Friday, October 29, 2010

One-liners (2)

Life is beautiful

but the world is hell.

-- Harold Pinter, quoted by his wife Antonia Fraser in her memoir "Must you go?"

One-liners (1) or Manifesto

have decided
to be happy
because it
makes me


{I was inspired by this post by Jane.}

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Off the wagon and back on again

No don't worry it's not that kind of thing...

But this week the flugelbindery sent me on a flash trip to DC, and for a few minutes here and there I felt like an addict reintroduced to the drug you've learned to love and hate. Though not in the big leagues of work travelers, I've done my share of the shuttle: New York - Boston was a weekly ritual for a long while, and then NY - DC as well and of course monthly trans-Atlantics for a few years. I had the uncomfortable feeling of recognizing the old me in some of my fellow passengers: shuttle veterans who know the flight staff, regulars who know exactly what they're going to drink or which snacks they like and exactly how many. Not unlike George Clooney in Up in the Air, I quickly recovered my instincts for going through all the security screening without missing a beat. Even the slightly antiseptic, stale smell of the aircraft seemed vaguely comforting and familiar. In short, I was off the wagon.

But then this morning as I woke at 5 am just a few minutes before my alarming was going to ring (yes, that is the worst part; I get so wound up that I end up waking up before the alarm no matter what time I set it to...), the charm had worn off and I was happy to be heading home.

Actually I'm staying in Boston this weekend, and the weather is getting cold, so it could well be one of those stay at home, cook, Netflix, cheese and wine kind of weekends. A good antidote to a hectic week...

*         *         *

When I travel, the people I admire are those who are beautifully composed, present (i.e. not distracted or frazzled), focused, and uncluttered. The last is the one I wish I could achieve the most, because if I weren't so cluttered, I wouldn't be frazzled, and I would certainly look better composed... I always aspire to travel with nothing in hand. I did do this once on a trip to India, and it was magnificent (but I was staying at home there, so it was possible). But somehow by the time add my computer and the basic clothing, it's already too much. Perhaps one day they'll invent a way to travel with nothing in hand. No clothes, no cellphones, no travel guides or work files weighing you down. Just your hands by your side,  your eyes watching, your ears listening to the sounds around you, and your mind enjoying it all.



You decide (6)

Order, chaos, or harmony?


Friday, October 15, 2010

When the weather is grey (an afternoon indulgence)

When the weather is grey, and I've almost tamed the beast of work (or let's just say worked hard enough to put it to sleep for a few hours), and I've managed to elude guilt for an afternoon, I allow myself the occasional indulgence of an afternoon at the cinema. And one of the pleasures of New York is that you get to see things before almost anyone else (except of course your friends who frequent film festivals). Clint, Matt, here I come...



You decide (5)

Bizarre, beautiful, or both?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


As they say in Hollywood, I am humbled.

No, what I mean is that I am honored and touched to be included in such fine company by Jude, whose blog I love reading -- I know I have a smile in store for me when I see that she has a new post up, whether it's a musing, a picture of Hawaii, or a recipe...

I am supposed to write about 10 things that I love. I'm not sure which way this list will go, but let's start and see:

Over the last few years I have developed a (small) obsession with (veggie) burgers. It might seem strange for a vegetarian to obsessed with burgers, but really I have my mother to credit or blame. She makes the tastiest veggie burgers: a potato, carrot, and pea patty filled with delicious Indian spices, and served on a bun with onion and green chutney. (A good reminder -- I've got to ask my mother for the recipe.) It's gotten to the point that I'll even eat the bland oat and who-knows-what veggie burgers you get in bars.

Over the last two months I have fallen for Toscanini's Ice Cream in Cambridge. Toscanini has been in Cambridge as long and longer than I've been here. But when I first moved here I was very much a gelato person. I still am. But recently I came to realize that American ice cream, if made by mad geniuses, can be a wonderful thing in its own distinct way. I don't go for the traditional flavors here, but their kulfi (which is Indian ice cream - somehow they transform it into ice cream exploding with cardamom flavor), green tea, black sesame, and salty caramel would probably make my top-10 list of best ice creams I've had.

