neither my wallet nor my digestive system can handle that kind of decadence on a regular basis. The first time I visited Motorino, I agonized over what to order. The celebrated brussels sprout and pancetta pie? A weightier-sounding concoction topped with mushrooms, sweet sausage, olives, and thyme? In the end, I went with a classic Margherita. I needed a basis for comparison. If Motorino couldn’t deliver a good Marg in the heart of tomato and basil season, I wouldn’t risk my hard-earned dining out dollars on more unorthodox combinations.

Spoiler: They delivered. (Figuratively. I live ten blocks north of their delivery zone. Which is probably for the best.)

I’m an equal opportunity pizza eater, but Motorino has given me a new appreciation for the Neapolitan style—a blistered, pillowy crust with a decidedly soggy center. This is pizza you eat with a knife and fork, working your way from the inside out until all that remains is a pile of pizza bones. Crust has never offended me, but this one is good enough to be considered a reward for eating the rest—so chewy that it stretches when you tear at it with your teeth; so fragrant that its defiant, yeasty smell can’t be muffled by layers of garlic and mozzarella. I’d eat it plain, served alongside a trio of dipping sauces: artichoke and marinara for dinner, gianduja for dessert. Management, take note.

I’m turned on.

Needless to say, I’ve since made it back to Motorino, this time opting for a downright experimental clam pie. Seafood and pizza may sound like strange bedfellows, but the combination of creamy fior di latte, fresh garlic, and parsley butter renders any fishiness incidental. The gustatory profile is closer to a garlic bread, albeit one enjoyed on the waterfront—if not for the textural contrast of the clams themselves, you might be content to believe that their faint, briny flavor was imagined. I loved this pizza, and I loved mopping up the remaining puddles of garlic butter with those perfect pizza bones even more.

So light, yet so absorbent! It’s pizza voodoo! I don’t hate it.

I did not love waking up in sea of clammy crumbs after polishing off the other half in bed at 1am. There’s a reason artisan pizza and midnight munchies don’t mix. I wonder how brussels sprouts do between the sheets?

Motorino. 349 E 12th St (12th & 1st). 212.777.2644.

Dare to check me out.

Guess what? That little thing I do from nine to six every day to support my shopping/eating/having a roof over my head habit occasionally allows me to unleash the sass on a whole new audience! For those who don’t know, I write an oddly life coach-y column for WomenWorking.com. Today’s was a silly how-to on email sign-offs, but shit has been known to get real from time to time. If you enjoy reading about my very public neuroses on BITE, I hope you’ll be mildly entertained by my turn as a Career Guru/Happiness Expert:

The waiting room.
Take a compliment.
Drop the mental mirror.
The Morning Evangelist.
Redefine productivity.
Talk to strangers.

Plus my favorite interview to date, a twoparter with Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran. What a boss. (Literally. This woman is a boss to many, many people.)

I always tweet my links, so beep beep if you’d like to follow my freelance/day job work in addition to dis lil’ ol’ bliggity blog. Thank you for your support, and always remember: expert is as expert writes on the Internet.

Closet envy.

I first encountered Clueless at age seven, at a sleepover birthday party. I remember three things.

1. I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies until I turned 13, but I was granted special permission to watch Clueless. (I was asked, however, to spend some time upstairs with a book during Spice World.) For the uninitiated, Clueless is raunchy in a sly sort of way that’s lost on underage viewers. I revisited the movie in high school, and I found it far more affronting as a fifteen-year-old Jesus camp protégée than I did as a second grader who worshipped exclusively at the altar of Scooby-Doo.

2. This particular birthday party had been rescheduled due to a head lice outbreak – twice – and took place roughly two months after the actual birthday itself. If that doesn’t speak to the importance of celebrating everyday events (like no head lice), I don’t know what does! Keepin’ it deep, y’all, just keepin’ it deep!

3. Cher Horowitz’s G D Mutha Effin’ Closet. Duh. The high-tech glamour was not lost on me and my pea green turtleneck-and-leggings ensemble. My smarmy seven-year-old brain, which was clearly supposed to be short-circuiting over Cher’s closet goddess status, instead schemed derisively, I bet I can make that. The approximation I constructed using scanned Polaroids and my dad’s desktop computer failed to advise against said turtleneck, nor did it divert my belief that Scooby-Doo’s Velma was the pinnacle of style. Technology, what is it good for?

