Monday, August 30, 2010

oh no

I did not get that job and I haven't even begun to let myself feel how upset and disappointed I am -- not to mention baffled.  What really gets me is that I haven't seen any ads for a job nearly this good at which I might have any kind of a shot.  Back to looking at boring shitty jobs.

Friday, August 27, 2010

too sad

I watched part of a documentary last night that I shouldn't have watched.  It involved someone I once considered a friend; the "friend" basically treated me like a flunky and then dropped me.  It's been a couple of years, and I don't think about it much, considering that I knew this person for most of my life.  At first I didn't think the documentary footage bothered me (it was actually some deleted scenes from a film I'd seen some years back), but I couldn't sleep last night, and today I can't eat and can't stop crying.  Sometimes people are so cruel and disappoint you so thoroughly and shockingly that it's hard to let go; I'm still stunned by the way I was treated, nearly two years later.  Maybe it's partly because I'm very stressed, waiting to hear about that job, but I think I'm also very sad.  Losing a friend is hard enough; discovering that the "friend" only used and discarded you is nearly unbearable.  Barry knows that I miss the "friend" and keeps hoping that we'll make up, but I don't see anything to go back to.  After a certain point, I decided to stop inviting neglect and cruelty, which was the right decision, but it's hard not to miss the friend I never had.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

happy thursday

Well, I'm not so sure what's happy about it, but it's not a bad one.

I went to the farmer's market at Cadman Plaza (Brooklyn), and while it's not as big as the Union Square one, I managed to score some nice stuff: arugula, heirloom tomatoes, nectarines, kirbys, a red pepper, and some colby cheese from the Amish.  The tiny plums and the peaches were kind of hard, and we're due to get some basil from the landlord's garden.  The landlord has a little garden in the backyard, which is off-limits to the tenant, but a guy who lives downstairs is kind of in charge of distributing the overage.  We got some fresh figs today...I wait all year for them.  I can see the fig trees from our bedroom window.  What's better than fresh figs?

After the market, I took a nice stroll down Montague Street.  I mostly grew up in Brooklyn Heights, when it wasn't entirely obscenely expensive.  Most of the old-time stores are gone, of course.  But what's a drag is that when I was there a couple of years ago (serving jury duty at the court that's right behind the farmer's market), there was a wonderful used book store in what used to be Kleinman's Pharmacy (where I bought my first tampons and first make-up).  The bookstore guy and I were convinced that we knew each other, but couldn't figure out from where.  Anyway, the bookstore's gone now.  Shit.  We do have a good used bookstore on Coney Island Avenue, near Kings Highway (it's called Here's A Bookstore, which I love), but I hate to see a used bookstore go out of business.

I listened to my mp3 player the whole way there and back, and am particularly enjoying songs from the new Los Lobos album, Tin Can Trust (I downloaded it from Amazon).  Also loving this song:

I'm not sure I've heard anything else by this band, but I love love love this song.

My uncle and his wife are coming in from New Jersey (they live near Princeton) on Sunday, to try a brunch spot in preparation for a big family get together in October, for my dad's 80th birthday.  We're going to Colicchio and Sons...I'm psyched about seeing Howard and Tina, and also about eating at C&S.  I haven't eaten at any upscale restaurants since Penguin -- we occasionally went to Blue Ribbon for a birthday or an author lunch. 

And of course there was the famous private-room luncheon at Gramercy Tavern when David Lynch was in town the first time, with some Penguin sales reps and buyers from Barnes & Noble and such.  The food was amazing, and let's face it, just having lunch with Lynch was amazing.  He was easily the most fascinating of all of the authors I worked with, though not necessarily my favorite.  He was certainly one of my favorites, along with John Strausbaugh and Marc Hartzman and Martha Frankel.

My uncle is certainly one of my very favorite blood relations.  He's actually closer to my age than to my father's -- my father is 15 years older than Howard, and Howard is 13 years older than I am.  He's very intelligent and very well-read, which my father is as well, but also very generous. 

My brother is not in touch with anyone, and we're all kind of pissed and scratching our heads.  We're not even sure if he's coming to dad's 80th birthday.  I wouldn't mind so brother's been more and more distant since he got married, and even more so since he moved away.  But I basically have no contact with my nephew, with whom I was hoping to have a close relationship.  They had already moved to Riverdale when he was born, which was enough of a hassle, but now they're in Providence, RI, and I've basically missed Walter's childhood.  He's eight now, and we've never been invited to visit in Rhode Island, not once.  Family can be a huge pain...sometimes a pleasure, sometimes a huge pain.  Barry's family was at least nice enough not to move away from where they all lived and grew up.  Mine all left Brooklyn or Manhattan.  (My uncle grew up in Philly and lived there for many years, until he and Tina moved to New Jersey, which is actually a good deal closer to us.)

Well, I think the brunch should be great fun, anyway.

I've changed the template for this blog, and I think it's more attractive and easier to read.  All comments welcome.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

musical awesomeness

I turned on the TV today and caught the last half-hour or so of a documentary about Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways), a label that recording not just every kind of music in the world, but tons of spoken word albums and even albums of things like nature sounds and train noises.  To me, the folk and blues albums are the really hot stuff. 

The documentary was very interesting.  They only identified the talking heads the first time they were shown, so I kept seeing a guy who wasn't identified (must have come into the show before I turned it on, in other words), and kept thinking, "That's some I know," but couldn't place him.  And couldn't place him, and couldn't place him.  Then I realized it was Richard Carlin, who edits and writes music books.  I met Richard at summer camp when he was 15, and even though I've seen recent pictures of him, I still remember a skinny teenager with thick-rimmed glasses.

I always thought it was cool that at camp, Richard played the concertina, and was a counselor-in-training at the publications shop, a marvelous writer -- and now he still does music and writing.  I love seeing someone stick with a passion (or two) all those years.

Anyway, it looks like everything from Folkways and Smithsonian Folkways is available for purchase or download.  I think one or the other must have gobbled up some tiny folk labels along the way, because I found a favorite album (Clark Kessinger, Fiddler) which I could swear was on another label when I originally bought it, maybe County.  You can download albums for 9.99 or songs for .99.  It's absolutely amazing what's on there:  children's songs, The New Lost City Ramblers, the early albums of Dave van Ronk, pretty much everything Woody Guthrie ever did, amazing folk compilations, jazz, Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly. Malvina Reynolds...there's lots.

One caveat -- when you download, the file does not have a title or song info.  An album will have the album title, but not the track names.  (It comes with a PDF file of album notes, but you still have to type in the track names yourself.)  A single song with have a numerical file name, and mousing over it will give you the artist's name, but not the song title.  And only the song title appears on the download page.  It's not *so* bad if you can recognize the song you're downloading and/or the artist, but when you're downloading things like instrumental fiddle tunes, it's a serious pain in the ass.  I suggest writing down the names of individual songs as you purchase them.  Otherwise, it's near perfect.

You can even download the Harry Smith anthology (the formal title is The Anthology of American Folk Music), a vast and wide selection of pretty much every kind of American folk music, collected as way-rare 78s by Harry Smith.  I happen to have a hard copy, which is 6 CDs.  (And if you want some fun, look up Harry Smith, who was a serious, brilliant, and nutty character.)

