Posts Tagged With: Metaphorical cupcakes

34×34 #21: Host a Dinner Party – Expat Thanksgiving Edition

You would think by now I would stop writing the repetitively themed blog, “I had this perfect vision…but reality did not live up to my expectations. (But then it was perfect anyway).”

It’s like, so basic and self-evident, and yet I must learn my lesson over and over and over.

Sisyphus and me, the universe’s bitches.

This past November was the third Thanksgiving in a row I was missing at home, and I didn’t like it. Year one was spent on the boat, eating crummy buffet food, albeit with forty of my nearest and dearest entertainment department family. Last year Thanksgiving was in Manchester, where a deceptive online grocery store misdelivered several crucial elements at the last minute, giving my fellow expat friend and I a unique, if somewhat frustrating, meal. With that friend re-expatriated to France, I didn’t know what I was going to do for Turkey Day this year.

I wanted to host Thanksgiving for the few other Americans I know in London, but I live in a vegetarian flat. As in, I am not allowed to bring meat into the house. Not deli meat, not on takeaway, nothing. But none of my friends has a space to accommodate a group of six or more.

I do. I have an enormous kitchen. And then I found an American grocery store called Partridge’s near Sloane Square. They had French’s Fried Onions and I knew I had to do this.

American foodses in London

American foodses in London

I don’t know if it’s the delicious food or the concept of family and gratitude, but Thanksgiving is a big deal to me, and while none of my fellow Americans seemed overly concerned about the day, I was determined. I negotiated my stubborn landlord/flatmate into allowing me to have people over, as long as the turkey was cooked elsewhere, and none of his kitchenware touched it.

One American friend took charge of the turkey, gravy, and stuffing, another decided to make mashed potatoes, and our Australian friend promised cranberry sauce. That left me to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, and butternut squash lasagna.

In my 34×34 vision of hosting a dinner party, I cooked the full multi-course meal – an appetizer, a meat-centered main course, a dessert. Part of the point of this self-challenge was to face my strange distaste – almost fear – of touching raw meat. The reason I can live in a vegetarian house despite not being a vegetarian is that I don’t ever cook meat: I don’t like to touch it, and I don’t really know how to prepare it properly.

So was I cheating by delegating this pivotal portion of the meal to someone else? I mean, quite frankly, it’s the quintessential element – people could live without the butternut squash lasagna, but nobody wanted to do a turkey-less Thanksgiving. Also, because of the kitchenware stipulation, I had to buy paper plates and plastic cutlery to serve the meal. This did not fit into my elegant vision of hosting a dinner party either.

You know what? I’m counting it. Judge me as you must. And just for full disclosure, I cut up some cheese and dumped some crackers on a platter for my appetizer. Sue me.

At the last minute, one of my friends realized she couldn’t make the mashed potatoes because her refrigerator was broken and she had to work all day preceding dinner. Potatoes are as necessary as turkey, so I added them to my schedule. One of my goals with attempting this dinner was to learn how chefs/cooks/my sainted mother time their preparations to set all the food out piping hot at the same moment. There is a real art to cooking a whole meal, and I’ve never mastered it. Things get cold or burn, but nothing is ever ready simultaneously.

Getting down and dirty

Getting down and dirty

My day started at 9am, baking bread, two loaves of pumpkin made separately because I wasn’t sure if I could just double the ingredients and then halve the mixture into two pans – and it was 4am in New Jersey, too early to call my mother.

Pumpkin bread!

Pumpkin bread!

My mother played a prominent role in my day – I called/skyped her at least once an hour, freaking out about what order I should do things in, what ingredients I might be forgetting as I went to the supermarket one last time, how to bake the squash and mash the potatoes and what was the recipe for chocolate chip cookie pie? Really, I know nothing about cooking. My mother must be disappointed in her three children, none of whom took up her great culinary skill and enjoyment. She LIKES spending all day in the kitchen preparing a groaning table’s worth of food for her family.

Chocolate chip pie and pumpkin pie. Amazeballs.

Chocolate chip pie and pumpkin pie. Amazeballs.

