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Advertisement in the New Yorker, late 1950s

I have entire notebooks I haven’t put online. Scary, huh?

This website serves three purposes–in it, I have a travel journal/album, an excuse to practice the art of the word, and a portfolio of writing samples. I don’t expect anyone to read all of it–“I ate a lambchop and it was delicious!”–I just like doing it, and more than that, I like having it.

These are more stories from the past year that I’ll need help remembering one day.

(No January story, but I remember it as a good month.)

February: Best time to take out the trash


Credit: David Kozlowski

There was an entire trip to Dallas that I didn’t blog. I should have–a rather curious thing happened. A violent storm swept through the city in the evening following my event, and the front made for a brilliantly sunny, crisp winter day. I worked through the morning without breakfast, packed my suitcase, checked out of the Hyatt Reunion Tower, and drove the short distance to Stephan Pyles for lunch. Dinner can be formidably pricy (if done right!), but lunch (especially with no breakfast) was a reasonable meal to expense. I had gnocchi and, I believe, free dessert. I was interested in seeing the Dallas Museum of Art, which happened to be a stone’s throw from the restaurant. I walked through an open gate into a small sculpture garden and into the museum.

I was trying very hard not to spend money (which is practically impossible) and did not have much time to explore before I needed to leave for the airport, so I figured I would look through exhibit brochures then decide whether or not to purchase an admission ticket. I thought it was odd for there not to be a welcome desk (where I might pay for a ticket) and proceeded to wander in search of one, then let myself be distracted by the art–particularly Phil Collins’ “the world won’t listen”, a video installation of Smiths fans around the world performing karaoke of the band’s work.

I still wonder why the gate to the garden was open; I like to think they were just taking out the trash. Whatever the reason, I am so grateful.

March: Best reason not to leave Charlottesville

My friend Juan invited me to Mas Tapas for dinner at the chef’s table. We would be the guests of owner/genius Tomas Rahal, and as I understood it, he would share his favorite dishes, and with them, the history and technique of Spanish cuisine. Tomas seated me and Juan at the bar, at his mercy–it’s the best restaurant in Charlottesville, and we had the best seats in it. We ate and drank for hours. I am writing this nine months later than I should have, but it remains to be a humbling experience in ways I can’t explain…

Tomas posted the menu on his website at http://www.mastapas.com/news.

April: Best communal living


Credit: Meolamedia

I flew out to LA to see a friend in the beginning of the month. (Not the first time, and not the last.) We were tipped off to the Brewery, the world’s largest artist colony, open to the public on that particular weekend for its twice-annual ArtWalk. More than 1,200 artists live and work there… supposedly… according to the website which also announces an upcoming event in 2004. But there were definitely more than 100 artists who opened their studios to the public, and many put out hors d’oeuvres and/or cheap wine, which, when free, is my favorite kind. (Celebrity sighting: Scott Speedman, aka Ben from Felicity!) Tough to get on a red-eye (with two long layovers I’d rather forget) after a day like that.

May: Best welts

Ever since my college PE class in figure skating, I’ve loved being on ice. So when I took off the twinkle-toe skates and traded them for sneakers and a plastic “broom,” I wasn’t surprised that I fell in love with the team sport broomball. I should have worn knee and elbow pads, but hey–I was proud of my bruises. And I think I grew a chest hair that day.

May was a pretty exciting travel month, too, and while there were no bruises, I think the tornadoes on the road trip left me a little bit emotionally scarred. You can read about it here.

June: Best “Gilligan’s Island” scare

It was our last day on the Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic Sea. My mom and I were on a boat in a fjord in Montenegro with a half-dozen other tourists–and a boat captain and two guides who could not care less about whether or not we were having fun or learning something. (However, to their credit, they brought at least a bottle of wine for every person and served us grilled whole fish. This goes very far with me.) The day was surprisingly gray and chilly, so my mom and I didn’t think we would have the opportunity to swim off the boat–that is, until the sky turned black with thunder and lightening, rain poured, and the boat rocked for more than an hour. We hated that we would lose all of our photographs if we ended up in the water, but my mom and I agreed that we valued our lives dearly and set a meeting place on shore (pointing at a landmark, really) if the boat should capsize. The storm eventually moved on, and we were soaking wet when we got off the boat, but we had our photos. See above.

July: Highest high

I don’t smoke the ganja, so no. Just, no.

