Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quirky Weekend, Lovely Life

There's nothing quite like a three-day weekend to refresh a slightly downtrodden soul. Nathan had to work overnight on Friday, so I spent the evening drinking PBR in a can & catching up on reading blogs. No photos are available because I was so tired & downtrodden that I became immediately drunk & fell asleep early.

When I awoke on Saturday, Nathan was home... & cooking breakfast burritos! They were supposed to be breakfast tacos, but, um, he bought the big tortillas. Whatever, that doesn't make them any less delicious. I like anything that involves chorizo.


There's a joke in "American Reunion" in which Kevin rags on ex-girlfriend Vicky for posting photos of her meals online. Nathan likes to mention this any time I snap a pic of our culinary creations, but Instagram beckons, y'all, & I do not want to disappoint.

My friends Jeff & Michelle came up from Boston on Sunday, & we were proud to show them around Portsmouth & show off our cute little town - you know, right before we vacate it. I took another food photo because after 15 months in New England, I finally ate my first lobster roll - & let me tell you, it did not suck. Thanks to The River House for selling "lob dogs," four-inch lobster rolls that aren't too overwhelming for first-timers like me. And for having a sweet deck overlooking the Piscataqua River that was perfect for a sunny Sunday.

And then we had the best cream ever in the history of ever and took awkward pictures in front of some shark graffiti.


On Monday - BONUS WEEKEND! - Nate & I decided to walk downtown, which is about a two-mile walk. Not far, but just far enough that we don't do it very often, mostly because I am the absolute definition of an indoor kid. We neglected to consider the fact that it was a holiday & that there might be a parade happening (& honestly, what parade happens at 1pm?) but alas, a parade was about to begin just as we reached the square. A couple hundred people lined the streets, anxiously awaiting... an ambulance, two bands, MacGruff the crime dog, & assorted other city folk. The whole parade was exactly the length of one James Brown song - specifically "Get Up Offa That Thing," which I know because we watched the parade from inside a pizza place, & that's what was playing as it went by.
 

Nathan recently described Portsmouth as "white people run amok," & nothing says that quite like a Segway tour. What were they even touring?! What is there to say?! This is just, like, a side street in suburbia. "On your left, folks, you'll see a parking deck to the left, with some spacious metered spots to the right, and a bank up ahead. Enjoy the sites!"

On our way home, we stopped to look for a cache in a cemetery near our apartment. In the process, we were thrilled to find a hidden little precipice overlooking the river, where Nathan capitalized on the opportunity to skip a few rocks. I would totally want to have a picnic here sometime, if we weren't leaving town in four weeks.
 

I found the cache & subsequently marveled over this photo of me looking much, much skinnier than I actually am:

On our way home, we spotted this headstone. Did I feel bad giggling about someone's grave marker on Memorial day? Unequivocally yes. Could I resist? Clearly not.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photographic Interlude

I just wanted to be sure you were all privy to this, the best & most expressive photo to ever exist, taken at my friends Jessie & Avi's wedding in March:


The Facebook conversation about it currently looks like this:
Micaela (second from left): this picture is so extreme!
Rebecca (far left): Kate's face is AMAZING.
Micaela: we literally look like we are all about to burst open
Me: I look like I am possibly in the process of already bursting.
You're welcome.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Now-Defunct Little Black Book

I told you guys you could ask me anything (you still can, BTW), & man, you really went for the juicy stuff. At least three people asked me what my dating life was like before Nate, & while I briefly pondered whether that was too personal & in the past, I ultimately decided that my stories were worth telling, if only because feel a lot of it is really relatable & rather funny.

I used to be fond of saying, "I don't date." I even wrote a whole blog post about it. Though I dated someone for six months in my mid-20s (which is a significant enough period of time that we were labeled by nearly everyone as "dating"), I refused to call him my boyfriend or to let him call me his girlfriend. For whatever reason, I always felt uncomfortable in relationships & using the terminology that accompanies them. And yes, I recognize that perhaps I need therapy.

Anyway, "I don't date" was mostly a lie. I felt convinced it was true, but in retrospect, I did a fair amount of dating. There was one bad JDate.com outing with someone who reminded me of my pal @MisterDisco but way gayer, & there was a friend with benefits who remains a friend but without the benefits. In fact, there are lots of stories to tell, many of them ending with my being unspeakably awkward. With my lovely boyfriend's blessing, let's recap some of the notables, complete with Tucker Max-style photos!

