Green Tea

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.

— "Green Tea," Dale Ritterbusch

Glamour girls

Glamour is very different than beauty. Beauty, to me, is a structural, physical thing that I don’t feel I have. The rules are much stricter. Glamour is a much more inclusive and embracing thing that every woman can take part in. It doesn’t have to be vaudeville, but it’s how a certain spirit shows through, how you put yourself together, and the little touches you do. Glamour doesn’t rely on how big or small your budget is, either. It’s just showing little signs of exuberance, whatever that means to you. Madeleine Albright may not be a structural beauty, but I think she’s really glamorous. She loves brooches, and has a whole collection of these amazing statement pins that she wears for different occasions. That’s what I mean about glamour: it’s exuberance. Most people would look at me like, ‘Are you insane? Madeleine Albright’s glamorous?’ I absolutely think she is because she’s doing the best with herself. That’s glamour to me.
— Poppy King

Women need you to show your age

Frances McDormand took a lot of heat at the Golden Globes for...I don't know, having an honest face? Not caring about a prize? Caring about a prize? Not looking like an ingenue? Not caring that she isn't an ingenue? Any way you slice it, BRAVO.

p.s. I saw her and Joel Coen having dinner at Café Luxembourg a couple of years ago and was so excited-yet-trying-to-be-cool that I almost stabbed myself with my steak knife.

What goes around

Does poking along this way make me seem a little unambitious? Most runners I know are always looking to increase their speed and their distance — to excel. In other aspects of my life, I show plenty of drive. Friends have urged me to try for a marathon. But no, I’m not going to try to prove anything when I run. I’m just running, and I want to keep doing it.
— John Schwartz @ NYT

Queen of the Surface Streets

What a tremendous shit of a day! Only this song saved me, and not for the first time. Everybody (I hope) has their own personal leviathan of an anxiety-calmer, basically the musical equivalent of a rabbit's foot that you keep around for good luck or to clutch during mental emergencies. I've formed no special attachment to any other DeVotchKa song, but this happens to be mine. When I sense the day is going to be a disaster before I even leave the house, I know it's time to dial it up loud on repeat or risk not even surviving all the way to work.

I can't describe music in musical terms but here are specific things I love:

  1. The incredibly slow, moseying windup, like it's a cool, early summer morning and the wind is drifting sweetly in through an open window and we have all the time in the world to lie around drinking coffee and reading the paper, and then the way the vocals seem to just surface (heh) out of the ether at :29 with hardly any fanfare
  2. The drums kicking in at :47 in the same low-key but reassuring manner that makes you think, Well I didn't even notice they were missing, yet instantly welcome them
  3. The lyrics are a form of subway-platform-related empathy and seem to really get me on an existential level. Yes, it is usually like walking into the mouth of hell! Yes, it does frequently smell of urine!
  4. The violins rising & dipping the whole way through but especially at 1:31
  5. "And I'll give my days to the Neanderthals"
  6. "I'll go swimming in the wet concrete and I'll cast my pearls at the unpaved street"
  7. The pronunciation of "hallucination" at 2:15 in some ancient curling tongue
  8. The little Mark Mothersbaugh/"Rushmore"-like string-plucking/bell break at 2:40, where the vibe is "chill, everybody, we've got this" & then the vocals surfacing (heh) again at 3:14
  9. "You're the queen of all the surface streets / I'm a wiener boy that you're here to meet" = come on, this song mentions hot dogs
  10. The dreamy, distracted way it just trails off at the end, leaving the impression that they either (a) inexplicably grew bored with their own creation or (b) hated to end it so much they had to put everything down and just walk away, probably (c) shaking their heads in sorrow and fulfillment

Knowing when to quit

No I'm not quitting this blog, I have many idiot things to report on now and in the future. But I did drop out of the NYC Half this week, after concluding that training for a 13-mile race in the middle of winter is something I absolutely do not want to participate in. And maybe not during any other season either.

This wasn't an easy decision for me to make, because I'm a Capricorn, a born climber, and quitting things is very un-goat-like. I mean, I quit things all the time, so I'm great at it, but it's always done with much hand-wringing and self-loathing and certainly isn't something I like to admit. I want the world to think I'm a finisher and I have no problem lying about that. So the fact that I'm putting it right out here in this public, award-winning space really takes courage. Not actual courage, like saving a drowning puppy from a vat of acid or something, but a faux-approximation of courage: I'm like Cyrano's white plume, which is only a physical manifestation of his courage, a smokescreen if you will, while it's Cyrano himself who's out performing all the courageous acts. (There is no Cyrano in this NYC Half scenario, but please appreciate my overdramatic application of useless literary knowledge to real-world events. You win again, liberal arts degree.)

Anyway, quitting this race was a real fucking relief. I've been in the dumps all month because of a terrible 10K I ran on the 10th, when the weather was bone-snapping cold and I had trouble breathing and ended up walking way more than I expected to. When I started running in 2013 I just wanted to be outside and get some fresh air and move my can. It's a sport and I respect that—I like that it's challenging and love the community and camaraderie of it, but I need it to be fun again and not something where I constantly have to feel devastated by my disappointing times vis-à-vis other, more serious people. Nobody goes to an aerobics class and thinks, I have to out-aerobicize all these other knuckleheads this week or I will feel like a total failure. Do they? Maybe competitive aerobics is a thing, I have no idea what the kids do for fun these days.

But I've decided from now on to take my running cues from comedian Liz Miele, who tells the latest Runner's World, "I'm not good at it, I just like it." How genius is that! The second I read it I knew this was it, this was what I've been waiting for: the simple but mind-blowing permission to not be good at running, to just stop caring about being good at running, and to continue devoting my fitness regimen to a kind of lazy, half-assed, shoddy dilettantism in pursuit of absolutely nothing, which not coincidentally I am 100% amazing at.