In the beginning of the month, I was driving from Charlottesville to Fredericksburg and decided to stop in at Sky Dive Orange to see my instructor from the previous year’s jump (who I may or may not have dated a few times). I was arriving later than I said I would, and he was in a hurry to get in an airplane, so he couldn’t talk. “But hey–do you want to fly the airplane?” he asked, as though asking me if I like pizza. I actually hesitated! But yes, I co-piloted for about 20 skydivers at 11,000 feet, and I did not see it coming when, after everyone was out, the pilot began a fast nosedive to spiral the plane out of the sky. It’s a great way to save gas and make me really happy.

In a 22 day period starting in mid-July, I slept in my bed only 4 days, between four trips to Milwaukee, Denver, Louisville, Lexington, New Orleans, and Chicago. This means that I was in airplanes all the time. Little tiny ones with huge propellers that make you feel like your body is still vibrating three hours after you disembark.

And my favorite event I ever planned was in Louisville. I recruited a U.Va. alum, now a physics professor at the University of Louisville who studies planetary meteorology, to do a talk about weather in the Solar System for area alumni and families. I served Starbust and Milky Way candies. I loved it.

August: Best recoveries from worst wardrobe malfunctions

I was in Chicago on business, and it was the end of the trip. I befriended Kanye West’s assistant, Barry, while texting outside the after-party for his Lollapalooza performance, and we eventually crossed paths with Kanye himself. I hadn’t packed “clubby” clothes (because I don’t own “clubby” clothes), so I was wearing a red cotton sundress with big red buttons and a white and black striped belt… with one strap stapled on to hold it up. I looked like I belonged on a small-town dinner theatre stage in “Oklahoma!”, not at a rap superstar party. But Kanye was into it.

That’s not all.

Trader Joe’s is awesome. Where else can I get an amazing shiraz for $2.99 a bottle and a package of chocolate covered edamame for $5.99 that completely cancels out the money saved by purchasing cheap wine? The only problem with Joe is that he doesn’t live anywhere near me. I tried bringing 2-Buck Chuck (2BC) home from San Diego a year before and ended up with broken glass and purple clothes, so you’d think I’d learn–but no. I attempted it again coming home from Chicago. I did learn, however, how to get red wine out of white clothes the second time.

September: Best barriers between predators’ carnal instincts and my head

I went to San Diego for a friend’s bachelorette party, and she arranged for us to do a sea kayak tour of the La Jolla coves with the opportunity to swim with leopard sharks. Was I in? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? I couldn’t see any sharks while I was snorkeling but I saw several a few feet below my kayak afterwards in clearer water. They’re freaking BIG! I’m glad I didn’t see anything, swimming right over packs of sharks in shallow, murky water with nothing to protect me from their jaws, perfectly evolved to tear flesh like a fruit roll-up. A friend in LA (same friend) joined me the following day, and we went to the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. There were very high fences between us and the animals, because lions only look like they’re smiling when the teeth come out.

Okay. I’ll concede that maybe leopard sharks don’t eat people.

October: Best spaghetti

New York. Spaghetti with ketchup at a sushi bar, with, of course, some pig in it.

November: Best history lesson (really interesting!)

On some Thursdays, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC holds “Power Hours.” Those lucky enough to secure reservations enjoy two glasses of good wine and a generous plate of hors d’oeuvres, and a ticket to the current exhibit in the main gallery for a cost that neither the Corcoran staff nor my parents would tell me but what my dad would later call “worth it.”

When I saw a banner for Richard Avedon’s “Portraits of Power” exhibit stretching around the building on a day trip into the city, I knew I wanted in. My persistence paid off–after three calls, I made reservations for my parents and me. My dad and I toured the gallery together, and we came into a room where a photograph of the Chicago Seven was blown up to larger-than-life-size proportions and hung opposite a similarly sized photograph of the Mission Council, the men behind the Vietnam War. (My dad gave me a 30-second refresher course in history.) The juxtaposition of the two groups was intense for me and immensely so for my dad, who was 17 years old in 1968 when these groups were at their most influential.

The security guard volunteered a story for us. When the exhibit opened, one of the Chicago Seven toured the gallery in a large group and, when he arrived at the photo and looked up, he admitted to the curator that it was he who was photographed. Apparently, he doesn’t have much recollection of the photograph being taken. When he arrived at Avedon’s studio, he recalls, the group was invited to help themselves to an extensive bar. I could just imagine it. “Please, this is here for you, don’t hold back…”

The Post has a great review of the exhibit here.

December: Best reminders of why I used to love Charlottesville so much

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I submitted my letter of resignation from my job three days before we entered the “worst financial crisis since the Great Depression” in September. I moved home to Fredericksburg with the expiration of my lease, and I return to Charlottesville weekly to see friends, review restaurants, and bring my cheese passport to Feast for a monthly adventure in a year of cheese. (Thank you, Juan!)