I am insanely happy with the Clark Kessinger album. He's pretty much always been my favorite fiddler, and I've really missed hearing that album.  (I am still searching for two long-lost old-timey records:  Art Rosenbaum & Al Murphy, and Alan Block & Ralph Lee Smith.)  I also downloaded a track of Tony Trishka and one of The Red Clay Ramblers with Fiddlin' Al McCandless.  I've been listening to a lot of old-timey (stringband) music again lately.  I think I remember why I loved it so much as a teenager.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I couldn't resist

Ladies and gentlemen: Pee Wee at Sturgis.

third interview; credit; renting in NYC

I had my third interview today, with the founder/president, and it went very well.  This was mostly to see how I would fit into the firm, as a worker, as a person, and as the first contact with the company (front desk and phones).  I now know that I'm one of five candidates (I was the second one she saw), and I was the only one of the five who sent thank-you notes.  (My feeling is that she and the two other interviewers were impressed by that -- all got e-mail thank-yous within a day of the interview.)

Yesterday, when I called to confirm the time of the interview, my second interviewer answered the phone (the incumbent office assistant is already gone).  He and I chatted for a couple of minutes, and he said, "I passed you on to (the president)."  I thanked him, of course, and even thought I'd known that my third interview would have to be on his recommendation, it almost had a tone that he particularly went to bat for me in some way.  Maybe he indicated in some way a preference for me over the others. It was clear that he was impressed with me, and it seemed like she was too, today.

I also looked at the company website after my interview, and in an article reproduced from a newspaper, she said that when hiring, she checks references and does a background check for any criminal history.  I was a little uncomfortable about the background check which can include a credit check and some other things that I don't care to have examined.  And what she said in the article referred to tutors, not office staff.  I would imagine that office staff gets pretty much the same checks, references and criminal record, which is fine by me. 

I did once have a pending job which I didn't get because of something like a background check, and was once dismissed from a temp-to-perm situation after a week; the HR person said something like "Your references didn't check out," and legally didn't have to say any more, so I have no idea what the problem was.  My best guess is that the start and end dates I gave for a particular job didn't jibe with what the former employer said.  At one point, I lost all copies of my resume, and had to reconstruct it from memory, so some start and end dates may be off by a couple of months.  I could have explained that if given the chance.  I was told to leave right away (this happened right at lunch hour), and believe it or not, she had a couple of guys stand over me while I cleared my desk and then they escorted me out of the offices!  Unless she had uncovered some criminal activity in my past (of which there is none), I cannot imagine why I had to be treated like a criminal.  It was actually pretty ridiculous.

Unfortunately, I still have credit problems that date back many years, because I was foolish about money then, and haven't been able to afford to make it right since then.  When I've been working and earning a reasonable salary, I've been making payments, but when I have an ultra-low-salary job (like the last one) or when I'm not working, I wasn't able to work on old debts, which probably stacked even more black marks against me.  My credit rating is not good, which I had always thought would not be a problem as long as I didn't apply for loans or credit cards.  But now a lot of landlords are asking for them, which seriously sucks.  The last time we were apartment-hunting, we found that even small non-stabilized apartments (like a three-family where the landlord lives in one and rents two) wanted credit reports.  All big apartment buildings certainly did.  We were amazingly lucky to get a stabilized apartment in a small building without having to give a credit history. 

For you non-NYCers:  Apartment buildings with more than four units are rent-stabilized.  This means that the landlord must offer a one- or two-year lease, and is only permitted to raise the rent a certain percentage (the amount is determined by the city every year).  In addition, the landlord is only allowed to raise the rent a certain percent if an old tenant moves out.  A non-stabilized building has less than four units, and if the landlord lives on premises, the landlord can pretty much do whatever s/he wants; the apartment is considered a part of the landlord's apartment, as if the tenant was renting a room from her.  So in a non-stabilized apartment of this sort, the landlord doesn't have to offer a lease, only a month to month amount, which can be raised any amount at any time, and the tenant can be thrown out if the landlord wants to move a relative in.  I'm not sure about four unit apartments where the landlord doesn't live on premises, but it's not as good as stabilized, that's for sure.  The jackpot is if you have a rent-controlled apartment.  Rent Control was a predecessor of Rent Stabilization, and much more generous to the tenant.  (I don't know the details, but it's much better than anything else.)  You don't have rent-control unless you've been in the same apartment for around 45 years (I think 1965 was the cutoff).  Rent-control people pay tiny rents. My aunt has an RC apartment in Greenwich Village, a one-bedroom in a good location for which market price is probably something like $4000.  She probably pays around $400.  (Of course, there are very strict laws about passing an apartment on to anyone else, or even subletting.)  Oh well.

I have some important relaxing to do now.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

a good grade and a good filmmaker

The second interview went beautifully.  I felt like I had a good rapport with the guy, and he asked interesting questions.  There were none of the kinds of questions I didn't much want to answer, like why I left my last job and why I've been unemployed for two years.  Toward the end, I told him how much I'd enjoyed the essay-writing portion of the interview process, and he said, "Oh yes, I think I have your essay here in my it is.  Look at the bottom."  He turned the paper toward me, and on the bottom, someone had written "Great!"  So I'm pleased to say that I got a good grade, seventeen years after my college graduation.  I'm supposed to hear about the job within two weeks.  I wanted the last job I interviewed for, but I think I want this one more.  (I also wanted a job at NYU badly, more because of the salary and bennies than the actual work of the position.)

I recently got back in touch with my friend Paul Lovelace.  He and his wife Jessica Wolfson are working on a documentary about New York radio legend Bob Fass.  I've seen a couple of Paul's documentaries:  "Robert Christgau: Rock and Roll Animal" and "Bound to Lose" (I am thanked in the credits of the latter).  Paul certainly knows his way around a documentary.  Here's the trailer:

I finally got myself some online backup, because this computer has been acting a mite funky lately and I've never been prepared for a hard drive crash, though I've had a couple (and a couple of times I took a computer into the shop and had to have the hard drive wiped and Windows reinstalled).  At least if I have a crash, I won't lose my music, pictures, written documents or browser bookmarks.

As I've mentioned before, I'm very fond of cologne, and lately I'm fascinated by this website.  These folks sell perfume and eau de parfum/toilette in small sizes, decanted from larger ones, so one can buy some very good products at reasonable prices, or try out new ones.  They carry a huge number of scents, including some that are no longer made, some that are hard to find, and some that are unavailable in the states.  They also describe the notes and type (woody, oriental, etc) of each scent.  I have been browsing and reading a lot, fascinated.  Once I'm employed, I'm going to spend some money there, to get some otherwise unaffordable scents, and to try some new ones.

Monday, August 16, 2010

good news

I've had a callback for that job -- I have to go in Thursday and meet with someone higher on the totem pole.  I didn't know there'd be a second interview but I'm up for it.

I'm not a huge fan of Sublime but I love this song, and here's a nice ukulele cover.  YouTube is full of uke covers of all kinds of songs.  I actually got a ukulele of my own for my last birthday, but I am way lazy when it comes to practicing instruments, which is why I don't play any very well.  Perhaps some day I'll get my act together and get good on it, because I think ukes are very cool.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the amazing self-healing shoulder

I have been having trouble with my left shoulder for over two years.  I think it started when I took a free personal training session at my last gym; the trainer did a few stretches on me that I couldn't do on myself, including a shoulder stretch.  When the usual post-workout aches died down, the shoulder still hurt.  And for the past couple of years, I have been unable to raise my left arm over my head, and stretching to reach anything with my left arm caused pain that made me weep.