Anyway, I got through it. Breads were followed by pies, which cooled all day on the counter, teasing me. I prebaked the squash and mashed it, then boiled the potatoes and mashed them – all by hand, because we don’t have a mixer or blender or anything fancy in my house (we only barely have a microwave, after much whining on my part). Everything was going well until one friend apologetically texted that she and her boyfriend would be an hour late – totally throwing off my calculations for getting everything ready simultaneously.

At that point I started drinking wine and eating cheese cubes.

Classy spread

Classy spread

But that’s as dramatic as it gets; everyone eventually arrived, loaded with food and alcohol, all of which was delicious. Everything I made came out perfectly and reasonably hot. No one even touched the chocolate chip cookie pie, so stuffed were they from the meal.

I am my mother’s daughter, wanting to be absolutely sure everyone was gastrointestinally protesting too much food.

Eight of us ate and drank together: 3 Americans, an Aussie, a Lithuanian, a Frenchman, a Brit, and an Italian. Just like the Pilgrims would have wanted.

Mmmm. Food.

Mmmm. Food.

My contribution

My contribution

After my funny little hodgepodge family left and the dishes were washed, I Skyped with my other family in New Jersey. I realized I had done all that work mainly for myself – no one else was nearly as fussed about it, no one was desperate for pumpkin bread and green bean casserole the way I was. But that’s okay. It was worth it for the leftovers alone.

I’m so grateful to my mother for all her help, even from thousands of miles away. We stood in kitchens on opposite sides of the Atlantic, cooking together, and if my meal came out even a fraction as well as hers, I have reason to be proud.

So I accomplished my goal: I brought people together, we broke bread, we laughed, we were thankful. So fuck the turkey. Maybe next year I’ll tackle “cooking meat.”

Fat now.

Fat now.

Categories: 34x34, London | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

2013: Reframing a Failure

Since I began keeping track of what I was reading in 2010, the number of books I completed each year has steadily increased. My goal for 2012 was 50, and I handily surpassed it with 59. I didn’t think it would be too much of a challenge to pledge to read 75 in 2013.

For ten months of last year I was ahead of schedule according to Goodreads, who calculate my reading stats. At one point I was 8 books ahead, and I thought: I got this. No problem. In the terminology of your typical sports flick, “I couldn’t lose.”

Ah, the hubris. Pride go-eth before the fall, right?

At the beginning of December, I realized I had only read 66 books. I knew I couldn’t read 9 books in December – December! a month when I had 20,000 words due for my Masters, a weekend trip to France and a 2 ½ week trip home for Christmas and all the holiday madness therein – and I knew I was going to fail to achieve my goal. I finished the year with 69 books read.

My immediate react to this was, of course, searing disappointment. How had I squandered that enormous excess of books? It shows what kind of nerd I am that I was humiliated to have come so close and fallen short.

Yes friends, my life is replete with the first-iest of first world problems.

Still, I am just competitive enough (with myself, apparently) to be super annoyed that I failed. And that’s what it felt like: failure. Once again, I had set a goal, and I had failed to check it off my list.

After a dark night of the soul (look, my favorite activity is reading. I don’t have a lot of drama in my life as I sit around with sheafs of paper, so allow me some hyperbole for the sake of the narrative), I had to reframe my failure.

I failed because I was busy. My life started to turn around in October and November. I got a job. I started hanging out with some new friends and good friends more frequently. I started seeking out the strange and wonderful bits and bobs that London has to offer, going to more events, playing in more of the city. Going home to New Jersey for the first time in a year meant there were many people to see, catch up with, laugh with, enjoy. There wasn’t time to read as I soaked up my parents, trying to figure out how I can be more like them.

I was reading less because I was living more. See, now when you look at it that way, it’s not so bad, is it? (You probably didn’t think it was that bad to begin with.)

There is another vital life lesson tied in here. I fell short on this goal because I picked up three books in a row that I didn’t enjoy, but rather than giving up and moving on to something I would like, I hung around in my own version of purgatory, not reading these dull tomes, but not reading anything else either. I think this is important. I think learning to let go is something I’m still figuring out, and the metaphorical resonances in the bigger picture of my life abound. I have to get better at walking away from situations that are unhealthy or make me unhappy. My fear of quitting (which equates to failing in my mind) is definitely something to work on this year.

