Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm not gender confused, these are just my dog walking clothes.

As a chick, living in the Northwest, winter is a constant battle between function and fashion.   I am somewhat challenged in the style department even in the best of times, when the weather is mild; throw in multiple months of cold rain, wind, snow, and the suicide-educing grey sky, I am as good as fugly.    I’d say my ugliest, most gender-neutral fashion crimes are committed between November and March, usually when I am attempting to give my beloved 4-legged child the life he deserves.  

I was again forced to acknowledge this ugly truth this past week when I took Riley for a walk.   I had just worked a full day, sat in traffic for an hour, and was staring down another mile long “to-do” list.    While it would have been easy to succumb to the pressure of life and/or the desire to put my sweat pants on and resign to the couch.  I decided that my dog would get the attention, affection and love due him (as Prince of the Universe).  Since the sun was shining on this particular day, a rarity in February, the choice seemed to be made for me.

I quickly tossed my heals, stripped off my work clothes, and redressed in my dog-walking apparel.    By this I mean: dirty jeans from the hamper (complete with wine & cheese remnants from the night before), a thermal shirt with a t-shirt over the top (classic NW hipster look), Ugg boots, puffy knee-length down jacket (hood up), and of course my Washington Husky gloves.    Any ounce of femininity was completely lost in the marshmallow jacket, and hood.

Riley had a menacing look in his eye, so I made sure to snatch a couple extra poop bags on my way out the door, just to be safe (Riley never tires of mocking me by insisting on pooping one time more than the amount of bags I happen to be carrying).    Off we went, we roamed the neighborhood parks, and managed to hit all of our favorite sniff & pee spots (yes! sometimes I lift my leg on the play structure too).   I decided since it wasn’t raining that we’d walk down to Whole Foods and grab a couple items for dinner.  Normally I wouldn’t venture anywhere other than the dog park in my she-man, granola crunching outfit, but the idea of food trumped my vanity.  

I arrived at Whole Foods, tied Riley to the bike rack, gave him a pep talk about talking to strangers, and headed into the store.  Normally, I would say the hipster look is safe in Whole Foods.  I mean really, even A-list celebrities look as if they just rolled out of a dumpster when they are photographed coming out of Whole Foods.   And hello, this is the Pacific Northwest! We love to dress ugly and look like we don’t bathe- which seems to be especially true for the rich and uber successful.  In fact, this may be my day to be mistaken for an up-and-comer or a huge executive.  “Here I am, a VIP from fill-in-the-blank major company located somewhere between the Silicon Valley and Seattle.”  Ohhh, I could actually see the cartoon thought bubble forming over my head as I pondered perfect strangers contemplating whether or not my existence was worthy of their envy.

However, my cartoon thought bubble quickly burst as I was faced with two glaring weaknesses to my “it’s ok to look like you are gender confused and homeless while shopping at Whole Foods” defense. The two exceptions to my way of thinking are Hot Guy/Girl Gym Worshiper and Suburban Botox Beast.  

I don’t know if this is true for you, but in my neighborhood at least, hot gym worshipers seem to stop by for a post-workout snack from the deli.   These Ken and Barbie types always look flawless, smell like perfume/cologne and have perfectly tossed hair.  This strikes me as peculiar as after I work out, I look/smell more like a wet dog who just barely survived a tsunami.  The Kens and Barbies usually travel in packs, so as to constantly have someone to admire their flawlessly toned bodies, designer workout gear, perfect pony tails, and the outline of their penises through their gym shorts (girls and guys respectively).  I am not a fan of the Whole Foods’ post-workout gym rat infestation.   

The other exception to my “it’s ok if you can’t tell if I’m male or female, rich or poor while I’m shopping at Whole Foods” defense, is the rich desperate housewives from the surrounding suburban nightmare.  These botoxed beasts descend from their hilltop thrones to buy overpriced groceries, anti-aging ointments, and pills.    They are rarely friendly. And why should they be? They are starving, not to mention completely exhausted from waging a losing war against age.  Battling age is hard for the healthiest of athletes… how would a malnourished Real Housewife ever really stand a chance?

Well, other than these two exceptions, my thinking holds true- the Whole Foods scene resembles an episode of Portlandia more than anything else.

I started in the produce section, then made my way to the wine & cheese section (my pants were already hosting Manchego and Pinot Noir remnants – so why not?), before rounding the corner to the deli. And there they were… the gorgeous gym rats, looking fabulous and ordering their tofu and veggies, while I looked like the Michelin man (emphasis on the man) with a basket full of calories.     Don’t get me wrong, I am comfortable being in the presence of those who are skinnier, prettier, richer, and more put together (it happens often).  But as they looked at my haggard appearance with disgust, I didn’t feel they had an accurate picture of the person they were judging.     So I did the natural thing and contemplated ways to show them I was not as hideously manly as I appeared.  I took my gloves off, this way they could see my fresh shellac manicure. (If it wouldn’t have made me look insane I would have found an excuse to take my Uggs off so they could see my pedicure as well.)    I then pulled my hair back so they could admire my recent brow job (my shape was extra perfect this visit).  Sure, I may have been covered in dog hair, and had snot frozen to my upper lip from walking for a mile in the 28 degree weather, but I was well groomed dammit! I was not a second class citizen.  