Fashion blog The Coveteur recently broke with its usual closet porn to run a tongue-in-cheek feature on Clueless fashion. As delighted as I was to revisit Cher’s greatest hits, I couldn’t help but lament my own closet situation. I’m more or less fine with the clothes themselves, but the notch in my bedroom wall that my landlord is passing off as a closet is a hard fall from the five slightly larger notches I had in my Chicago studio. I’m making it work—I invested in 100 skinny velvet hangers a few years ago, and it was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  When wrangled into a sleeve and color coding system, the end result makes for a user-friendly (if not exactly Pinterest-worthy) visual.

Just ignore the suitcase full of pajamas and gym clothes on the floor.

Storage solutions aside, my dream closet would also include a weather filter. My friends mock me for not owning a real coat (whatever, my metallic windbreaker is really warm) and wearing leather skirts in 90-degree heat (hi, my day today), but I really just have no clue how to dress for anything other than temperate transitional weather. I survive by layering the shit out of my shit in the winter and sprinting from one air-conditioned refuge to the next in the summer. Then I spend all day listening to leather creak under my slippery thighs while Dionne snarls things like, “At least I wouldn’t skin a collie to make my vest!” (It’s faux!) (Although I’ve been known to wear a fur coat over a fur tank top in February. Below freezing, all bets are off.)

Then Cher reminds me that anything I can do to draw attention to my mouth is good, and I thank my lucky stars that lipstick is seasonless.

How do you make the most of a tight space? If you could give your closet a superpower, what would it be?

Dry eye.

I was bound to give myself an ulcer one of these days. I just never imagined it would spring up on the surface of my eyeball.

I’m sorry to have forced that image on you, but I cannot tell a lie. I’ve spent the past four weeks peering out from behind horn-rimmed hipster specs, and while I’d like to pretend that my scholarly countenance was a stylistic choice, I was acting on doctor’s orders. After a recurring case of “pinkeye” moved beyond WebMD’s expertise, I called in a professional. A quick exam revealed that I was sporting a first-rate corneal ulcer. The cause? A chronically dry eye.

Hmm.

I’ve been pretty transparent about my issues with weight and body image. What I haven’t copped to is my clinical depression. I’ve dealt with it in varying degrees of intensity, from unexplained glum patches to severe, debilitating “fogs” that lasted several weeks. For me, a depressive episode manifests like a long-form panic attack, complete with physical symptoms. I’m exhausted, no matter how much I sleep. I’m starving, no matter how much I eat. I tingle all over. Every one of my senses processes on a two-second delay—like I’m watching my life unfold on a movie screen. My mind is eerily quiet. My sense of humor is nonexistent. After a seemingly endless stretch of wondering whether Me As I Know Her is gone forever, I awake one morning feeling as though I’ve dropped back into my body, and I can barely remember what it was like to feel that way at all.

Those episodes are few and far between. Most days, well-managed depression is no more sinister than your average Type A personality—an unpleasant, unremitting prickling of the mind. I’m a high-functioning depressive, and I’ve employed various coping mechanisms over the years. For a long time, I ate whatever crossed my path. Then I drank myself into oblivion. Then I restricted my food intake until my body and mind rebelled, crashing between opposite ends of hunger on a treacherous shuttle run. More recently, I discovered exercise—my most positive outlet to date, though it cycles in and out of obsessive extremes, as does my preoccupation with food. Even my ongoing battle with time deals at least in part with suppressing sadness. Perhaps Keane said it best: “If I stop for a minute, I think about things I don’t want to know.”

Now or then, you’d sooner find me elbow-deep in Cheez-Its than in Kleenex. I was a regular crybaby growing up, but I steeled myself when I entered college, and that’s when the real trouble began. The more depressed I felt, the more I threw myself into temporary distractions, and the less often I allowed my feelings to turn into tears. After a while, I fell out of touch with them at all.

When I entered ED treatment, I bawled my eyes out in therapy every week. All that raw emotion horrified me. Who knew I had such a capacity for anguish? God forbid it leak out into my everyday life! But there it was, and there it is still—substantial, but not unmanageable, and comfortingly human, in its way. It requires care. It deserves attention. Depression is a cloudy, chronically dry eye, and escapism is treating it with over-the-counter drops (CVS brand, no less).