My chiropractor said he couldn't do anything for it.  I put off seeing an orthopedist because I've always believed, wrongly or not, that they tended to rush to cut.  I had a feeling it might be something like bursitis -- my mother had it in her shoulder, and endured some horrible treatment with long, painful needles stuck into her shoulder until she finally got relief from acupuncture.

Anyway, the other day -- I wish I could remember what I was doing -- I felt something pop in the shoulder.  And later I noticed the pain was gone.  I could lift my arm over my head easily, and reach behind my back, and all the other things I hadn't been able to do.  My guess is that what I had was something like a slight dislocation, but it relocated itself.  Go fig.

I had an excellent interview on Friday, for a job at a boutique test-prep firm.  They were interested in me for my publishing work and editing studies, which was kind of exciting.  It seemed like a job where intelligence and education were important, which meant that I would actually be able to use a high level of skill and knowledge, and also that it was likely not to be boring.  Boring jobs are my curse; once I've learned the routine and there's nothing left to learn, I lose interest and lose steam.

What I liked best about the interview, apart from the fact that I was not being asked a stream of questions for an HR-generated list, was that the last part involved writing.  I was seated at a computer and told that I had 20 minutes to write an essay about why I was a good candidate for the job.  I was in my element, and cranked out a good essay in 19 minutes.  I was told to save it to the desktop, and when the office manager re-saved it to a folder, I saw that there were four other files in it, so I assume I am one of five candidates.  As my appointment was at 3:00 PM on a Friday, I also assume I was the last interview.  The office is small (10 people) and reasonably casual -- I wore a black blouse and tan skirt (all Tienda Ho stuff in that great Balinese cotton, which is 40% rayon), and it was just right.  Tidy but casual seems to work.  Cross fingers, folks.  I thing I would really like this job.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

a lovely song for Saturday morning

I still can't figure out how to upload music here, but luckily, YouTube has a video of this song.  I just acquired a copy of this song, and got to listen to it for this first time in many, many years.  Even though it's called "The Retreat Song," I have always found it somewhat uplifting, perhaps because I don't understand the lyrics.  But when she starts singing after the opening recitative, it give me goosebumps every time.  Easily my favorite Miriam Makeba song.

I even found the lyrics:


The Retreat Song Lyrics

Jikela emaweni sia hamba, Jikela emaweni sia hamba, Jikela emaweni sia hamba, Jikela emaweni sia hamba Axents' amakhwenkwe axhentsa kwaba mnandi Axents' amakwenkwe axentsel'emgondini A jika madodda a jika kwabamandi A jika madodda a jikele mgondini
full lyrics
more lyrics

I've been looking at the Amazon links but a lot of them don't have track listings.  This song is from Makeba's self-titled album, released in 1960.  You may have to find it yourself.  This album doesn't have what is probably her best-known song, "Pata Pata," but every track on it is a gem.

Friday, August 13, 2010

online communities, jobs for smart people, food (again)

Sometimes I think Face-itty Book-itty is waste-itty time-itty.  Just sayin'.  It's nice to connect with old friends and old schoolmates, and network with musicians and music-lovers and writers, and even to support causes and such, but when people get deeply involved with things like Farmville...I'm not 100% certain I even know what "Farmville" is, although my best guess is that it's a game where you grow pretend crops on a pretend farm.  I watched an episode of No Reservations today when Tony Bourdain went to Sweden and vented his (extremely) negative feelings about ABBA.  That's sort of how I feel about Farmville. 

I've been involved with a number of online communities.  Back in the stone age of the internet (text-only, nothing graphical, pre-mouse), there were things called "newsgroups," which were originally called "electronic bulletin boards."  People would post things, other people would read them, and everyone would comment on things.  I remember a time when there were only about 1800 groups, all classified by interest groups and interests and sub-interests.  There were group prefixes like "Rec" (recreational), "Biz" (business), and "Alt" (miscellaneous).  So there would be a very big group called, and smaller, separate groups called or or rec.writing.romance or rec.novels.stephen-king.  I don't really remember if you had to join or could just participate; I believe you had some sort of subscription widget that would list "your" groups, something like a blog compiler.  Anyway, I participated in some of those for a while, and even made my first good internet friend there.

After newsgroups, there were things called "listservs," which was a subscription interest group where you would e-mail a post to a single given address and it would then be automatically forwarded to all the members.  You had to have access to a server that would host it, or do as I did, when I started a listserv:  forward the posts manually.  I didn't even have a home computer.  I started a listserv for some obscure, eccentric musicians and their musical circle; I fished out about half a dozen fans on a subsite, and just put them on the list.  (It still exists, and though it's now web-based, it was still referred to by its members as "the list.")  It grew to the size where someone got us an electronic host, and eventually was hosted by Yahoo Groups.

The List was a big part of my life for ten years.  The community grew to 500 members.  I knew one of the New York-based musicians who was a central figure in this small musical constellation, and ended up hopeless intertwined in all kinds of music and business and squabbles.  The List built a lot of interesting friendships and alliances; I do believe it was a factor in promoting the various musicians and their gigs and projects.  Two members got married.  Because of my closeness to certain people, I got invited to all kinds of interesting private gigs and events and rehearsals and recordings.  I went to a book party for the rock critic Robert Christgau and to Dave Van Ronk's memorial service.  I am thanked on a handful of albums and in the credits to a documentary film. But when someone didn't show up for a reunion gig in Portland, Oregon, and couldn't be reached at home, I was getting calls at work from people in Oregon I didn't know, as if I were Crisis Central for the whole thing.  I lost sleep over the missing musician.  New members joined who didn't quite get the love-and-peace vibe of the list and were often vicious to other members, which led to a schism and the formation of a second list, where vile behavior was tolerated.

After maybe five or six years, some of the musicians who were the subject of the list joined, and that was weird.  It became something other than a fan list. As you may have guessed, it got way too intense for me and became way too important in my life.  I used to be sought out at gigs by list member fans -- I was easy to find because I always sold CDs for the band at the break.  But things started to happen at gigs...someone showed up and threatened me.  I did not take well to people who supported this individual.  The no-show-in-Portland person again vanished.  It just got really ugly; also, the musician who was the closest of my list friends stopped being a friend, and when it seemed to me that there was about to be a break there, I just turned the reins over to someone else and left.

Another factor in my pulling out of that online community is that I had, as they say, gotten a life.  Getting married hadn't quite done it, but the job in publishing changed everything.  I had a job that wasn't a boring chore, where it was actually necessary to be intelligent and to be a talented writer and editor.  I no longer had a drudge job which was lightened by my job online and my voluntary servitude to a musician who was basically a walking definition of narcissism.  I didn't define myself by my relation to other people, by being at the center of a gang of (mostly) bizarre and lunatic music fans.

Though I have to say, I did meet some very lovely people through The List, real-life in-person friends.  One List member lived in Aruba, and greeted Barry and me at the airport when we arrived on our honeymoon.  We saw a show in Central Park with one of them, and his family, last week.  The dozen or so I keep up with, maybe a dozen others, were wonderful folks.  But I'm very happy to be shed of the psychotic assholes.