Wine -- why deny it? -- is a happy part of my well-balanced diet. But let me narrow it down more. The love of the moment is German Riesling.  Somehow as one grows in sophistication as a wine drinker, one tends to gravitate toward drier wines, but I've been on the opposite swing recently , recognizing that some sweeter wines are exploding with flavor, subtlety, and joy. German Rieslings make almost everyone happy. Initially people ask themselves, should I confess to loving a wine that tastes (varyingly) sweet? The answer for me is yes.

In keeping with the food theme...

Well, the next confession is a big one. Mad Men. Yes, it's the first television show I've allowed myself to be pulled into in years. The characters, the story, the epoch, and the visual integrity -- it is difficult to resist the combination. And speaking of the visuals, each episode is like a game of hide and seek for people who love post-war design. There's always some contemporary piece of design hiding in the frame.
    This is quite a leap, or perhaps not, but opera is something I have loved since... well, shall I confess?... 1984. How do I remember the year? Because my brother and I became obsessed with the scene from Don Giovanni in Amadeus, which came out in the 1984 (apparently -- I would have guessed 1982...)

    Perhaps this then is exactly the right moment to confess that about 10 years after everyone else I've finally discovered Norman Quentin Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, or more precisely discovered that I already knew his music, which is the kind of thing that you would have had to live in a cave not to know to some degree. There's something bizarre and fun in being out of cycle with everyone else (at least sometimes).  (I wonder what my contemporary music adviser will make of this self-directed discovery? Mia, I hope I have not gone astray!)

    I love 3-legged chairs. I have two sets of them. One that looks like this:

    (indeed, this is my dining table in New York). And the other like this

    I have been told they are a little impractical, especially by guests who tip over while seated on them... But that's why I love them (the impracticality I mean, not specifically the tipping over part). They are outside nature and just from the human imagination.

    While I'm on the acquisitive wavelength, I recently acquired one of these:

    And it's instant love. I remember as a child my father would tell my brother and me stories in which the municipal water supply was suddenly transformed into coke, or milk, or juice. Well, this machine has the same element of magic to it. I've concluded that my one true addiction is bubbly water. And I've been carting those bottles home from the grocery for years now. Forget the environmental damage, it's my back (and hands) that I'm worried about... Now I filter and chill the water and have bubbly water on tap. Magic.

    Finally I love the Sunday New York Times. In New York, you actually get most of it on Saturday, but I am disciplined and don't read any of it until Sunday morning. My Sunday habits have changed over the years, but right now it's this. I get up, walk out in search of the weekend brekkie (usually a croissant, but having failed to find good ones recently I've switched to a brioche). Back home, I make cappuccino, climb back into bed, and the paper for a few hours.

    Now there are a few good thoughts to tide me over till the weekend!



    Friday, October 1, 2010

    You decide (4)

    When I first began living by myself, as a student back in the 20th Century, my parents helped me to move into my place. As my parents were leaving, I noticed my father slip an envelop into my desk drawer, but was too busy saying my goodbyes to my mother to ask.

    I didn't think it was money, since I had already gone through a series of big talks with my father (my parents more generally, but in general my father took the lead in these talks, interestingly even if the topic was domestic matters - something like cooking - in which he had little experience) on how to get by. I was half right, and half wrong.

    It was indeed an envelop with "Emergency Cash" written on it, containing a hundred dollars. When I asked him about it over the phone a few days later, he said that I should hang on to it for one of those situations in which I lose my wallet and the bank doesn't open for another day.

    The envelop remained unopened for 18 years, indeed until yesterday.

    It's not that I had specifically avoided opening it, but I'm a pretty organize person. Thankfully, I've never had my wallet stolen (although someone did once pickpocket me for some poems, but that's another story). But yesterday I left my wallet at the office. I didn't feel like driving back, but I had a yearning for ice cream.

    I thought about trying to offer them Euros from my leftover travel money or pooling together leftover change, but then I recalled that somewhere in my current apartment that envelop must still exist. It does. Orange-honey-ginger and rosemary ice cream never tasted as good.

    Tonight I'll top up my emergency fund for whenever I need it next.

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