  • The Non-Boyfriend was a friend of a friend who I initially met through work. When I won a free happy hour at a skeevy bar on Valentine's Day of 2007, that mutual friend invited him to join us, & we kissed on the dance floor, which was plenty embarrassing because, hi, you're not in college anymore. Though he had very well-coiffed facial hair & was very nice, he was also very boring, & I stayed with him only because I knew we probably wouldn't ever speak again if we broke up, & I liked spending time with him. When I broke it off, though, he somehow turned the tables & made me feel like I'd been broken up with, telling me I was too distant & that he just wanted someone to, like, hang out in pajamas & watch movies with. The one time I saw him after that, he was with his now-fiancee (who has the same name as him) on the Metro, & he pretended like he'd never seen me before. Also, I later found out that none of my male friends liked him.

  • The Stoner-Turned-Soldier worked at my college dining hall & used to wink at me from across the room in our psychology class. We went on a few dates, whatever that really means in college, & then I became too unspeakably awkward for any of it to continue. Like, literally. You know how some people are so cool that they intimidate you such that you become unable to be yourself around them? We tried again when he moved to D.C., where I learned that he'd morphed from a pot-smoking hippie into a suit-wearing Patrick Bateman type, though just as charming as he was before. He wasn't interested in being in a relationship so much as he was interested in being aloof & stringing me along & pretending like he didn't have any idea that I was super into him. When he deployed overseas with the army, I wrote him a long, rambling letter detailing All Of My Feelings, & he never spoke to me again because I was a creeper.

  • I met Johnny Fajitas at a bar after an inauguration party. I was wearing a dress & everything! His friends & mine initially began chatting about a bear-sized man passed out on a barstool between our two groups, & we hit it off from there. He was far too attractive & vain to be interested in the likes of me, but we had similar senses of humor & endless conversational topics because we had just about nothing in common. He was essentially a southern frat boy - tan skin, boat shoes, Nantucket red pants, & all. We never identified as anything but people who hung out together on weekends, & when he learned that I'd been seeing someone else at the same time, he left my apartment in a fit of rage at 4am & never returned. No, really - he moved to Utah the next week, & I never heard from him again. He's now a successful TV news anchor. I told you he was attractive.

  • The Bike-Riding Hipster is the only guy I ever met from OKCupid in real life because I am too afraid of being abducted to trust Internet people. We went on The Best First Date Ever, to a bar & then to an impromptu Wheat show, but after a few dates, I did that thing where I became unspeakably awkward thing (see above), & he was like, "OK, no." We tried again one other time, but he was always out of the country for work, & eventually I started dating Nathan & moved away. I also forgot to mention that he looks a lot like my dad did in the '70s, so that's weird.

  • I approached The Wise Man at his birthday party, which I attended with our mutual friends, & the next day, he proudly told his friends he'd gotten my number, when really, it was the other way around but he had been too drunk to remember the details. He was way into me, & I was way awkward, & though we literally tried to date for maybe three years, it just never worked out. One time I broke it off in an email because apparently I am a cowardly asshole. The night of my going-away party in D.C., he told me that my inability to accept affection & be in a normal relationship taught him that he is, essentially, capable of better & more. I cried myself into dehydration when I got home that night, & he proposed to his girlfriend the next week.

If you read all of that, congrats: You have a champion attention span & are now an expert on my D.C. dating days. I should note that I still count those last two, The Bike-Riding Hipster & The Wise Man, among my current friends, because I'm a firm believer in hanging onto good people when you find them, even if not in the way you initially thought you might.

And hey, did I mention that I'm really lucky these days?


I believe it was John Mayer who said, "And when I look behind on all my younger times, I'll have to thank the wrongs that led me to a love so strong."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

If You See Something, Say Something

My pal Joey & I went geocaching on Friday evening, in search of a cache near my mom's house that Nathan & I couldn't locate last summer. This particular cache is in a very public area, right at the corner of the entrance to my neighborhood & a busy, highly trafficked main street, so we knew we would probably look like crazy people in our attempt to unearth said cache, but we went for it anyway. I'm not afraid of looking like a crazy person, in case you hadn't caught on to that yet.

For 15 minutes, we upturned rocks & scoured street signs, looking for any possible place that an "easy to find" cache might be hiding. Admitting defeat, we were just about to throw in the towel when it occurred to me that someone's comment about the cache, "It was lit up like daylight," could be a clue. Sure enough, there it was: a teeny, tiny canister Velcroed to the back of an electrical box. Victory!

Just as we began to sign our names to the log, a police car pulled up. BUSTED. "Can I ask what you're doing?" the officer inquired, & I tried not to look too embarrassed when I told him we were geocaching. "You're what?" he asked, flummoxed, & I tried to explain: "It's... like a scavenger hunt... on the Internet..." (So much for not being embarrassed.) I guess that was a convincingly nerdy explanation, because the cop just said, "OK. I got a call that someone was messing with the box," & then drove away.