For me, the internet has mainly become what the framers of the "World Wide Web/Information Superhighway" intended:  a source of information and a means of communication.  It's my medium of job hunting and of news and information gathering, and I shop on it, but it's not my social world.  It facilitates some social interactions, but it's not where I live. 

 Speaking of job hunting, I have an interview tomorrow.  What stood out for the employer was my publishing experience and my editing coursework at NYU, so it sounds like another job where brains are not optional.  I don't really want to go into detail about the business, but it sounds like hard, interesting work that is unlikely to become boring.  Wish me luck.

I watched a lot of food shows the past couple of days, it seems.  Between cooking a whole lot more in the past few months, reading half a dozen or more food blogs, and getting very involved in seasonal produce, I seem to have a bit of a foodie thing going on.  It may even be rubbing off...Barry came home today with one of the hard-crusted Italian breads he favors (can't remember the name), but also with a raisin-fennel semolina loaf, and a whole-grain with walnuts.  (The whole-grain one is strictly for me, since he won't eat bread with "bark and twigs" in it.)  I watched Tony Bourdain in Sweden (dissing ABBA and eating reindeer), Andrew Zimmern in the UK (haggis was involved), and Adam Richman in Kansas City (eating absurd amounts of barbecue).  I seem to be eating chutney with everything, and wishing I'd bought one or more of the even hotter ones.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

not a bad day

I had lunch with Lily in the Village today, first time I've seen her in a bit. She was a little insane with an internship this summer. She is just burning her way through a really smart education plan. She wants to be a librarian with a specialty in museums, so she just took her M.S.L.S. (Master's of Science in Library Science -- a lot of schools just call it an M.L.S., but I guess Pratt likes the long way). In August, she's starting an M.A. in Art History at Hunter. Smart, smart, smart. Smart plan and smart woman. I'm not saying she doesn't sweat her way through it -- she certainly does, and gets stressed out, and all that. I've never asked her about grades, though I'm sure they're excellent. I admire her unwavering focus. Even in the toughest times, I doubt she ever considered changing course. And I've worked with her, and have rarely seen that kind of work ethic. Everyone likes her. When I was temping at Penguin in another department, she was probably the friendliest person I encountered, even though we had no work connection at all. (Coincidentally, in my third stint as a temp at Penguin, she was my supervisor.) I'm really lucky, because it's often hard to make new close friends after 40 or 45 or whatever, but I've made two wonderful friends in the past ten years (Jannah's the other).

We ate at a place called Otarian, which I'd read about in a food blog.  It's a vegetarian place (Lily's veg), and kind of leads with its conscious effort to leave a low carbon footprint and then tell everyone about it, over and over.  I like that it's locavore, for non-carbon-footprint reasons.  There have been some complaints that the food isn't too good or that the prices are too high.  It's about the most upscale, sparkling clean, friendly fast-food place you'll ever see.  It makes Chipotle look like McDonalds...oh, wait, Chipotle is McDonald's...  anyway, I had a vegetable biryani and a creme brulee (no egg in the creme, though), and they were just fine, and with a bottle of water (perhaps too big a carbon footprint), it ran me around fifteen bucks, no tip required.  I liked the fact that the portions were not enormous, because you could get two (even three) things without getting stuffed.  Lily had a portabello burger and a tomato/mozzarella/avocado salad.  The biryani tasted good and was mildly spicy.  I'm getting adventurous about hot spices lately.  The creme brulee was actually bruleed, but the non-custard custard was a little weird, maybe because I *always* have brulee and custard.  (Forget that I should be eating none of this.)

Here's the healthier part:  after lunch, I went to the Union Square Greenmarket.  I love that place, but it always seems like such a schlep from home, especially since I can't possibly carry everything I'd like to buy.  But if I'm going to Manhattan for something else, and it happens to be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, I'll bring a tote bag or two.  Let's see if I can remember everything I bought (only one tote bag today):  many heirloom tomatoes.  pea sprouts.  cucumbers the size of almonds (their cuteness compelled me).  watermelons the size of grapefruits.  a bag of teeny plums.  a couple of not-too-hot hot peppers.  three heads of garlic.  and, yay, Beth's Farm Kitchen was there with their jams and chutneys!  I'd forgotten that they always have open jars of many of the products, popsicle sticks in each, and little its of bread to try them on.  I bought a jar of Zapricot Chutney (mainly apricots, with chipotle), and Cranberry Horseradish (Beth ought to get a Nobel Prize for that one).

I had taken out ground meat for dinner tonight, which is something we call "Sloppy Spoots."  Please don't make me tell you "Spoot" signifies, but Sloppy Spoots began as a personalized version of Sloppy Joes.  Barry made them with ground meat and salsa, or maybe ketchup, or maybe both, and usually ate it on a roll.  (Around here, "ground meat" can be turkey, beef, veal or pork, but mostly turkey, followed by veal; ground lamb would also be in rotation if I could ever find it anywhere.  Jannah once made burgers that were half-beef and half-lamb, and I nearly swooned.  I'm a bit of a lamb slut.  And don't get me started on lobster.)  Anyway, on my watch, Sloppy Spoots were eaten with rice instead of on a roll, and of course seasoned with a little more effort than opening a can of salsa (though I admit, not bad if it's good salsa, and I have a jar-of-salsa chicken dish, so I shouldn't point fingers). 

So this is what I did tonight:  half beef, half turkey.  Softened onions, shallots, garlic, bell pepper, and hot pepper in vegetable oil (all Greenmarket stuff).  Boiled some red potatoes (non Greenmarket, alas), drained and diced them.  Added the meat to the vegetables, added recaito (Latin-American seasoning paste, mostly cilantro), basil (opal basil from the Greenmarket that I dried myself), salt and pepper, and cooked until the meat had lost most of its color, then added the potatoes and cooked a bit more.  Then I decided it needed a can of tomato sauce, so I put that in.  Since I put in the potatoes no other starch was needed.  Barry ate it with ketchup; I ate it with both chutneys.  It was good.  I guess it's something of a homemade Hamburger Helper.  It's a relatively plain dish but you can do a lot with it.

My jar of salsa chicken recipe:  brown four boneless skinless chicken breasts in a skillet.  Add a jar of salsa.  Cover and simmer for about twenty minutes.  Eat with rice.  This is a nice way to make boneless skinless chicken breasts that are not dry.

There was a job nibble the other day...but then I was told that the hiring was on hold, and I'd be recontacted if anything changed.  So I'm just plowing on.  I still get a fair number of scams in response to ads I answer on Craigslist; I've pretty much figured out the signs of scam-fishing in the ads, but I don't catch all of them.  But when the scams come, I always know just what they are.  If I have the time, I usually like to screw with the person a little.

I got a really bizarre one today, purportedly from a woman who signed herself as working at something like (that's not the exact name).  She said the job I had applied for had been filled, but I was invited to look for more jobs on -- and here there were two links I was supposed to click.  I moused over them, and the domain names sounded like job search sites (though none was, but they were also not home pages of these sites.  The web addresses were something like administrative job dot com blackslash name backslash +78 backslash -- and so on.  I also punched up, and that looked like an employment site of some sort, but it actually said nothing.  One page of it had a kind of boilerplate "how to have a successful resume" thing, but nowhere did it have anything like a list of clients, places to click "for employers" or "for job seekers," certainly no list of openings or application or services.  There was a contact e-mail, which was info at, and a phone number and street address in Hicksville, New York.  (No reason for an employment agency in Hicksville.)  It also seemed weird that the e-mail didn't have a link to the "JobSearch" site.  Also that it came from the "HR Director" of JobSearch.