Lost weekend (inside my head cold)

I've been sequestered indoors since Thursday, when I woke up to an acute rhinovirus (self-diagnosed), and have seen "outside" exactly three time since then. The first was Friday night when I trudged five blocks to the grocery store for fresh nasal supplies, but mostly for Frosted Mini-Wheats. The heart wants what it wants and hang the expense. I sweated in line at D'agostino and Duane Reade and then hauled my ass back home and up four flights of stairs, only to find when I unpacked everything that I'd left the bag with the Frosted Mini-Wheats at the store. Which led to—newsflash—a frosted mini fucking breakdown. Maybe an all-time self-pity low. But I managed to see and appreciate some good things anyway. Let's count them!

1. One of my favorite sights in the world is dogs carrying big ol' gnarly sticks in their mouths on the way home from the park, and the dog owners who follow sheepishly behind them. It's like they all agree it's hard to be a dog in New York City, where you're cooped up in an apartment for most of the day and then forced to do your humiliating private business on the pavement in front of Starbucks and god and everybody, so enjoy this small harmless prop that lets you feel like a cock o' the walk for a couple of minutes. It speaks to the importance of compromise and quotidian pleasures.

2. The balding sixty-something dude who owns the ramshackle dry-cleaning place on 86th that I've been going to for years. He reminds me of my great Uncle Rollie, who was gruff and blue collar in a similar way. This guy always talks to me about how lazy his sister is or his terrible train ride in from Brooklyn and he usually calls me sweetheart, which is the kind of paternalistic tic I refuse to hold against a certain type of man. There are a lot of gray areas in life and between people, and there's a way for the word "sweetheart" to sound condescending or not, depending on the delivery and context, and when it's pointed at me I like to think I can tell the difference. So yesterday morning I walked in there sniffling and coughing and suffocating in goosedown, with my hat plastered to my forehead because what's the point in brushing your hair when you're dying. I got my sweaters out of hock and we chatted for a minute about the weather (snowy, rainy) and on my way out I said "Stay warm!" and he said "You too, baby, take care." And let me reiterate that I wouldn't take that particular endearment from many almost-strangers or even some people I know very well, but right at that moment it was a nice, simple, human thing I needed to hear from somebody. 

3. "Anne of Green Gables" and "Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel" on DVD (aka safe and familiar ground). These make the best sick bed viewing since there's both laughter and tears and you don't need to fast forward through anything but can fall asleep at any time if you feel like it. Wherever you wake up will be the middle of another scrape. I have many favorite parts but my favorite line comes at the very end of :The Sequel, when Katharine (with a "K") Brooke gazes quizzically at Anne of Green Gables and says, "Does life never frighten you with its bleakness?" And Anne doesn't even bother answering because no doy, Katharine. Life frightens everybody.

4. My dear friend Tucc, who will indulge my love for Megan Follows at any time of day, whether we're faxing about "Reign" gowns or crowns or our favorite tragic YouTube fan vids. Thank god somebody finally took me up on this offer and not only got it but went all in.

5. Last night I reached the worst part of my cold, where the cough dropped down into my chest and I sound like Joan Rivers strangling Rachael Ray, which is the kind of thing I'd really enjoy if it was happening outside my body. But I was soaking in the bathtub in painfully hot water up to my chin and could hear "The Big Bang Theory" on the TV in the other room—the one where Sheldon plays the bongos because his barber is in a coma—and remembered that I can't feel truly miserable when there's comedy in the world.

6. Larry David eats a pancake (always good). Larry David has such stellar teeth. He's a person I'll watch just because I like to see him smile.

7.  "Obvious Child" on iTunes. I fully support movies where the drama isn't cranked up to *!!!&*(#@$% and a single mistake doesn't ruin a person's whole life. This hit all the right notes in just the right key. Also: three killer roles for chicks written and directed by a chick. At one point Jenny Slate says to her business professor mother, played by Polly Draper, "You're like an Eileen Fisher ninja," which would absolutely be my #1 dream ninja.

8. Paul Simon on repeat, LOUDLY:

9. "I've been waking up at sunrise
I've been following the light across my room
I watch the night receive the room of my day"

10. Danny Castellano of "The Mindy Project," full stop. He's a total mama's boy but his love for Bruce Springsteen, like mine, is forever and true. And Chris Messina is just [dot dot dot], even on the tony, perfectly lit streets of early morning Aspen or wherever.

11. This. I don't have much patience for music videos anymore but this is perfect.

Note from the subway

I almost forgot that when SarahB and I were waiting for the train Sunday morning, a gentleman wearing a black silk top hat sat down on the bench beside us. It was raining outside, and not the kind of rain I'd be willing to expose my silk top hat to, but he didn't look wet or defeated or anything. He looked like an old-timey magician who under kinder, more temperate conditions would obviously have been wearing a cape. Instead he had on an overcoat and a red scarf. He talked to us about boots and Munich and Larry Hagman and child actors on the stage and once upon a time being invited to tea in Vermont by Maria von Trapp. He said that he said no to her strudel, out of concern for his waistline, and of course he regrets it to this day.

People are always saying don't dwell on your regrets, but regrets are how you know you made real choices in the world, and that those choices came with real consequences, even if you're the only one who paid the price. What good does it do to pretend you made the right choice all of the time? That doesn't even make sense. We should all have to pay the price for our own vanity and short-sightedness and general moronitude, and if Maria von Trapp is the object lesson, so much the better. On the flipside, not everybody likes strudel, Maria, so maybe you should have had a backup plan.