Dude. How often do guys in madras shorts & gals with Zooey Deschanel bangs hack electrical boxes in broad daylight? Good looking out, neighborhood watch!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fame Monster

On my rapidly expiring list of 101 Things to Do in 1,001 Days is "Fly first class." Of course, flying first class is spendy precisely so that riffraff like me can't afford to fly first class, so despite my recent spate of air travel, I've yet to make this one happen.

But today, as I checked into my flight home to Ohio, I realized that the cost of flying first class was only moderately higher than the cost of checking my bag - & included a free bag check! I thought, "Why not?" & just let it happen. Spontaneity! I haz it!

There's something so beautiful about boarding first. About having extra leg room. About not fearing that you'll be seated next to an infant. About drinking complimentary cocktails & eating free snacks & wearing a snappy blazer & reading a People magazine. About taking it easy. About living the high life - for real.


Hit Me With Your Best Shot

I am blatantly thieving an idea from my friend Chaviva of Kvetching Editor. Is it still thieving if I give her credit & admit that it's stolen? It's not my fault that I have smart friends with good ideas.

I've been insanely busy lately. I started a new job in April that has me struggling to keep my head above the proverbial waters. Nathan came home from his final deployment, and we're now planning for our big move in July, including securing an apartment in Red Bank. And I'm headed to Ohio today for a week at home - and then again, almost immediately afterward, for my college best friend's wedding. Needless to say, my head isn't exactly in the game (High School Musical reference, I love you Corbin Bleu!), even though I'm constantly trying to come up with content.

That's where you come in.

Have you ever wanted to ask me something but didn't want to feel like an anonymous jerk? Here, I'm welcoming it! I mean, I'd still prefer that you didn't be a jerk, but you can use this space to ask me questions that I'll answer on my blog or turn into whole blog posts, if the topic is interesting enough. Ask me my favorite color, ask me to tell you a story, ask me something totally absurd. Submit your questions here.

Of course, not all questions will be answered publicly on the blog. But by filling out this form, you acknowledge that you have given me permission to post and publicly answer your question. Fire away!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

We Become Them

I don't look like anyone in my family; when I was younger, this bothered me a lot. Of course, it didn't help that when I was in elementary school, a friend's mother insinuated that I might have been adopted. From there, I spent years agonizing over whether I was truly my parents' daughter, requiring my mother to show me photos of her while pregnant and with me in the hospital after my birth just to appease my fear that I was secretly someone else entirely. 

I don't look much more like my parents now than I did then, though my hair, blonde and stick-straight in my childhood, has now grown dark and wavy in my late 20s, which brings me a bit closer to looking like I may belong to my mother. My father passed away when I was nearly 11 and everyone else on his side of the family has either passed away or broken off ties, leaving me no real metric as to what looking like that part of my family might actually, well, look like. My mom, bless her, is just under 5' tall, with coarse hair and dark skin, neither of which I inherited; I also didn't get her broad nose or her deep-set hazel eyes.

Just before Mother's Day this year, my mom and I got into an argument. We didn't talk to one another for nearly 48 hours except to exchange some angry text messages; for an only child and a single parent with a relationship as close as ours, this was an eternity. I moped about my apartment for the sum of the time, periodically shouting exclamations on both sides of the spectrum, from "I'm so mad at my mom!" to "I just wish I could talk to my mom!" I was unsure whether I should call her on Mother's Day, whether she would want to hear from me, but ultimately, no mother should go unrecognized on the holiday meant to honor them, and so I called.

She was with my aunt and uncle, her only siblings, all gathered at my grandparents' house for the weekend. It was no happy occasion, though. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and in the wake of my grandmother's death last month, the three of them have spent nearly every other weekend there, sorting through her belongings, divvying up her art, settling her paperwork, and preparing to sell her house.

"I'm sorry," my mom said, almost immediately, when we connected. "I'm so sorry." And I was sorry, too, of course. From there, we discussed the incident that had stemmed the argument, born of my mother's concern for my health and weight. "I'm just so worried all the time," she told me. "It's like, as soon as Grandma died, all of her worry transferred onto me."

Needless to say, that's not exactly the sort of torch you hope to see passed down through the ages. 

It got me thinking, though. It got me thinking about all the many ways we become our parents, or versions of them, and of everyone who's ever influenced our lives in a meaningful way. Of how we take on their burdens, carry them as our own, and bear not only their positive traits but also their negative ones.