Since they hadn’t recognized my greatness by now, surely they would now that they were standing behind me in line and could see the labels on my clothes.   I knew their air of arrogance would quickly turn to a fog of desperate longing for my could-be millionaire approval.   As the cashier tallied my items, I knew I was about to win over their affection, and finally have their approval- how could I not?

Just as I was finally receiving vindication for being so grievously misjudged, the cashier said, “Your total is $26.71”…  All of a sudden I felt blood rushing to my face, as I realized I didn’t have my wallet, or any money.  What the heck was I thinking??  I had only intended to take Riley to the park, Whole Foods was an afterthought.  This was so unlike me… it must have been the fugliness seeping into my brilliant brain.   Alas, all my efforts in the past 3 minutes to prove my awesomeness to complete strangers had been in vain!!!

I sheepishly explained the oversight to the cashier, asked him to hold my items for 20 minutes and assured him I would return.    Riley and I walked home (hungry), and returned 23 minutes later.   The extra three minutes were well spent- before returning with my debit card to collect my over-priced groceries, I made certain to put on my best workout clothes, make the perfect ponytail, and spray some expensive perfume.   I may not have received an endorsement from the Kens and Barbies, but Riley’s tail wagged with approval.  Hah!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scenes worth seeing in NYC

The view from the train coming into the city as the sun was setting

                                           Time Square                                             Radio City Music Hall                      
                             (where I lust after the anchors of                       located in Rockefeller Center
                                   Good Morning America)

      (Left) Decided I would take a picture of this tunnel while jogging through Central Park. 
 I suppose it is a cool looking structure, but I think I was really just wanting to take a break from my run.
(Right) The Plaza - couldn't resist taking a picture of this famous NY location (and I didn't mind 
strolling by all the high-end shops and drooling over their window displays).  I could 
actually taste the discontentment as I lusted after the shoes, handbags, beauty products and clothes.

Notice the Empire State Building
poking its head in the background
This picture was taken from the High Lines
 (definitely worth the walk).

I could seriously spend days walking up and down the neighborhoods streets.  There is something so fascinating about seeing how other people live and "do life".  These are townhouses I found to be quite adorable in the West Village - LOVE THE RED DOOR!

                        I bet the greenery is                                            I love the red window panes
                   gorgeous in the spring time                                        on these SoHo apartments

Even my heart of stone turns sentimental when it comes to my country.   

While I was nursing a food coma/hangover
this fire escapewas shaming me to get
 off my butt and go exercise.  I think if 
I lived in the city I would use my fire 
escape as alow-budget StairMaster.

The most badass driving range EVER!!!!
These two photographs are at the 9/11 Memorial.  

The Brooklyn Bridge (from the river).

View from the train
somewhere around New Haven
(classic rich people vacation homes).

Capitol building in Providence, RI
(view from the train station)
if you were to turn slightly
to the left there is an even more
spectacular view of Nordstrom

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New York Nibbles - Hey Chubba-Bubba, Don't You Know There is More to Do in This City Than Eat?

This yummy glass of calorie-filled goodness is a Georgia Crisp (Vodka, Lime, Fresh Peach Puree, Topped with Champagne).   Perfect for any fatty looking to enjoy a fruity drink with their brunch.
Can be found in the West Village / Meatpacking District at  

 You should never drink (in the morning) on an empty stomach.  Solution???
 A meat & cheese board of course! Aged Gouda, Fontina Val D’ Aosta, Black Forest Ham & Biellese Salami with Cucumber, Tomato, Bread & Vermont Butter.

Left:  Any place that literally has meat hanging from the walls is definitely home to me!
Right:  Marinaded Hanger Steak Salad with Arugula & Black Olive Salsa Verde

Left:  Handmade Ravioli Stuffed with Butternut Squash (found at a hole-in-the-wall in Little Italy)
Right:  One of my favorite desserts of all time Café Affogato (gelato & espresso)
The name literally means "drowned in coffee" and it is uh-mazing!

This will be a simple one to make at home.   My gluttony actually subsided for one meal!
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Plate with Feta, Cucumber, Sun Dried Tomato, and Pita Bread - yum! - Upper West Side

                                                        Cafe Cluny - West Village
                       Who says having a cocktail                               Pumpkin & Goat Cheese Fritters
                  at noon on a Monday is a problem?                (with warm lentil salad & smoked paprika)

Friday, February 3, 2012

When breaking a store’s merchandise becomes therapeutic

Recently while in a quaint boutique, I watched a woman accidently bump a piece of merchandise off a shelf. Initially, I felt bad for her, as the item broke into 3 pieces on the stone floor.  However, a sense of justice suddenly came over me once I realized that the shattered item was a glass duck.

