Monthly Archives: August 2012

a few moments

I got E.B. White’s essay “Here is New York” out of the Brooklyn Central Library on Sunday by utter happenstance and read it in fifteen minutes while waiting in line for a falafel truck. I almost don’t want to quote it, because I dislike those people who just mine writers for fortune-cookie-slips to stick on their fridge doors or Tumblrs or whatever, and also because I’d end up typing out the whole thing verbatim because it’s so good.

On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No on should come to New York unless he is willing to be lucky.

I drove fourteen hours, twice, back-and-forth to Chicago in a Volvo sedan nearly as old as I am and with plenty more miles. The air conditioner makes this horrible screeching sound like the carburator is falling out and the brakes are failing all at once, but only one window rolls down so what can you do. My boyfriend and I took shifts, ate string cheese, listened to the Beastie Boys. One of our many en route fights that started with my wailing about the future and its lack of promise for me ended in sync with a rainstorm, and we saw an incredible sunset over Indiana that was all bulging and purple-pink like something weird and alive.


I also did that thing where I get bored while driving and start singing snippets of whatever high-school girls’ choir songs stroll into my head–Bist du Bei Mir, the Vivaldi Gloria, Ascendit Deuses and Ave Marias and that stuff. At one point my boyfriend said, without looking up from his iPhone, “Oh, you really can sing. Usually you sound so goofy.”

Four and a half years and I’d never shown him that serious ability. But it didn’t suck when I did, so.

I spent all of last weekend in Prospect Park because I was tired of spending money and wanted to read. I bought some pears at the Farmers’ Market and finished two YA romances in a sitting. I brought my banjo but didn’t play it for three hours because I was shy and didn’t know what the protocol on being a Park Musician was but eventually I just tuned up and plowed through “Soldier’s Joy” and no one cared, even though that song is actually about morphine addiction. Pears, apparently, taste waxy and awful.

Then a bunch of Park Slope kids detached from their parenting pod and starting ripping up handfuls of grass to throw on me.

One of the stay-at-home-dads noticed and chided his spawn: “Sebastian, stay on this side of the tree.”

I’ve always wanted to name my Sims my son Sebastian and now the name is forever sullied by this little shit. Another argument for early banjo exposure in babies.

On the train home yesterday a boy got on with his grandmother at Canal Street holding a plastic bag with a goldfish in it. (Didn’t even know they were still giving those out for prowess in ring toss!) He was telling another little boy nearby about it (how he won it with fourteen tokens, how you have to take care of them, how they can die really easy but not as easy as turtles) but his voice was, I think, loud enough for my benefit, as I was reading Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions on my Kindle a few poles away and still got all the details. I could see he had the greatest eyelashes, the kind of thick line of black fringe that I’m always trying to coax out with sticky mascara and liner.

“You’ve got great eyelashes,” said the other little boy’s mom, like there’d been a train-wide brainwave about it.

“Yup. And I’m never gonna cut ’em!”

“I don’t think you can cut them,” his grandmother said.

“Well, I’m not gonna. Did you know they make fake things to make your eyelashes longer? Not fair!” he crowed.

And they do! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I loved this kid. I’m never gonna cut my eyelashes either.

survival strategies

There’s a lot of things about summer internships that are analogous to summer camp. The uncomfortable beds, the in-the-trenches camaraderie with your fellows, the mentors that seem impossibly mature despite being only five years older, the bonfires and weenie roasts, etc. But unlike Camp Firstbasawassa, internships do not have a mess hall where you can line up for your thrice-daily dose of chicken tenders and chocolate milk. And if you’re working hard, and also broke, it’s hard to afford or remember to eat.

This is bad! You need to do it! What would the cool counselor with a hair wrap and camp-mandated long socks to hide her ankle tattoo say if she knew you were getting by on free break-room coffee and single-serving bags of Pirate’s Booty? You can’t be at the top of your interning game if you are starving. Maintaining stable blood sugar (and caffeine levels) is very important, but also very hard on a tiny budget and a sublet/dorm kitchen. I love cooking, but for whatever reason, having an Actual Job saps me of any desire to make stuff. But don’t let something like that stop you! Your resume says you’re detail-oriented and resourceful, after all.

you too can eat food that is not processed or disgusting or from a street cart!

You are going to have to cook for yourself, but in this case “cooking” means “chopping and occasionally boiling something or opening a can.” All you will really need is a way to boil water, a sharp knife, and assorted vessels to hold things (bonus points for a frying pan, but not strictly necessary). Take this shopping list as a template (meaning add in things you like and swap out stuff you hate) and watch it morph into many flexible meals. It’s also vegetarian, for simplicity’s sake, but if you really need meat, throw in some deli slices or precooked sausages or whatever. It will be more expensive, though.

  • Ground coffee
  • Milk of choice
  • Eggs
  • [Greek] yogurt
  • Bread product of choice (bagels, sandwich, pita, baguette, etc.)
  • Grain product of choice (rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, etc. Trader Joe’s sells some that are pre-cooked and frozen, if all you have is a microwave)
  • Legume protein of choice (beans, chickpeas, edamame, etc.)
  • Assorted vegetables you like to eat raw (tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, salad greens, etc. This would be something you could get at the farmers’ market)
  • Fruit types for snacks (again, farmers’ market! It is the cheapest and also best)
  • Lemons
  • Parsley, cilantro, dill, or another herb you like for salads
  • Cheese (I like having feta or goat for salads and also cheddar to just eat pieces of)
  • Avocado (optional but delicious)
  • Olive oil & salt & pepper (you may already possess)

Okay, see? Not too much! The gameplan is thus: a salad that will feed you for days. The formula is as follows:

[protein] + [grain] + [chopped vegetables] + [something creamy] + [chopped herb] + [lemon juice] + [oil, salt, pepper]

Not hard! Follow my lead. The hardest part is cooking up four-five servings of your grain (but see above re: prefab options). “Something creamy” refers to cheese or avocado, depending on what I have on hand. Also, sometimes I forget the herb altogether. Here are some combinations I have done:

  • Edamame, brown rice, radishes, cucumbers, avocado
  • Chickpeas, quinoa, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta
  • Black beans, brown rice, bell peppers, scallions, avocado
  • Hard-boiled eggs, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, arugula
  • Black-eyed peas, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, haberneros (!!) (pictured above)
Once you have produced this several-portioned salad, pack it up in leftover takeout containers and stash it in your office fridge. Take advantage of that thing–lunch will await you there! I also keep my yogurt and fruit there so I can eat something quickly at 12:30 and put off lunch for three more hours while I fact-check. And! If you go to the farmers’ market en route to work, you can keep your kale in the fridge all day and no one will think you’re weird (yes they will)
As for the other meals in your life, I’ve covered breakfast elsewhere, and dinner can be whatever you have left at home that you haven’t yet eaten that day (scrambled eggs on toast! A grilled cheese sandwich! Frozen potstickers with that kale you bought! A bowl of popcorn and some whiskey!) Or, if you want to rationalize eating out, packing your lunch is a good way to do it. It’ll be expensive, but still better than the steam-table chicken nuggets of your youth.