Over the two years I was working in Charlottesville in alumni relations, I wondered what I used to do when I had free time as a college student. The longer I lived in the same city in a different context, the less I could remember my student experience. I certainly didn’t go to a wine bar to read or exercise by sitting on a stationary bicycle…

No longer absorbed in the stress of my adult working life, I can finally reconnect with the joys of my student life. As a visitor to Charlottesville, now, I often get a few hours to myself between get-togethers with friends, and I have remembered how I used to stay healthy.

I went to Alderman Library, old stacks, bottom floor, and read the New Yorker in the 1950s and 1960s. I even took some pictures on my phone of particularly clever passages (see below). I don’t know when during my four years at U.Va. I started doing this–was it after my first-semester seminar on the ’60s with Julian Bond or after I “borrowed” the New Yorker from that office and decided I should subscribe?–but I remember bringing a bag of Swedish fish and yogurt-covered pretzels from Pav 10 with me or else running uphill (so-help-me-God running uphill) from Arch’s Ice Cream on the corner to the library with a large Wow Cow and extra rainbow sprinkles. (I decided the diet dessert was inedible last year, but my body will be processing those chemicals for the next 20 years given how much of it I consumed.)

New Yorker Cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s usually make sense to me and occasionally apply to current events. I get a kick out of the generation gap between the disciplined writers and their kin, survivors of the aforementioned Great Depression (which one can only hope will remain the greatest), and the irreverent baby boomers they could barely acknowledge they were rearing. Today, baby boomers seem a bit nervous about my selfish generation funding their federally subsidized retirements. They might be right to be concerned.

The New Yorker is just timeless. I like imagining my grandmother reading those very pages, feeling perfectly sophisticated and worldly, when she was my age. She’s not the reason I started reading the magazine, but she is the reason I revere it.

On a different December visit to Charlottesville, I brought my figure skates and went ice skating. I mentioned this in my May entry–as a third year (junior), I took lessons for PE credit, and my instructor said I was–this was definitely a first–a natural. I practiced every few months until graduation, and twice when I lived in Austin. (That particular rink was amazing–iPods were allowed, and there was something particularly cool about knowing it was 100 degrees outside.) But in two years working in Charlottesville, not once.

As part of the class, I was given a booklet of coupons for free public skating sessions at the local ice rink. Through two relocations, the booklet has stayed with my Passport and Social Security card as something flammable I keep in a safe place in case I should ever need it. The ice rink still accepts the coupons, four years later, faded and discolored with stains, and as the expression “like riding a bicycle” goes, I took to my ice skates again faster than I ever have after a few years off a bicycle.

Of course, the only people who actually go ice skating in the middle of the day on a Wednesday are the teen girls with Olympic aspirations. When I walked in and saw them doing axels and toe loops, my 20 year-old self’s “Oh my God I can’t go out there because they’ll think I’m pathetic and laugh at me” had worn off. The beauty of aging is that I didn’t care what they thought of my nervous slow turns and two-footed spins (which I would perfect to high speed and one foot in the course of three sessions). I hoped that they would see me and be grateful they got started young.

When I went in for a second skating session, there was a woman twice my age practicing her spirals, and I thought she was so cool.

Roger W. Jones, Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, said today the money shortage would probably require the elimination of this winter. –The Times

We’re for it.

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Just endearing, a piece about the coming extinction of tripe in the US. I like tripe, and I think it is so weird that Americans think Taco Bell ground beef is less scary than a good stomach lining.

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Dear Mr. C___:

I’m certain that you have better things to do than fill out questionnaires for crackpot professors…. –Letter received by a man in Ann Arbor.

Not at all, Stupid. Let’s have ’em.

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There were other attractions on the program, notably the wondrous CPEE Bach orchestral concerto, but there is no doubt that the Martinu Concerto is to recent efforts in the field what the Martinu Symphony is to recent efforts in the field what the Martinu symphonies. That is to say, the best.

–We get you.

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Hoo-Mee Brand Chow Mein Mix is the original chow mein mix, packaged since 1926, for home preparation by the housewife. The ingredients contained in this package will make a delicious meal of chow mein, of the type generally served in the better Chinese restaurants of south-eastern Massachusetts–Label on a package of chow mein
The gastronomical belt.

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Ha!

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FOR EACH DOLLAR
YOU SPEND HERE
You’ll receive 25 cents in Merchandise.
Advertisement in Olympia, Washington.
–That’s an old story with us.

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