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Amy's Bachelorette Outing - 2014-09-14
The last lap of a long, long race - 2014-09-05
One Hot A-Fair - 2014-08-27
Can't Buy Me Love? The Beatles were a little off on that one. - 2014-08-02
Recipe Safari - 2014-07-31

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10:53 p.m. - 2014-09-14
Amy's Bachelorette Outing

I left my house! Talked with people I'm not related to! Ate vegan food! Rode the subway by myself on a Saturday night! Lost my wallet! Got it back with everything still in it! IN NYC!!! Met a slew of fabulous, interesting, educated, athletic, eclectic women! Saw world-famous art! Attended improv comedy! Ate more food! Went to a gay bar in Greenwich Village and while others sang show tunes I had a terrific conversation about recipes with a tattooed guy named Lucy who owns his own bar but looks like a tugboat captain! Laughed a lot! Talked a lot! Hugged a lot! Sweated my overlarge tushie off! Almost missed my train! But, YAY, didn't have to spend the night in Secaucus, NJ! Got home at midnight filthy, exhausted, aching, and wicked happy! Yes, yes, yes.

I'll try to roll this in reasonably chronological order, but make no promises about not wandering off point, taking odd tangents, and otherwise interrupting myself.

Yesterday was Amy's bachelorette outing. Arranged by maid of honor Nicole (who is as nice as she is beautiful) the day was cram-packed with activity. Really wonderful thing #1- finally, finally hugging Amy. We've been friends for fourteen years and yesterday was the first time we met in the flesh. I am reminded of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. Julia and Avis, like Amy and I, met by lucky happenstance via words, which evolved into a relationship built entirely on correspondence, yet despite the lack of face time they were/we are real friends. Bosom friends. Loving, supportive, intimate friends. Though unlike Julia and Avis, Amy and I have seen plenty of pictures of each other so even in the crush of the main floor of Penn Station we recognized each other straight off and I needn't worry I swooped some stranger off her feet into a big twirly hug. And imagine if I had! I could see myself stuttering, "Gomen'nasai. Sore wa subete watashi no seidesu. "* And setting down some perplexed Japanese tourist and trying to assure her that twirly hugs by ginormous gaijin is absolutely normal in New York City. (snort)

*translation: "I beg your pardon. This is all my fault."

Amy, of course, is American but her mom is Japanese and Amy takes after her in looks. This is another layer in our friendship- she and I both have immigrant parents who cherry-picked amongst the duties, customs, and prejudices of the old country and seemingly arbitrarily decided which ones to cling to and which to Americanize. Makes for some unsteady ground in figuring out just exactly who we are during our growing up years.

Sidebar- On the train from Secaucus to Penn Station coming in I got into a terrific convo with a couple from Texas. The trip is usually about 6 minutes but because the 7th Avenue bridge is being worked on we were shunted to let some rerouted trains through. So we had about 20 mins altogether and compared notes on Texas vs NY, cruises, and second marriages. Gads, I love being on my own when I go places, I have the best time chatting with strangers!

So it was at lunch. After a flurry of introductions our large group hiked off to the restaurant where Nicole had made reservations. Not really a hike for the others, extreme sport enthusiasts all, but a challenge for me. Not so much distance as speed. My NYer stride is gone. I was appalled at how difficult it was to keep up without being short of breath, sweating, or fucking up my bad leg. It was the ozone-laden filthy wet air that really did a number on me. It was just drizzly/damp enough to suspend a rainless summer's worth of pollutants and ozone at face level. It felt like the air had no oxygen, none. I was gasping like a fish by the time we got to the restaurant. I hadn't known before just how dependent I'd become on the air scrubbers in my house and car. Plus the compression garment I'd worn beneath my skirt to keep the swelling down didn't help. Not really. My leg still blew up like a balloon and I was HOT all damn day from the extra layer. (How did the pre-1970s women DO this shit? Girdles, slips, hoops, petticoats, hose, garter belts, pantaloons, crinolines, ye gods! One extra layer and I was dying.)

Anyhow, lunch. This wasn't a vegan joint, just a very nice Thai place with a veg-friendly menu. Amy thoughtfully chose a place mid-table so she could chat with all of her guests but such a large group naturally broke into smaller sets. I was on the end of the table across from Crystal (again another beauty who's brilliant, a motorcycle riding engineer, as well as terrifically nice) and our end of the table discussed motorcycles, accidents with, recovery from, and other activity borne injuries- sounds grim but was funny as hell, everybody had a "How I screwed up my bod doing something cool" story, even me! Plus we chatted about city vs burbs living and the perils of caffeine addiction. The restaurant comped us a lovely bottle of fizzy shiraz, (bubbly red wine, who knew?) and we raised a toast to our girl. Okay, fine, I had a decent swig. Sor-ree. I broke my sobriety with a tablespoon of shiraz. See above about having another meal together, plus a trip to a bar and dig this- I drank iced tea and water the whole time. I know, defensive, but I was such a stranger yesterday! They all knew each other and talked about meeting up in Prague and Phuket and Nairobi, plus their hikes and outings and going to college together and sitting in on each other's master's thesis presentations and I was this lumpy, gimpy, more than a decade older, momsy, untraveled, uneducated git who was short of breath and hadn't been on skis since 1974, so excuse the heck out of me for joining in the toast. Did I really need to ask for a flute of ice water too?