ALSO...there was a file attached called something like "Jennifer_Resume_something," which I did not open.  For one thing, that's not the name of my resume file, and for another, why would an employment counselor be sending me my own resume?

Last point:  the woman's e-mail had two "P.S."es.  One said something like, "I see it is 77 degrees in New York.  It is 77 degrees here in our offices in Hicksville, New York.  Nice weather."  The other one said, "What do Hulk Hogan, someone else, and someone else have in common?  Today is their birthday!"  WTF, right?

So I did write back and screwed with her/him/it a bit.  Said that I'd like to know what company she represents, since the websites she asked me to click on were not websites.  Asked why she had sent me my own resume.  Asked her about the website, and what kind of employers they represent, and what kind of jobs they specialize in.  And then I said that I thought her were extremely inappropriate, that I've never seen anything like that from an employment agency, especially at first contact; I actually wrote, "Is that how you would want me to behave at an interview?"

I'm not sure what the scam is there -- a virusy or scam website when you click, a virus or trojan in the attachment, or both. 

I'm also not sure why I'm not using the actual name of the alleged job site; on the off-chance that it's not as insanely illegitimate and fraudful (new word) as it seems, I don't want to buy myself the headache it could be if anyone actually read this blog.

Yesterday, I researched all of the CUNY and private colleges in New York, went to their websites,  looked at all the jobs, and applied to the ones that seemed possibilities.  This was a useful piece of research, since I'd really only been looking at NYU and occasionally at CUNY (though the administrative employees there probably had to be dragged out feet-first, since I imagine it to be something of a civil service-type paradise).  I'm not bothering with Columbia, firstly because it's easily the most competitive of all of the city's private universities (most offer free tuition, but only one offers free tuition at Columbia); the other reason is that the commute is just too ridiculous from south Brooklyn.  But I've now dropped a few applications at places like Julliard and The New School.  Considering that so much of my work experience was at universities (mainly NYU, plus a short stint at Fordham-Lincoln Center, and a long-term temp job at Columbia), I could possibly be an attractive candidate for a university job.  Let's hope.

Oh -- three more TV shows that I forgot because they're out of season.  30 Rock.  Easily the best network sitcom since Seinfeld.  Brilliant cast.  Big Love.  An hour-long drama on HBO about a Morman-fundamentalist family that practices polygamy.  Sounds awful but it's great, wonderful acting.  Also, Fringe, which is kind of X-File-ish, but benefits from some superb acting, including a wonderful Australian actor named John Noble, who plays a somewhat eccentric professor; Lance Reddick (taller and skinnier than I generally like my men, but still extremely hot); Blair Brown (always Molly Dodd to me); and the occasionally appearance by the *real* Mr. Spock.  (That whore Shatner will take any job, but Nimoy is discerning and clearly picks and chooses his roles with care.  Just kidding about calling Shatner a whore.  Which he is.)  there's a fourth show, The Human Target, which is actually a pretty stupid-ass show, but I watch it solely for Jackie Earle Haley.  In case I haven't mentioned it, Barry refers to him as Jackie Pearl Bailey.  I had an ex-boyfriend who had silly names for everything, way more than Barry.  Annoyingly so.  Barry's not that bad. 

Hey. I just figured out how to put pictures and stuff on here!  Apparently the New Post button defaults to the HTML view, and I've just discovered the much more attractive Compose view, where you can do things like post pictures.  Now I have to decide if I really want to do that.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

popsicles and perfume

Weird pair of topics, I know.

I had been thinking about making popsicles (OK, I know that's a trademarked name, so "ice pops") lately, and the other day, I stopped into one of our local 99 cent stores and saw a set of ice pop molds for 99 cents. In fact they are extremely cute and absolutely made for kids: the stick has a rabbit head on it. (I love the 99 cent stores and they're cheap, but I'm not sure I feel really good about almost everything being from China. It's not as bad as Walmart, who not only sells lot of stuff from China but pays criminally low wages and generally treats their employees like crap -- plus they burden the state economy because none of their employees can afford health insurance. They pollute. And they put American manufacturers out of business because they can't compete price-wise with the Chinese, or if the Americans do business with Walmart, their profit margins are terribly low. Oh, and I believe they don't give a crap about the environment and have caused some problems at some locations. I hate Walmart.)

But back to ice pops -- I decided today was the day, since my last batch of ice cream hadn't come out too well. I was going to buy some juice, but I stopped into a pizza place to grab a spinach roll (yes, my eating habits have gone just a bit to hell lately), and saw that they had their own brand of soda in bottles, in all kinds of classic flavors like root beer, white birch beer, cream, grape, orange...and raspberry lime rickey. The latter is usually just called lime rickey, and it's a real Brooklyn thing and hard to find any more (ideally it's made at a soda fountain, also hard to find). Actually, it's usually cherry and lime. The last time I had one was from the amazing sweet shop that was in the train station at Coney Island before they were put out for the renovations (I wouldn't have minded except they never came back). It's basically just a raspberry and lime soda, but if you get it at a fountain, it's concocted with seltzer and syrup right there, so it's not exactly blended.

Anyway, I bought two bottles, raspberry lime rickey and root beer, to make ice pops. I've made sorbet out of soda. All you have to do is sweeten them just a bit extra, because anything that's frozen tastes less strong than at room temperature. (Important ice cream fact. Which is why it's best to let ice cream soften a bit before you eat it -- it should be just about about to melt as you put it in your mouth.) So I made lime rickey ice pops, but then I had trouble getting the pops out of the mold. I did hit on a solution, since the tops have a cup shape on the handle: you warm the mold a bit with your hand, invert the mold, and pull the pop out that way (one at a time). The pop ends up kind of sitting on the cupped handle. The pops were great; nothing much better on a very hot day. I want to try root beer and also (very summery and nostalgic) Hawaiian Punch. Also some of those nice Goya fruit nectars like mango.

OK...perfume. Actually, cologne, because who can afford perfume any more? All time top four are: Bellodgia (made by Caron), Escape (Calvin Klein), Coco (Chanel), and Rush (Gucci). I wish I liked the cheap stuff.

Bellodgia was the first one I ever wore. My mother used to wear it, but when she married my stepfather, he didn't care for it and bought her a bottle of Chanel No. 5 (actual perfume, to boot). So I got all the Bellodgia -- I think I was 14. Some of what I got was actual perfume (I'm kicking myself for not saving the bottles, which were really fancy crystal, I think Lalique, and the old ones now sell for a pretty penny). My aunt used to go on cruises and buy a lot of stuff duty-free, so she kept me supplied. This was the only cologne I used until I was 28.

I got a sample of Escape in a swag bag at a movie preview (I had a boyfriend who used to get passes to a lot of previews and screenings), so then I started wearing Escape. Bellodgia had gotten hard to find. It still is; it's not a hugely popular scent. It's mostly carnation.