A friend of mine wrote an excellent blog on managing expectations recently. Her life and mine are different – I aspire to be where she is in my own writing career, and I admire her perseverance in pursuing writing in a way I still don’t, to my further embarrassment – but I understand the sentiment of expecting a great deal from yourself and feeling like you miss the mark even when you give your best. But looking back at 2013, I have to recognize that while nothing major was achieved, I took a lot of small, significant steps forward.

While I was home in NJ, I turned on my American cell phone and noticed the last text I had sent a friend before I left to return to London last December. I told her I had been crying all day, that London was a mistake, that I didn’t want to go back.

I can honestly say right now I don’t even remember feeling that. In the past 12 months I have come to love this city so hard that no matter what else might be making me bluesy, I have learned to maintain my perspective: I am so lucky to be here, and when all else fails, I am so happy to be here. I feel like I belong here, a feeling I have never had before (as frequent readers of this blog know, my search for a sense of home has long haunted me). I am lucky to have made some good friends this year. I’m lucky to have done some nice travelling this year. I am lucky to be pursuing writing, no matter how much work there is still to do on that front – I’m lucky to be writing the book I’m writing, on a topic that I truly love and find fascinating. I’m lucky that after 12 months of not seeing them, I can still go to my family and bask in their unconditional love and support. I’m lucky that I wanted to cry as I left them again, because how many people have that much love in their lives?

2014 makes me anxious for a lot of reasons: I have to finish this book, I have to figure out what my actual career is going to look like. I only have a year left on my visa and I don’t want to leave England. I still would like to feel a little more entrenched in London, less like an outsider. Every time I open my mouth I reveal my foreignness, my unintentionally loud, friendly, brash Americanness.

Still, I am so lucky that this is my set of problems. I am learning to reframe my anxiety as excitement. I want the world, and of course that’s bound to cause disappointment, because who can have the world? But I know I’d rather set a high goal and standard and dream big and fall short than sell myself short and accept too little and be discontent. As Beckett wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Here’s to failing better in 2014. I have no expectations for this year, only hope.

Well, I have one expectation.

I’m going to read 75 books this year.

Happy reading and happy living. Here’s to a dream and love and laughter filled year for us all.

A small sampling of the books in my future. There are many, many more not pictured.

A small sampling of the books in my future. There are many, many more not pictured.

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense, London | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

34×34 #6: Do a pin-up photo shoot. (I’m hot. Who knew?)

This one can also be classified under “Adventures with Vouchers.” Last spring I bought a voucher for a “boudoir” photo shoot for the low low cost of GBP18.

But it played out in typical fashion. I waited until the last minute before the voucher expired and then found myself forced to go to an appointment the same day I called for it or else lose the opportunity to use the voucher.

I’ve been wanting to get pin-up shots for a long time (I believe it was on the 31×31 though I obviously didn’t get to it), but I wanted to curate it to perfection: sexy librarian, with a corset, thigh highs, the perfect cardigan, nerdy glasses and a book.

Oh, and I wanted to lose 10 pounds before the illustrious day. I wanted to look perfect. Duh.

Instead I found myself running around Oxford Street an hour before my appointment, scrounging to buy ANY sort of lingerie, thinking about the massive breakfast followed by pizza I’d eaten two days before, the endless shovel of chips into my mouth in this blessedly fry-happy country.

I tried on several bustiers and corsets and slip/nighties, and none of them fit the vision in my head. My love handles projected, my boobs strained unattractively against the fabric as I prayed I wouldn’t rip anything pulling garments back over my head. I settled for a kind of black sheer loose camisole with a built in bra and straps for thigh highs. I didn’t love it. It made my chest look weirdly pointy.

And I was worried about the thigh highs – my thighs are my horror zone. The last time I tried on thigh highs (ten years ago, and admittedly drug-store cheap) they dug into my flesh creating two matching oozy muffintops.

Not sexy.