Please understand...not one of these lovely women made me feel unwanted or weird, they were polite and welcoming to a one. It is what it is though and I was definitely the odd kid out. That is until the groom-to-be's sister caught up with us at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and thus began a love affair.

Before I get to that though, the majority of the gang hung about near the Great Hall to join a highlights of the museum tour arranged by Nicole, but Amy and I struck out on our own. For one thing to get to the Jackson Pollock's in the Modernist's section, and also because Amy (generous as ever) wanted to give us some one-on-one time. The other women in our party have proximity, they have shared memories, they've adventured together, but this was our most special face-to-face first meeting and darling Amy made sure she and I got to be alone together. Which we did. We saw the art, we talked about ourselves, Amy's upcoming marriage and the changes to her and Adam's relationship. We spoke of being ex-pats and the challenges of making a living in a foreign country. Amy gave me a gentle shove toward being bolder with my art and I gave back some practical advice about living abroad. (Not that I have yet, but I do my research, plus having friends who've pitched tents in other countries and I've gleaned their experiences. I might not get out much but my friends do.)

Luckily Amy and I stumbled into the Faberge special exhibit on the way back to meet up with the rest of our gang. I was so fetched with the craftsmanship and precision of the Easter eggs! This was art! Art, which by its very nature is personal and sort of freeform, yet the Faberge was intricate master-level craft. It was artisan technique and knowledgeable skill. Such an intriguing combination of imagination and apprenticed discipline. To make such gorgeous enamels combined with jewel-smithy based on the fancies of an imaginative artist! Wow. Add in the practical aspect to make such beauty to suit a demanding buyer and it's everything I've ever thought about the junction of art and sales.

I'm not exactly sure when I misplaced my wallet but I sure as hell knew when I discovered it gone. Not long after finding Jessica, Amy's soon to be SIL, we all grouped up at the arranged meeting place in a niche of the Great Hall and digging through my purse to give another member of our group my umbrella (I had a pashmina to shed the rain and was being nice) I saw that my wallet was gone. Holy crap. All my money. My credit card. My debit card. My train ticket home. My ID- driver's license, SS card, even my goddamn Shoprite card! All gone. All the blood fell out of my brain and I nearly swooned. Everyone encouraged me to go to the information counter. Someone turned it in for sure! Yeah right. Some Good Samaritan turned in a wallet full of cash and juicy accessible ID in New York City. Uh huh. Nothing to lose I tottered over to the information counter and was promptly directed to the security area near the main entrance. Barely able to stay upright (all I could think about was the hassle and horror of cancelling my credit and bank cards, begging enough money for a train ticket home from these new acquaintances, the misery of replacing my license and all my store cards- Sam's, CVS, Shoprite, the Avenue, B&N, Dress Barn, Rite Aid- to say nothing of the loss of my lucky pennies and the photo booth pics of me of and Mick on what was the nearest thing to a honeymoon we'll ever have, fuck, my LIFE was in that wallet) I wobbled up to the security counter and explained my problem. The security guard asked me to describe my wallet (it's a bright orange oblong) and give my name. A MIRACLE! The security guy pulled my wallet out of a drawer and handed it to me. Again I came close to crumpling to the floor. It was all there. Train ticket, cash, cards, lucky pennies, all of it. Tearfully I declared I wanted to give the entirety of NYC a big kiss. Truly if I'd lost my wallet anywhere else I'd be screwed, but bless the arty, smarty, honest crowd at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Some kind soul turned my wallet in and I was saved.

I thought about karma. Turning in a lost wallet is exactly the kind of thing I'd do. I thought about how I'd rushed back to the bank to rectify a $300 mistake in my favor to spare any grief for the teller who'd flubbed. I thought about when I'd given back excess wrong change. I thought about all the chances to profit I'd bypassed and made right not because I'm so bloody wonderful but simply because I want to do right so no one else has to hurt. Yesterday I was paid back in kind. Gratifying, oh yes, but not wholly undeserved. The return of my intact wallet was simply the universe balancing itself. I got back what I've always put out. Not that I was owed so much as it was simply my turn for a mazel. Thank you, kind person who turned in my wallet. I sincerely hope when you are in need the favor is returned. I promise I'll continue to pay it forward. To be a bit Blanche DuBois about it, I have depended on the kindness of strangers and I've yet to be disappointed or left hanging.