A couple of years later, I got a sample of Coco, and really loved it. I can't remember where I first checked out Rush, but I went crazy for that, too.

Well, Bellodgia is hard to find, and Escape, Coco and Rush are either discontinued or on hiatus. This seriously sucks, though a lot of them can be bought on eBay. Which is how I just got the first bottle of Rush that I've had in years.

Other colognes I've worn from time to time:

Rive Gauche (Yves Saint Laurant) -- always too strong, even if I tried to put on very little.

Aromatics Elixir (Clinique) -- for some reason, I tried to like this, but never did. However, my late mother-in-law wore it, and I liked it on her.

Jil Sander No.4 -- I don't know if they make this any more. I liked it a lot; it's a similar type to Coco. (I am kind of a numbnuts as far as knowing the components of scents, all of the top-note and middle-note stuff, and even if a cologne is "spicy" or "floral." I'm not even sure how I found out that Bellodgia is mostly carnation.) I think I stopped using it because at that time, about fifteen years ago, I "had" to get the cologne and the lotion for every scent (I would keep around two of three of the ones I liked -- for many years, it was Escape in warm weather and Coco in cold weather). It was running into a lot of money, and I guess the Jil Sander just didn't make the cut. I think I only ever had one bottle of the cologne and one of the lotion.

Jean Nate. I'm wearing it now. I sometimes go for ultra-light sprays in the summer, so I can use a lot, although Jean Nate does have a fairly strong scent. I'm sometimes not sure if I like it, but it's a very nostalgic smell for me. I associate it with my aunt -- I'm not sure if she wore it or just had a bottle in her bathroom that I liked to sniff. (My aunt had a lot of scent in her bathroom.)

Sometimes I used to wear Enjoli, which was also a cheaper brand, and I'm not sure if they make it any more.

Another summer scent I'm wearing right now is something called Ohm, which was made by Olay but I don't think they make it any more. The scent I have is citrus ginger, which makes you smell exactly like a glass of ginger ale.

I also have the dregs of a bottle of Sublime (Jean Patou); I used to get it fairly cheaply at Cosmetics Market (don't get me started on that place -- tons of discounted brand-name makeup, which I love to buy and don't wear much).

I also like 1000 (pronounced "Mille" in French or "meel" if you don't know French -- also made by Jean Patou). Most of the colognes I've mentioned run about $45 for 1.7 ounces; things like Ohm and Jean Nate are much cheaper; and the Jean Patou scents are more expensive. I had a bottle of 1000 in the mid-eighties which I did not have to pay for, and haven't had it since.

I like those cheap light drugstore sprays but not the fruity or overly sweet ones. I like stuff like cucumber melon. I also love plain vanilla and have been known to dab vanilla extract behind my ears. I used to wear amber oil, but somehow Barry took to it, and it's become his scent. I like it on him.

I don't like too many sweet, flowery colognes (especially things with a lot of gardenia or the ones that are mainly rose -- I assume that some of the ones I use have a rose component, but I don't like the ones that are mostly rose). But I am fascinated by Shalimar (Guerlain). It has a lot of vanilla in it, and it's really sweet. It's also possibly the oldest of all of the scents I've mentioned here. I always think of it as an old-lady scent...I'm fairly sure that my maternal grandmother wore it. I don't really know how it would smell on me, but I'd love to have some and try it out. (Also an expensive one.)

That's one the reasons I like Sephora -- you can test colognes on paper strips, and if you like one, you can spray some on yourself and walk around to see how it smells on you and how it holds. Some colognes smell better on paper than on you, but it varies from person to person. Same with hold -- some scents just fade away fast, and some stay strong, which I assume is also a chemistry thing. Apparently the one that smells best on me is Escape -- I used to get stopped all the time by people who wanted to know what I was wearing, or who knew it but (I guess) thought it smelled particularly nice on me. (The ones who stopped and said, "Hey, is that Escape?" tended to be black men. I have no idea why.

Although I don't wear makeup that often, I put on scent pretty much every day. Even if I'm not going out, I put it on. So I think about it a lot, and always try to have as wide a selection as possible. I also get kind of miserly with it when a scent runs low, so I now have last little bits of Bellodgia, Escape, and Sublime. But I have a brand-new Rush (thanks eBay, got it unopened, and the price was about $15 less than I used to pay), and it smells really good. I like to smell nice to myself all the time.

I am also careful not to overdo it, for the sake of others. Nothing quite like the agony of too much scent on someone nearby. (My first serious boyfriend reeked of -- eek -- Brut.) I often don't wear any when I go to a job interview, because some people are allergic or just don't care for it. But that's probably the only time I leave it off -- that, and if I'm going to be somewhere that has a lot of mosquitoes (like Jannah's deck and yard).

Oh -- my mother and my aunt had their own special word for scent: stinkwater. Barry calls it something similar in Yiddish: schmecksaltz. (As always, all English spellings of Yiddish are only approximations. Cause that's how it is.)


Thursday, August 5, 2010

warning: painful pun follows

I did find the Hellman's in the fridge just now.

Mayo culpa.

brunch blues

I slept late today, spent some time on the computer, sent Barry off to a job interview (fingers crossed!), and then turned my attention to brunch. I knew exactly what I wanted: poached eggs on an English muffin, topped with spicy mayo. I haven't had this in years, but used to eat it a lot, initially with curry mayo, but later with other types of seasoned mayo. So I took out the English muffin, and went into the fridge. No eggs. I dug around, since the fridge is crowded these days, but no eggs. There were four left the other day. Even though I do most of the grocery shopping here, certain people are not good about telling me when something essential has run out. The same person is also known for leaving the containers from food, toiletry, bags-and-wraps, etc. empty, so when I go for a baggie or some mustard or whatever, the box or bag or bottle is there, with nothing in it.

So I decide it will have to be tuna salad (I knew we had a lot of tuna since I'd bought ten cans -- five for six bucks -- at the supermarket last week). I usually like to mash a hard-boiled egg into my tuna salad, but I could live without it today. So I empty the tuna out of the can (and give the can to the cats, who love to lick out the last bits), go to the fridge for the mayo...and guess what? No mayo. I move everything in the fridge, because I bought like a quart of mayo on that same supermarket trip. Could he have really emptied it with the 3 or 4 cans of tuna he's had since then?

There was a little bit of sour cream left (I had bought it to go with cold jarred borscht, yum), so I figured I'd give that a try. I like to put a lot of stuff in my tuna salad, so I mixed in a thinly sliced shallot, some sliced black olives, a squirt of Grey Poupon, a little ground chipotle pepper, and the tablespoon or so of sour cream that remained. Ate it on an English muffin, and it was wonderful. (I'd never made tuna salad with sour cream, but sour cream is good with anything.)

So brunch was saved, but someone's going to get an earful about the eggs and mayo... maybe not if he comes home with eggs and mayo, but I doubt he'll even remember his name after running around in 97 degree heat.

Dinner is going to be a huge green salad with poached chicken in it. Last night it was a cold pasta salad -- no canned beans this time, but a lot of fresh veg (bell pepper, raw string beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, fresh basil, with black pepper, key lime juice and olive oil). I don't mind using the stovetop a bit on a hot day. but the vegetable casserole I've been planning had to be pushed back again. No oven, no way.