It’s not that I hate ducks on their own merit; I mean really, why would I?  What did any member of the Anatidae family of birds ever do to me?   While they have done nothing to me directly, symbolically they represent everything!

Crime Scene Photo 
Sure, ducks appear cute, but they are not entirely innocent on their own right.  As children, there was an incident involving my brother that taught me this lesson.   The poor lad didn’t even see the evil webbed-footed beast coming.  My brother Matt, an angelic toe-headed boy, was enjoying his youthful innocence on a sunny day in a New York city park, when a sinister keratin-billed quack bit him repeatedly after he ran out of bread crumbs.   At the time, I assumed this future North Face jacket assaulted my brother because it was a Long Island duck, not because it was within its very nature to be diabolical. What can I say? Only that I was naïve.  If only I knew then, what I know now.       
* Strike 1 for the duck*

Despite the attack on my brother, my hatred of ducks didn’t start developing until adolescence. During this stage of life, my mother (endearingly referred to as Crazy Horse by all 4 of her children) decided to muddle with nature.   She did this under the guise of an experiment for my youngest brother’s science fair project.  The project involved imprinting baby ducks, and seeing if they would bond to different stimuli. This required that several ducklings would be hatched in our home.  This would not be a bad idea if you were a run-of-the-mill animal enthusiast.   However, this was (and is) NOT the case with my mom. She is an over-the-top animal lover, knowing no bounds or limits!  She is one of those people who doesn’t quite accept that there are more than just aesthetic differences between humans and animals.   Suffice it to say that she came by her name Crazy Horse honestly.  I suppose, in hindsight, we should have foreseen what would follow this “science experiment”. 

Further, when I reflect on the decorations in my childhood home, one resounding theme arises– DUCKS!  Glass ducks, duck wall art, duck plates, duck linens, duck everything.   It was the late 80s – early 90s, and all things “country” were filling homes everywhere.   I didn’t make the connection until years later, but it definitely appears that my mom was laying a subtle but sure foundation for her quack-like behavior to come.

So now, in her duck decorated home, she had come to possess actual ducks. I recall that the emotional bond between my mom and one particular duck was very mother/child like. Sure enough, that duck, named Aflac, soon became the recipient of all my mom’s emotional affection and tangible love.   The duck ate better, dressed better, and received far more attention than my three brothers and I combined.   While we were downgraded to red-headed-stepchild status, and left to fight over scraps of old bread- the duck was treated as the sacred first born, eating filets, and taking daily trips to Starbucks (even wearing a mom-made diaper).   The absurdity of how Aflac was loved and treated is still a subject of much mockery to this day among my siblings.  We have vivid fabricated memories of being forced to sleep outside in the snow, while Aflac slept inside by the fire.  Our faces pressed against the ice-covered window, begging for blankets, while Aflac complained about how hot the fireplace made his down feathers.   Our malnourished bodies wasting away as we shared scraps of food found in the neighbor’s garbage like Tiny Tim, while Aflac’s gluttony was flaunted before our eyes with a mocking quack.    We had to work like Cinderella, while Aflac dictated from his throne… oh yes - the tyranny of Aflac was a dark time in our family history.

All this to say, my brothers and I were not devastated in the least upon learning of Aflac’s untimely passing several years later.  Happily, most of the emotional damage that stemmed from our mother loving the duck more than us has been repaired.   However, even now, any time any of us sees a duck, we still feel phantom pains where the scars once were.    
* Strike 2 for the duck*

Regardless of the duck-related tragedies of my youth, the fate of “all ducks in general” wasn’t sealed in my mind until a certain floundering college football team in Hippie Town, Oregon, practically transformed college football after being bankrolled by the 1959 alumni Phil Knight in the late 90s.   Prior to the financial backing from Uncle Phil, the Oregon Ducks had a consistent record of accomplishing nothing for the past 100 years (sans a Sun Bowl win in 1963, and a Independence Bowl win in 1989).  However, with Knight contributing more than $300 million to the athletic department at the University of Oregon over the past decade and a half, it is no mystery as to why Oregon has such a ridiculous advantage, and has become THE force to be reckoned with in college football… Then again, if any other team were given unlimited resources and a blank check, we’d see the same result. 

Now, if Oregon just took the benevolent provision and unmatched advantages with grace, gratitude and poise, it would be easy to rejoice along side the dominating football team.  But the Oregon Ducks, as well as their thug fans, don’t have even a touch of class.  They are arrogant, rude, and seem to forget that they are not a self-made team. They may dress, live, and have the following of kings.  But they have the heart and class of carnies.   Similar to welfare queens who win the lottery, and instantly think they are high-class.  You can take the trash out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the trash.   
*Strike 3 for the duck*

It seems to me that violence, emotional neglect, and arrogance are all things the world could use less of… So is it really any wonder that the sight of a glass duck, lying in three pieces, seems to bring about a sense of healing?