But I was out of time and had to settle for what I could get. I showed up at the studio in Covent Garden sweaty from running around central London and terrified out of my mind. I figured if the pictures came out badly – if I looked fat, lumpy, flabby, jiggly, and generally ugly, if my thighs overtook the rest of me as they do in my nightmares – I could always buy another voucher and try again later after losing that ten extra pounds that won’t let me go the same way I won’t let go of cheese and beer and carbohydrates.

I walked in and this young woman named Charlie immediately put me at ease, chattering away cheerfully, swapping travel stories, and artfully slapping some makeup on my face that made me feel enhanced and dramatic without spilling into “glamor shot,” if you know what I mean. (If anyone in London is considering doing this, I used For Your Eyes Only, and Charlie is a star, request her).

I showed Charlie what I had brought to wear, but mentioned I didn’t mind the underwear I was wearing, and maybe if we didn’t use the negligee I could return it (student budget, yo). So we started with what I had on, which meant I finally had to strip down in front of a complete stranger.

You know what? It was easier than I thought.

I am more comfortable in my body than I realized because I took off my jeans and top without blinking. When she asked me if I wanted to do any shots topless, I thought, why not? and shed my bra immediately.

Charlie pointed me to a large platform and started a litany of instructions – arch your back, point your toes, hands here, balance on the top of your head. She did it sweetly but there was a military precision involved. I didn’t mind. I like being bossed around. The poses were actually pretty painful, and I wondered if the strain from holding them would show through in my face.

When we had finished and I had put my clothes back on, Charlie showed me the best shots.

I was floored.

I thought, Oh my God. I’m pretty.

I have never looked at myself and felt so good – so sexy, so beautiful, so powerful. Even my thighs looked strong and sultry rather than like tree trunks. Me, with my ten pounds of extra love, in my cheap Target bra and Victoria Secret panties, no corset sucking me in, no gauzy fabric covering my least favorite bits.

Just me. And I am beautiful.

The most obscene part of the experience was the cost – the photos themselves were not included in the cheap voucher for the shoot. Buying even digital prints is excessively expensive, but I swallowed my fears and got out my credit card. How often will I have a chance to remind myself that I am attractive in such a literal way? When I am 80, I am gonna look at these pictures and say, Damn. Yes. That is ME.

I’m not dating anyone right now. These pictures were for me and me alone. That feels kind of nice. I’m glad I don’t need a boy to feel sexy. Maybe someone will be lucky enough one day to see them all. And I do think that guy will be very, very lucky.

But for now I’m content to peek at them whenever I’m feeling “less” or “not enough” or out-and-out ugly.

I can look at them right now and think, Damn. Yes. That is ME.

So as usual the experience didn’t fit the vision in my head. The shots are “boudoir” not pin-up. I never got my corset. I didn’t prep and preen the way I wanted.

I would not change anything about this experience, or these photos.

Or me.

DSC_9928

Categories: 34x34, London | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

My Favorite Place in London

No, it’s not a museum or a pub or a restaurant.

It’s my nail salon.

Getting my nails painted is one of my life’s great guilty pleasures: it is a bit of a wasteful way to spend money. It makes me feel pretty in a way that indicates perhaps my self-esteem is not as deeply-rooted as it should be.

Mani/pedis are the one thing you can get cheap in NYC. I liked to go sit in the great big massage chairs getting rolled and kneaded while an Asian lady worked away at my feet. There is something uncomfortable about it, but that’s where the guilt comes into the pleasure, right? New York nail salons work with anonymous, military precision. My nails always looked perfect: trimmed short and round, shiny with evenly-coated polish. I could sit under the hand dryers as long as I liked, and I rarely left with a smudge or a chip (sometimes I did. I’m a klutz.) The Asian ladies asked me to pay before my hands were painted, decreasing the chance of digital imperfection (see what I did there?).

None of that is my experience in London.

The salon I go to costs about as much for a manicure as the combo cost in New York – and it’s the cheapest place I have found. There are no massage chairs. The women never file my nails as short as I’d like (I ask them to go shorter three times and then have to give up and accept I’m going to have a lady nail). The polish is a little uneven and doesn’t extend all the way to the edge of my nails. And without fail they tell me the polish is dry and I’m smudged by the time I take out my wallet to pay.