We ought to seek pleasure in things outside ourselves. Relationships, hobbies, experiences—they enrich, even define, our lives. Our challenge is to recognize when we are using pleasure to hide from our emotions rather than to heighten them. I love cake, but when I’m craving cake itself, I want a small slice. I want a few perfect mouthfuls – a sensory explosion that engages me entirely – and then I want to go about my day, seeking fulfillment down other avenues. When, on the other hand, I want to lie in bed and methodically eat an entire cake while watching bad television – and that specific impulse arises from time to time – it’s because I want to feel nothing whatsoever. Slice of cake equals feeling pleasure. Entire cake equals not feeling anything. The ability to recognize and reject the latter impulse distinguishes positive pleasure from numbing comfort.

Flight is easier. We are born with an inclination to bolt, emotionally as well as physically—that’s how we’ve survived all these years. But the more we blink back our emotions, the higher the likelihood becomes that constant friction will cause serious problems for us in the long run.

This week, my chronically dry eye and I are going to spend some quality time together. We’re going to resist the urge to lubricate (yeah, I heard it, stay with me), and instead try to muster up a little moisture of our own. I want to learn to cry again. I am giving myself permission to feel what I am feeling. And I hope you’ll do the same.

How often do you cry?

Faux Fall.

It’s often said that we create our own reality. I’m a huge proponent of this kind of thinking. Which is why I’ve decided that it’s no longer July.

Keep your margaritas and your two-piece vintage playsuits. I want brooding, headstrong, temperamental fall, in all its cashmere-clad and cardamom-scented glory. I want fleece-wrapped morning runs that make my eyes sting and my lungs ache even as exhaustion runs in itchy rivulets down my spine. I want to peer out into pitch black at 6pm as I sip red wine and pile butternut squash caponata atop crusty bread, forgetting all about the tray of brussels sprouts roasting away for dinner. I want my bed to feel (and smell) like a fortress of luxurious refuge instead of a sweat-soaked six-hour prison term.

It’s not that I dislike summer. It’s just that I have a finite amount of patience for it. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve already pretty much destroyed my summer bucket list. I’ve been to the beach. I’ve gotten a horrific sunburn. I’ve eaten all the berries and peaches and corn and Caprese I can stomach, and while I can appreciate a well-textured sundae, ice cream is just not my drug of choice. I’ve worn my sandals to literal shreds. I’ve run my carefree party playlist into the ground. I’ve weathered the annual Diet Coke relapse (this year’s arc from obsession to repulsion unfolded over a record three-day span).

I’m especially over summer’s passive-aggressive mandate that I Chill the Eff Out. Summer, you don’t know me! I’m all for whiling away the hours—just not on summer’s limited terms. My particular brand of leisure is better suited to cozy cafes than buzzing beer gardens, and I’m sick of beating down my desire to hole up and get creative. I want to be lazy, but I want to be lazy in a pretty sweater with the knowledge that my bangs won’t arrange themselves into a barcode the moment I step outside. I refuse to let my drive melt away like the ice cubes in my Americano.

So I’m starting an important social movement. Call it Eternal September of the Summerless Mind. Don’t call it that, that’s dumb. Just call it Faux Fall. Say it with me: Today is September 9th*. Feel the fall. Smell it. Taste it. It tastes like the spiced apple almond bread I just pulled from the oven with far more care than Imaginary Me gave the aforementioned tray of brussels sprouts. My roommate asked, “What are you baking?” I said, “Apple almond bread, to celebrate the first day of fall.” Real casual-like. That’s how you do it. That’s how you get them on board.

Tonight, I plan to curl up on the couch under a blanket, sipping maple pecan tea and listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas and enjoying the fact that my heavily air-conditioned corner of east Midtown smells like a nippy fall morning at the farmer’s market. I’m determined to create my own reality—and if that means getting sick of pumpkin before Starbucks starts serving seasonal lattes, so be it. I still have to present my case to Mother Nature (just wait until she tastes my apple almond bread), but in my way, I’m coping. This week, it is autumn in my mind.

*Unless some unforeseen issue of legal consequence finds me in need an alibi for July 9th, in which case…yeah, that’s totally what day it is.

What’s your favorite season? Join me in quitting summer?