I can't believe I forgot to write about this before, but we went to Coney Island on Tuesday, mostly to see the brand new amusement park, Luna Park. It is absolutely magnificent. The rides are sparkling new and exciting to watch.

The rides are all too intense for me, except the kiddie rides, which I can't fit into. The adult rides are labeled "mild thrill ride," "moderate thrill ride," and "high thrill ride." All of the thrill rides have a warning that it probably isn't a good idea to ride them if you are pregnant, have a bad back, have recently been sick or had an operation, suffer from high blood pressure or a "nervous disorder," or get motion sickness (duh). I qualify, or disqualify, on several of these counts. I used to go on fairly scary rides when I was younger, but now I'm absolutely convinced I would have a heart attack.

The beautiful new rides were made by Zamperla, an Italian company which is pretty much the preeminent maker of amusement park rides in the world. I urge you to check out the website -- it has little videos of each of the rides they make, plus photo galleries for each, some of which are from Coney. It was just incredible to watch them in operation. The one that fascinated me was the Twister Coaster, a Wild Mouse-type gravity coaster -- but it not only has the sharp corners of a Wild Mouse, but the cars also rotate from the centrifugal force. It's a knockout.

The other thing I love about Luna is that it's very faithful to and respectful of the history of Coney Island. First off, it's named in honor of the first Luna Park, which was one of the three major Coney Island amusement parks of the early 20th century. The gates of the new Luna use the half-moon motif of the original Luna. Zamperla has decorated the cars of the Twister with the face of the Steeplechase clown (I have absolutely no idea how to upload a photo to this blog, so you may have to check out Google images.) In fact, the Zamperla ride was called the Wild Mouse, but the one at Luna was named the Twister Coaster in honor of a ride called the Twister at Steeplechase Park (another of the big three, and the one that lasted the longest, closing in 1965). Zamperla has now changed the name of its ride from Wild Mouse to Twister Coaster. Zamperla is so cool.

And Zamperla has customized all of the Luna rides to have Coney Island themes. There's a kiddie ride called The Mermaid Parade, a thrill ride called the Coney Island Sound (the cars are decorated with musical notes and the centerpiece is a sculpture of a carousel calliope), and other seaside and Coney-oriented rides (the Brooklyn Flyer, Coney Island Hang Glider, and so on). Zamperla customizes their rides for different parks. They are amazing.

In case I haven't mentioned it, I am really nuts for Coney Island history. Even though I never went there as a kid (I think my mother considered city beaches and the amusements at Coney Island as low-class, though we used to visit the late lamented Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey), somehow I am insanely nostalgic about the place. Maybe it's an old-Brooklyn thing, because I also really love Brooklyn history. Here are some of my favorite Coney Island books and documentaries, along with a great Brooklyn history. Also two novels set partly or entirely in old Coney Island.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TV and some movies

I've always been a big reader, and a movie fan, but I also love TV. Here are the shows I watch regularly:

Real Housewives of New Jersey/Real Housewives of Atlanta (reality). I particularly love the Jersey ones because they're all hilariously clueless, except for Dina and Caroline Manzo.

Scrappers (reality). This one just started last night, about guys who collect and and sell scrap (mostly scrap). I enjoyed it because it's set here in Brooklyn -- in fact, I learned about it from posters in the windows of several local Italian eateries (the guys are mostly or all Italian). Also, the guys are so dumb that they make the Jersey Housewives look like rocket scientists.

Man v. Food (travel/food). I think I've already written about how much I adore Adam Richman, also a Brooklynite.

No Reservations (travel/food). I also adore Tony Bourdain, snarky as he is.

The Deadliest Catch (reality). This one is about crab fishermen in Alaska. I'm not sure why I like it so much, because the characters aren't that compelling. But I cried when Captain Phil Harris died.

Ice Road Truckers (reality). Also set in Alaska, this one is about truckers who drive a road that are only passable in the dead of winter, mostly to bring supplies to oil drilling workers. It's pretty treacherous work. This has a lot of compelling characters, including a (rare) female driver. The show kind of makes a fake competition about which trucker drives the most loads during the season (they get paid per load and the pay also depends on the weight and size of the load). My fave is Alex, who is a low-key, sweet guy with 11 kids back home. I also like Jack, who is the absolute expert on oversized loads. Apparently, they're going to show a second program in the fall about truckers in the Himalayas, and I will definitely watch that.

Louie (comedy). I've already written about how much I admire Louis C.K.

Hot in Cleveland (comedy). I watch it for Betty White.

My Life on the D-List (reality/comedy). Because Kathy Griffin is hilarious, as is her 90-year-old mother.

Entourage (comedy). I stopped watching it for a while but recently started again because they have great guest stars and because Jeremy Piven and the guy who plays Lloyd (I think his name is Rex Lee) are very funny. Oh, and Kevin Dillon.

True Blood (drama). This isn't really a favorite of mine, but I watch it with Barry, who loves anything with vampires in it. This season is sucking (no pun intended) big-time, though.

Top Chef (reality/competition). Cut-throat competition between some great chefs; I also have a mild crush on co-host Tom Colicchio.

Locked Up Abroad (true crime/reality). Mostly people who have the bright idea to smuggle drugs, and end up in foreign prisons. They recently did a show on Billy Hayes, the "Midnight Express" guy, who told some parts of his story that were censored from his book, and some that were misrepresented in the movie.

Friday Night Lights (drama). Even though I loathe football, the actors are amazing, especially the ones who play the coach (Kyle something) and his wife (Connie Britton).

Treme (drama). Amazing show about post-Katrina New Orleans, largely focused on musicians. Great guest musicians (Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Steve Earle). Awesome acting from Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce, both of whom were criminally overlooked for Emmy nominations. Also has Melissa Leo, a favorite of mine since Homicide. This show is from the same team responsible for Homicide, Oz, The Corner, The Wire, etc. -- all brilliant shows.

Mad Men (drama). Period piece about the advertising business in the early 60s. Features the wonderful Elizabeth Moss, and Robert Morse (a favorite since I was a kid).

Saturday Night Live (comedy). I never stopped watching it, even during the truly lousy seasons/casts. And the fact that it's live makes it very exciting; anything can happen. Best casts were the original, and the late 80s (Phil Hartman/Will Ferrell/Jan Hooks/Dennis Miller). Even the crappier seasons had people like Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (comedy). Because very few people are funnier than Larry David.

Weeds (comedy). Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Nealon (much funnier than he was on SNL), Elizabeth Perkins and Andy Milder -- all hilarious.

I also have a sweet tooth for true crime shows like City Confidential. A lot of them are on I.D. Discovery, which we refer to as "the murder channel." It's pretty much my default channel if I want to watch and nothing else is on.

Barry's default channel is called Blackbelt TV, and it's mostly martial arts. Yuk. The only martial arts film I really like is Enter the Dragon, because Bruce Lee is so cool, John Saxon's hair is really funny, and Jim Kelly wears the most outrageous early-seventies outfits. Well, I also like the unintentionally funny oeuvre of Jean-Claude Van Damme. I always like the ways they come up with to explain his accent. In an early one, he has a brother with an American accent, and Van Damme says something like "Too bad I was raised in Europe with father and you were raised with mother in America," to which the brother replies, "Yeah, they never could get along." There was another one where Van Damme plays twin brothers, one who's a kind of sleazy underworld dude, and one who runs a gym in LA. The advertising line was "One packs a piece -- the other packs a punch!" I once saw a poster defaced in the subway to read "One packs a piece -- the other packs a lunch!"