Still, I love it.

First, the salon is called “Your Beautiful.” It’s on the sign that hangs outside, it’s embroidered on the girls’ aprons. As a deep lover of the English language and champion of its proper use, this should probably irritate me, but I find it endearing. The people who work there are from non-English speaking parts of Europe: Italy, Hungary, Poland. They speak two languages and I don’t, and if they don’t quite have their contractions down yet, I forgive them.

I sit in a plastic chair shaped like a hand: my butt is cupped in the palm, my back rests against the fingers – the nails of which are, of course, painted.

I could sit through my sessions in NYC and not be expected to make small talk, but here I am trying to embrace asking questions. These girls want to practice their English, and I need to practice talking to strangers without feeling terror. It’s a win-win. The Italian girl has painted my nails a few times. She told me she is from a small town where everyone is shocked that she moved to London. No one there can imagine a life more idyllic than that of the Italian countryside, but she wants to see the world.

She gets some words confused: “outside” and “upstairs” are hard for her to remember correctly, and sometimes she inverts them: “upside” and “outstairs.” She told me she was planning a barbeque for her day off; until she moved in, all her flatmates ate their meals alone in their individual rooms. Now she has created a friendly group dynamic where they share time together. I believe she has the power to do it. She is incredibly sweet and smiley. She always remembers me and says hello when I come in, even if she isn’t doing my nails.

There is another girl (I think she’s from Poland but I’m not sure) who does a lot of specialty nail work – the women who come in wanting two inch fang-like fingernails (when did this become popular? It’s totally creepster to me). She can freehand tiny intricate paintings on each individual nail, and call me sentimental, but I think she’s an artist. Anytime a person has a talent and can create beauty – even of the miniscule and ephemeral variety – I envy their joy at their own creativity. We should all be lucky enough to have the confidence to embrace our gifts.

It’s just a friendly, relaxed place, and I genuinely enjoy the time I spend there. It’s nothing fancy, but there is good energy, and I always leave smiling, smudged nails or not.

I wonder that this sweet Italian girl traveled so far from her home – in a country I personally love and can’t imagine wanting to leave – to do this rather menial job so graciously. Everybody wants to be somewhere else. I’m here as an immigrant too, right? I guess we all go to great lengths to make our dreams come true.

Categories: London | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am a Domestic Goddess

In my coursework studying creative nonfiction, my classmates and I often discuss what is “truth” and how frequently “truth” gets wiggled in order to create a good narrative arc, or pretty prose. It’s kind of a fascinating question. I have recently been disappointed to learn that some of my favorite writers have blatantly made things up in order to create a good story. It seems like everyone does it – creative nonfiction is NOT journalism, so whether it is allowed in this genre is a great, debatable issue.

Ultimately, it’s all about the narrative. And narrative is a malleable beast.

And that’s how I get to be a domestic goddess.

Last week this happened:

I was home alone but it was Saturday night. I did not have a single soul in this blessed city who wanted to hang out with me all weekend.

I was feeling blue. I couldn’t shake the heart crunch of a break up. It wasn’t a particularly serious relationship, but I was wallowing.

I was swamped with work but my blueness was making my mind run in circles rather than towards productivity. I was procrastinating.

My baking, usually something I’m reasonably good at, did not go smoothly. First, I didn’t read the recipe carefully and mixed the flour and sugar. I was not supposed to do that. If you have ever tried to separate out grains of sugar and flour once they have been mixed – well, you’re a better man than I. I just dumped it in the trash, wasting over 3 cups of good product. I didn’t have *quite* enough butter – damn you, metric system, I was about 20 grams off. I tried to realign things to use margarine instead but I didn’t have quite enough of that either. I decided it would be fine.

It was not fine.

I then tried to soften the butter in the oven (I live in a house without a microwave, and don’t get me started on it). The butter melted way faster than I expected, making is liquid-y instead of soft.

All this added up to create some cookies of mass destruction. You could bruise people with those cookies if you had a good throwing arm or a slingshot.