Anyway, back to yesterday's adventures. Adam's sister. Holy crow. You know when you meet somebody and you lock eyes and there's that ZAP? An instant connection? Got that yesterday. Not that it wasn't a true pleasure to meet the rest of Amy's closest crew, it was. I can't remember the last time I was in the company of such a heady bunch of women. I'd run roll call but I'd leave someone out (by accident and bad memory for names) and I do NOT want to hurt feelings. Every single one of the lovely chicks I made acquaintance with yesterday was terrific. Smart, funny, warm, kind, and chock full of accomplishment. Nobody made me feel dumb over my lack of sheepskins or my empty passport. Or that I am fat and slow and the lone couch kitty in a group of adventurers. But Jessica and I shared a something. Non-normative females? She's bitty and cute and styling, but she's done her time as the Girl Who Doesn't Fit In just as I have. Is it a shared inability to give a warm crap what others think? Maybe it's that we both like Maybelline's #520 'Wine With Everything' lipstick and sparkly jewelry. Who knows? I don't. What I do know was that after all the PA people dashed off to make their train bringing dinner to an abrupt halt Jessica hauled me along to the Village and introduced me to a couple of her best beloveds. You just don't do that with someone who doesn't float your boat somehow.

To backtrack a bit- after the museum we went to an afternoon show of Upright Citizens Brigade. Adorable. The two crews we saw are apprentices, honing their craft during off-hour performances like the one we saw. There was some real talent there. I'm sure one or two of the players will show up on SNL eventually. Mostly I was distracted by an audience member who bore an uncanny resemblance to my nephew Jon. I swear I almost laid a squeezy hug on this kid and was primed with a momsy "Why aren't you upstate at school?" speech before I accepted that this kid had blue eyes and not the coffee bean brown of my nephew and therefor I was not allowed to chide him for any reason. Dammit. As for the show, improv is HARD, y'all. Writing humor is exhaustingly difficult, imagine trying to be funny on the instant. In front of an audience. Hokey smokes. So snaps to the earnest young people who gave us some real chuckles yesterday. Ya did good, kids.

Then it was off to dinner at Blossom. Color me stunned, it was really good. As an omnivore with zero qualms about white flour, sugar, butter, or any number of colorants and preservatives, I eat KFC, my friends, I've always been somewhat hesitant and more than a little snitty about vegan 'cuisine'. Ina Garten is my muse and Michael Symon is my favorite Iron Chef. (Okay not really, I have a major crush on Morimoto {so sexy!}, but food-wise it's Symon with his hearty, home-cookin', pork-centric approach to dining.) So to pair 'vegan' with 'cuisine' gave me the smirks. To me vegans ate fake food. Pale imitations of actual food. Sad food-like things that gave vegans something to masticate and swallow, but in no way provided true satisfaction or peace of mind or soul. Vegans are killjoys who show up at scout campfires with gluten-free rice wafers, 'marshmallows' made from nori, and carob slabs and announce they're making "s'mores"! Then when the kids cough, gag and complain the vegans cheerfully proclaim the (gag) "s'mores" are soooo healthy! YAY! (barf) "Hey, kids, who wants to toast stinky tofu?"

Imagine my surprise when the vegan food was actually decent. Not wonderful, mind you, but edible. Not entirely insulting to my mouth. Oh for sure the wine and beer menu was nine times larger than the food menu, if you can't eat real food it's for damnsure you're going to get your drink on, but Blossom did pretty good considering they had like four ingredients to work with. (Mushrooms, seitan, root veggies, and kitchen sponges.) Jessica and I split two appetizers and an entree. My 'iced tea' of the day tasted exactly like red Kool-Aid without sugar, most of the rest of the table had beer and wine with their meal, but this wasn't an option for moi.

Then as mentioned above at the end of dinner most of the folk rushed off to catch their train back to Philly and I found myself being drug off to the Village. On the subway, mind you. She who always takes a cab! Look, I am not a snob. For years and years I schlepped endless blocks or took buses and the subway when I was in the city. Then about twelve years ago it dawned on me that I only go into the city about 3, 4 times a year. And when I do it's always for fun and frivol. I'm there to enjoy, why nor splurge on cabs? I am a grown person. An old and not terribly fit one. Cabs make sense. But Jessica was adamant about taking the subway and who was I to refuse? Or make her feel like a dope and a poor person by insisting on a taxi? She has an unlimited Metro Card and is struggling along in NYC on a teacher's salary. So I bought a 2-ride Metro Card and zipped off to the Village with my new friend.

Where I met the boat captain/bar owner named Lucy, plus an opera singer, a bartender working on his master's in anthropology, and got a great recipe for vegetarian boeuf à la Bourguignonne, I kid you not. It involves stock made with squash and a sautéed eggplant instead of beef cubes.

Amy, no words for how much I enjoyed spending real-life time with you yesterday. I'm still finessing the details but will be at the wedding or die trying. Your other friends are a hoot and I cannot remember the last time I was in such varied and delightful company. Thanks for the artistic shove. Go with the elongated eye shadow, it'll look fab. Do you think Adam will mind if I do one of my twirly hugs on him? Because anyone who makes you this happy is someone I definitely want to hug.

And that, my other friends, is how I spent my Saturday.


Don't get around much, but when I do I make it count, ~LA


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