I am my mother's daughter. I may not have her stature or her eyes, but like her, I am resilient and adaptable. Like her, I enjoy solitude almost beyond being social, and I am more comfortable in a good book than a large crowd. Like my mother, too, I am sometimes messy and absent-minded, sometimes too emotionally fragile, sometimes unable to verbally express myself even when I most want to. 

I am my grandmother's granddaughter. I believe in social justice and dedicating myself to the causes that matter most to me. I believe in politics and staying educated, if only so that I can hold my own in an argument. I believe in talking to strangers, sometimes even when they'd rather I didn't. For better or for worse, I also believe in sometimes being a nag in order to get things done, in harping on my points until the subject of my harping gives in and does it my way.

So much of me can be attributed to my father and grandfather, too. My dad's sense of humor, but perhaps also his distance. My grandfather's charisma, but also his depression. Though our family pictures may not immediately belie my heritage, I am a product of these people who so lovingly made me their own, who ensured that I grew into a unique individual who also comprised the very best that they had to offer - along with some of the bad parts, too, because we are human, and that's how this works.

I never needed to look like anyone in my family. They've been within me all along.

(And Happy Mother's Day, Mom. You're my favorite person.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Life in Hamburgers

In playing the classic drinking game "Never Have I Ever," my old standby was, "Never have I ever eaten a hamburger." I'd sit in smug satisfaction as I watched people's reactions: "What? Never? Are you a vegetarian or something?!" & when I told them no, never, & yes, I do eat other meat, I couldn't help but smile as their mouths fell open in surprise. Apparently, meat-eaters who don't eat hamburgers are HUGE FREAKS.

I don't have a good reason for why I never tried a hamburger as a child beyond this simple one: I just didn't want to. Hot dogs appealed to me. Chicken nuggets appealed to me. And yet hamburgers... just never appealed to me. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I used to order grilled cheese from McDonald's. Yeahhh, that's not on the menu.

Flash forward to June 2011, when I decided that the time had come. I wanted to eat a hamburger. I don't know where my inspiration came from, but it had finally come, & after all these years, I wasn't about to deny it. On a visit home to Ohio, Nathan & I made a special trip to Swenson's, a local chain once voted "America's Best Burger" by Forbes. Everyone said my first burger absolutely had to come from Swenson's, & as a loyal Ohioan, I wasn't about to forgo my roots.


It was... fine. It definitely wasn't the meaty nightmare that Childhood Kate imagined, but Adult Kate didn't really feel the need to eat another burger ever again, either. I had tried it; that was enough.

And then, this March, I traveled to Phoenix for my friends' wedding. At the afterparty (it's the remix to ignition, hot & fresh out the kitchen), someone's dad popped by with a box full of In 'N' Out Burgers of varying topping arrangements. In 'N' Out, the West Coast's holy grail of hamburgers - how could I resist? It had been nearly a year since my first & only hamburger, & I decided I couldn't let this unique opportunity pass me by.


It was better than the first one. Like, way better. Sorry, Ohio. But was that just because I was post-wedding buzzed? (Which is to say, actually buzzed?) I couldn't tell; I had to know. The next day, on our way out of town, my coworker Sean & I made a stop at In & Out's drive-thru, where we shocked the employee who served us by admitting that we'd never been to an In & Out before. "We're from the East Coast!" we insisted by way of explanation. Sean ordered his burger animal-style; I ordered a plain old cheeseburger, & boy, was I excited to eat it.


That day, it became official: I became a person who eats hamburgers. Since then, I have indulged in Shake Shack & McDonald's burgers, too, & most recently, Boston Burger Co., where my friends & I agonized over which burgers would be best. After much debate, I settled on the Mac Attack, topped with four-cheese macaroni & cheese & a heap of bacon. This was the healthiest thing our group ordered, if you can believe it.


Guys. It's official. I'm a hamburger person now - & damnnnn, it feels delicious!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oh, When the Saints Come Marching In

Who says nothing exciting ever happens in small towns? Sure, I haven't ridden the Metro with a chicken here, like I did in D.C., but that doesn't mean I don't see quirky, quaint things every day in downtown Portsmouth.

Take last Friday, for example: I was leaving my favorite tchotchke shop, Macro Polo, when I heard the music. Literally. Big-band music, live, coming from somewhere nearby. I rounded the corner & found that on the town square (yes, the town square - three cheers for small towns!), a rag-tag band had assembled, made up of members of varying ages. Some were wearing costumes & others wearing their everyday duds, but all were wearing smiles. They had no sign identifying them, no bucket out for collections, & no apparent purpose other than to make passersby happy.


video

My personal favorites, of course, are the barefoot young girl in the tutu & the spirited, middle-aged majorette. Happiness mission totally accomplished.
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