I unscrewed (yes, unscrewed) a bottle of wine and proceeded to drink the entire thing. Drunk and alone on a Saturday night.

I listened to the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” musical soundtrack and sang along to every word. This is possibly the reason I’m single.

I called a friend and whinged at her about my sadface problems.

***

So that’s the “truth” of what happened.

But with a little bit of editing:

I was home alone, a rare blessing in my house of three where someone is always around and using the communal space.

I poured myself a glass of red wine and blasted my iPod, another rare treat when you share living space. I belted along at the top of my lungs while I turned on the oven and warmed up the kitchen. I baked sugar cookies, perfect for dunking in a cup of milky tea.

While home for Christmas, I only got see see my childhood best friend briefly, so I called her up – it’s so cheap to add international minutes to my mobile phone. We caught up in an edifying, deeply satisfying way. I love knowing no matter how long we go without talking, we can always pick up the phone and talk like we still converse daily. She will always be a part of my life.

***

In that version, I overcame an obstacle and succeeded in having an excellent night, embracing my domesticity and some me-time. If my life were a chick flick, I’d probably add the baking mishaps back in for a bit of endearing, slapstick humor.

And the cookies did genuinely taste good, they were just very, very hard.

Both versions are true. But the tone of each is pretty different. It’s all about shaping the narrative. Which is another way of saying it is all a matter of perspective.

Which is another way of saying fake it till you make it.

I am a domestic goddess. Come, drink wine and eat cookies with me.

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense, London | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

345 Books, But Still Counting…

Continuing my obsession with words, I watered the topic and it grew into books.

I love books. If you slathered frosting on a book, I would totally eat it.

As I mentioned recently, I’m caught in the trap of school, where I HAVE to read, which is totally cutting into my time for what I WANT to read. And with the Kindle Daily Deal offering books for $1.99, my owned-books collection has grown to 40. And that’s not counting the eBook collection a friend gave me that is multi-thousand titles long.

So I’m busy. My main problem with eBooks is that you can’t spread them over your bed and roll around in them like money or whip cream.

At 3am, lots of things seem like a good idea. And one night several weeks ago I decided, in my wakefulness, to start a spreadsheet of every book I’ve ever read. I don’t know why this became important to me, but I’m just really curious about the total amount of verbiage I’ve consumed in my lifetime. Reading is genetic with me.

As of right now, my list is only 345 books long. This is a bit disappointing, but I understand why. There have been gaps in my reading, periods where I was too distracted by life and theatre to read a book. I only read travel magazines for a year or two.

And also, I just can’t remember everything. Currently most of my books are in my storage unit, so I can’t jog my own memory with a book shelf. I can’t remember a lot of what I read in college, no matter how hard I try.

But the trying is revealing a lot of really interesting things to me. For example, I remember much more vividly the books I read when I was a child/teenager than anything I’ve read in my adult life. I remember the authors I love, and reading every single title I could find by them. I’m aided in this task by the most fabulous website ever, Goodreads.com. It’s Facebook for book nerds, and it’s so helpful to just type in an author and get their entire bibliography.

But why do I remember those books so much more viscerally than almost anything I read as an adult? I remember Cynthia Voigt and Ann Rinaldi. I remembered having such a strong reaction to Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart mysteries that I actually reread them over Christmas. I remember the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry, and how she wanted a turret/tower bedroom when her family was moving. Patricia Beatty wrote a slew of Civil War historical fiction that I was in love with.

These books have stuck with me more than ninety percent of what I read in college. What does this say about adult literature? Or, I guess, about me, and my interest in being adult?

Here’s where things get hairy. I’m not sure what is considered a “book.” How many pages, or how small does the type have to be to be worthy of my list? At what point can something be considered not a “kid’s book”? Or do kid’s books have their own validity, even if they are short? Can I include all the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary? Do books you read in second grade “count” toward your lifetime reading tally? Can I count The Babysitters Club even though I probably skipped the first ten pages of every book?

Here’s another question: plays. Part of why my book reading is a bit lean in some years is that I was exclusively reading plays. Do these make it on the list? I tend to think no, they are not complete texts in and of themselves. They need a third dimension to live, so I can’t count them. But am I wrong?