Which kind of reminds me...when my brother and I were kids, we had a neighbor across the hall who split up with his wife and went to Hollywood to make movies. My brother and I laughed our asses off when we saw a subway poster that said "Keep on telling yourself -- it's only a movie, it's only a movie." The movie was Last House on the Left, which makes our former neighbor Wes Craven. It always killed me because so many horror flicks feature a babysitter in peril, and I used to sit for Wes' kids. His ex-wife married singer-songwriter Tom Chapin; much of his family also lived in our building.

We even have favorite commercials these days. Barry likes the Dos Equis commercials featuring "the most interesting man in the world."

I'm partial to a new DirecTV commercial with a very nouveau-riche type Russian dude, who has a tiny pet giraffe (cat-sized) that he kisses on the lips at the end of the commercial. (Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't seem to have this one yet.)

Shows I love that are no longer on the air: St. Elsewhere. All of the Tom Fontana/David Simon shows I mentioned under Treme. Pitchmen (which will have a second season, but won't be the same without the late Billy Mays). Fridays (with young Michael Richards and Larry David). And speaking of Larry David, Seinfeld. There must be others that I can't remember. I probably watch too much TV, but I never go to the movies any more, and don't go to too many concerts, so it's a big source of entertainment.

Monday, August 2, 2010

no job yet, but good eats

I am still without a job, but still plugging away. The NYU Faculty Resources job is not yet filled, according to the website; I never got called for a second interview at the Franklin Report; and none of my references have been called for any jobs.

I did go to the first employment agency of the current job hunt, and was pleasantly surprised that they now seem to understand corporate culture. I used to tell agencies that I would do anything except banking, finance, etc., and all they would send me on were banking and finance interviews. I never got any of those jobs, and I did go to those interviews on my best behavior and in my black interview suit.

But the woman I spoke to today seemed to get it when I said I didn't want a corporate job, interviewed for some and didn't get them, temped at some and didn't like it, that I wouldn't be happy at one and they wouldn't be happy with me and it wouldn't last long. She seemed to totally get it. (In fact, when I took the typing test, the text they used was about how to understand the corporate culture of a workplace when you're interviewing.)

Sidebar: when I say "corporate culture," it means the feel of any employer: large or small, conservative or liberal, friendly or all-business, formal or casual dress. When I say I don't want a "corporate" job, I'm referring to banking, finance, hedge funds and the like, places that have a very stiff, conservative, formal corporate culture (and generally a strict dress code).

I did not wear my black suit today. I hope never to wear that black suit again. It's been my interview suit for maybe a dozen years. Today I wore Tienda Ho, but solid colors: a black top and a nut-colored skirt, nice flowy cotton/rayon stuff, and my gold Mephisto sandals. I'm sure that said a lot to the interviewer about the kind of place I'd like to work: a non-profit, something artsy or media, a small office. Ironically, I probably looked neater and tidier than I do in more formal office clothes; because of my build, skirts droop at the waist and blouses untuck, making me look fat and messy. The drapey top over the drapey skirt was more flattering and didn't lose its look, plus it was very comfortable. Mission Canyon uses a heavy rayon, and Tienda Ho uses a cotton/rayon blend that they call something like Moroccan Cotton. The two feel very similar, and the way they drape and move is just fabulous.

I did a huge supermarket shop in the past week, plus went to *two* farmer's markets (one on Cadman Plaza in downtown Brooklyn, and the big one in Union Square), so the cabinets and fridge and freezer are absolutely stuffed. I made blackberry-blueberry ice cream today.

Monday nights, Barry generally goes out to a blues jam in the Village with his friend Felix. I encourage this because he doesn't have many guy friends, and needs his guy-friend-time, plus I need some alone-at-home time. One of the best things about a night at home alone is that I can cook and eat whatever I want. I made some kale the other night, with turkey bacon and shallots and olive oil, which didn't go over too big with Barry; despite all of the flavoring, it was too bitter and too crunchy for him. So tonight, I chopped up the leftover kale (which still had quite a few shallots and bits of turkey bacon), and put it in an omelet with jack cheese, and ate it with a side of kimchi. Hoo boy, was that good! I bought the kimchi at Union Square today, and it must have been made special for "round eyes," since it was in no way as painfully hot as it was when I had it at a Korean restaurant. (Kimchi is a Korean condiment which is a fermented vegetable, usually cabbage, with a lot of hot pepper. Koreans eat it with everything, and family recipes are particularly treasured.) So the kimchi I got was made with napa cabbage, and I would have liked it even a bit spicier (I'm into hotter foods these days), but it's basically like sauerkraut with a slight peppery kick. But another lovely relish, like pickled lemons or chutney. I was hoping to score some chutney at Union Square today, but the vendor who makes it wasn't there. The Zapricot and the Cranberry Lime are amazing, and you can mail-order it. The savory jellies, like garlic, are fantastic to cook with (brush some on chicken before baking). (Just checked -- they're only at Union Square on Fridays and Saturdays).

I also bought several varieties of plums and some Jersey apricots and some donut peaches, all small, which I keep in a bowl in the kitchen and I usually eat one whenever I walk by. I always forget how much I love those teeny, juicy, sweet plums, much much better than what you find at any regular vegetable store. I bought some first-rate salad greens (red lettuce, beet greens, and another kind of kale, which I hope passes muster with you-know-who). There sure are a lot of kinds of kale. There are even a lot of kinds of basil (I bought opal). I bought a kind of summer squash called avocado squash, which is indeed green and pear-shaped, and supposedly less watery than other summer squashes. (An old college friend used to make something he simply called Veggie Dish, which was made by steaming one or more vegetables, then baking them in a casserole with worcestershire sauce and mozzarella cheese. His Veggie Dish almost always had broccoli, but since I have a non-broccoli eater living with me, I may make it tomorrow night with that avocado squash.)

I bought heirloom tomatoes (I live with a tomato maniac), and three colors of string beans -- green, yellow, and purple -- since I live with a bean lover. He loves all kinds of string beans and pod beans except that he won't touch edamame. I don't think he's tried edamame, but he won't go near it. I bought some wildflower honey from upstate the other day at Cadman Plaza, but if I'd waited until today, I could have bought NYC rooftop honey. I also bought yellow and purple bell peppers. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but that's most of it. Oh -- I bought some way expensive artisan gouda with caraway at Cadman, but it was worth every cent. (We are both in love with gouda with cumin, which you simply cannot find in the US. We had it in Aruba. Our friend Eddie, who lives there, once visited New York and brought us an entire cheese, maybe ten pounds. We love Eddie. We eventually ate the whole thing.) Barry tends to like soft, mild cheese, but I also love ripened cheeses and goat cheese.

When I had my first apartment, I cooked a lot of eggs, usually scrambled with sausage and cheese. I was 18, so I stayed amazingly thin. I don't remember much of what else I ate in that apartment, but I remember the huge pans of eggs. In my third apartment, I made enormous salads for dinner, with vast numbers of ingredients; I still have that salad bowl, which I now use to make salads for two rather than a humongous salad for one.

I should have bought cauliflower and broccoli to eat tonight. Maybe next Monday.