Finally, the problem with college reading is I would frequently be forced to buy a book only to read a chapter or two. I’ve read a lot of Emerson and Thoreau, and Edgar Allan Poe short stories, but I don’t know that I’ve read a complete text by any of them. Do I/How do I incorporate these fragments?

If you have any opinions about these questions, I’d love to hear them. I’m at an impasse. I haven’t added Bridge to Terabithia or Summer of the Swans or There’s a Bat In Bunk Five yet because I’m just not sure. The fate of The Babysitters Club hangs in the balance. What do you think?

Ah, the metaphysics of books. I’m about ready to start throwing wads of paper in the air and dancing ecstatically in my book rain.

In any case, you might think it’s a crazy project, but I can’t even tell you how fascinating it is. Remembering one book will spark another title that has been buried in my subconscious for years. I’m remembering authors whom I’d like to revisit, books I’d like to give a second chance to see if my opinion is the same. It’s a lot of fun to look back and remember this facet of my life that has been so important to me for redemption, catharsis, escapism, education, growing up.

I dare you to try it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Five Favorite Words Right This Minute

Today (well, most of the time) my metaphorical cupcakes are words. I do tend to love words in a way usually reserved for people. I’ve been reading so many inspiring words lately, too, which makes me giddy and obsessive about producing chewy, delicious sentences of my own: I finished Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides which just sprawls and unfurls in gorgeous, painful ways. I’ve read several short articles online that are exactly the type of taut wisdom I’d like to produce for the internet generation, like this, this, and this.

And I know many people out there are anti-Kindle, but besides using it for such practical and lovely things as traveling (many many books in one infinitely packable package) and for reading tomes that have a brick-like length and weight difficult for commuter reading, I love the dictionary feature. As I read, any word I come across that I don’t know I can click on and find out the definition. Instant gratification and I’m getting smarter? You cannot ask for more than that, people.

For now I’m going to tell you five words I love the most right now, the five that are bouncing around in my head making me want to, as they say, use them in a sentence.

Funny enough, they are sort of interrelated. Eugenides used luminescence in his novel, and I didn’t need to look it up; doesn’t it have such a lovely onomatopoeic quality? The word lights up just like the lighting bug it would describe. And he also used translucent several times, and I didn’t need to look this one up either because I remember so specifically learning it in fourth grade science class (transparent, translucent, opaque. I’m sure reflecting and refracting were part of that lesson too). It has such a gauzy quality, and it’s so specific. I like specificity. It is also pleasing to the tongue. Roll it around your mouth, you’ll see.

These reminded me of my favorite word ever, iridescent. I first stumbled upon that one in a deck of cards for a board game I cannot for the life of me remember the name of or how it was played. I just remember a little stack of white cards, each with four words printed on it. I liked to string them together as insults (they had nothing to do with each other, and it had a Mad-Libs absurdist quality to it to say them together.) But that’s when I first saw iridescent. It’s another shiny word that really sounds like what it means.

So those are three words related to light, and I think it all makes sense subconsciously: my brain is fighting the ubiquitous (Latin root! I want to make out with this word too) gray dreariness of London the only way it can: with words.

The other two words are connected as well. One is oblique. Say it out loud. It has a cheerful sound, despite its meaning, which I did have to look up while reading Eugenides’ book. And I keep looking it up because I can’t hold the definition in my head. I want it to mean something else. I keep having the thought, “London is oblique to me.” But that’s not really true: London isn’t deceptive or devious. What it is, is opaque. London is dense, and obscure to me. I cannot penetrate it, just like light can’t. But I’m working on it. Every now and then I have a translucent London moment. Maybe they will string together and the city will open up and become transparent to me.

In any case, how lovely, opaque brought me full circle, back to my fourth grade lesson on light.

The flattening squash of the “que” in both oblique and opaque is somehow comforting. Is that strange? It is further bizarre that these words with negative connotations are turning me on right now? Am I just perverse, or are there words that don’t have positive meanings that please you aurally, and therefore inspire you?

What are your favorite words this week?

 

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense, London | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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