Tag Archives: This American Life

Say What?

6 Mar


Today I am Ira Glass. Needed only is the Clark Kent glasses, because Ira’s woolly forehead status is fast approaching with my wildly overgrown bangs! In the spirit of This  American Life today’s theme is ‘Not What I Expected’, explored in three acts. Over the past couple weeks, I have had misunderstandings that resulted in a mixture of humor, embarrassment, disaster, and tears. In each situation, I thought I knew what I was getting into, but anticipated wrongly. Each was awkward, messy, and not something I would like to re-live. But in retrospect, they make a nice triumvirate of anecdotes.

Act One: Please Won’t  You be my Neighbor

I’ve lived in three apartment complexes and have never met a fellow resident. We apartment dwellers are not a friendly bunch. I have caught myself avoiding eye contact when passing someone on mr rogersthe stairs, as a preemptive strike against their assumed anti-social stance. It’s strange to think how the people who live directly above and below me, who are literally only feet away when we sleep, and maybe when we eat and watch television, too, are the ones I will never meet. Or rather, never did, until I abruptly broke that cycle last week due to a neighbor’s late night guitar strumming. I was lying in bed at 9:45 pm on a Monday evening, quite happy with myself for getting pillow-chummy earlier than usual. I needed to; I had a sleep debt so large it could not be balance transferred to Tuesday night. But I couldn’t fall asleep, because the sound of music nothing like the musical was hitting my room from somewhere. Sleep does not come easy to me, and I could not tune out the guitar buzz. Finally, I put shoes and coat over utilitarian pajamas and ran upstairs to confront the supposedly guilty neighbor. Last summer, my upstairs neighbor had demonstrated some less-than-neighborly behavior. He pushed his cigarette butts through the cracks of his deck onto mine. When I finally got the gumption to confront him about the cigarette butts, he didn’t answer my door knock. I think this was intentional and have had no respect for ‘him’, whoever he is, since. So this time, when I aggressively knocked on the same door and received no response, I was nothing short of raging mad. I knocked again, louder. A young woman opened the door. “Hi, do you play the guitar?” I said abruptly, still upset about the music but also embarrassed at my curt behavior. “No, I just come home,” she said. “Oh okay, thanks, I’m so, so sorry to have bothered you.” I now felt really bad. She hesitated, then said “Do you live right below me? I think it might be the guy on the first floor.” She was right; it was him. I marched down to his apartment to shut down the horrid guitar playing. The neighbor who had committed this musical atrocity, in my head a pot-bellied, hard-living, belligerent middle-aged man, in reality was a young guy, sheepishly apologetic and all smiles.

Act Two: Ebonics Gone South

This spring, I am the captain of a Women’s 3.0 tennis team. Overall it’s not much work, but creating the schedule became a mini optimization problem. 8 matches and 8 spots per match needed to be assigned to 14 players. 14 is too many, and I was struggling to fit everyone in. One player didn’t know her availability, so I initially had her playing two matches. I texted a teammate about my decision: “Will [Player X] care if I don’t schedule her that much? Our team is a little big.” My teammate responded: “Axe her. She travels a lot.” I thought by ‘axe’ she meant ‘get rid of her.’ But no, she was jocosely using urban slang and meant ‘Ask her.’ By the time I figured out the text’s actual meaning, it was too late. I had removed Player X completely from the schedule, and told her that since I didn’t know her availability, she would be a stand-in player when others canceled. She did not take the news very well, and now I have an awkward quasi-fourteenth player on my team that I don’t know what to do with. Shame on me for rashly misinterpreting text messages!!

Act Three: Stand-up is No Joke

tig notaroWhile doing microscopy drudge work last week, I started listening to stand-up comedy. John Mulaney was my first go-to. When I tired of him, I skimmed through Paste Magazine’s ‘20 Best Comedians of 2014.’ Tig Notaro was ranked number 20. I had already heard a short clip of her on This American Life, so I knew she had good delivery. Expecting at least one good laugh, she instead brought me to tears. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but she sprinkled a touch of humor, in explaining how she interacts with her stepfather, over a tragic event that deeply impacted both of them. Listen here.

In conjunction with my theme, I’m posting a recipe that you would not expect. It is not in-line with my ‘no fuss in the kitchen’ approach, it being a posh Martha Stewart recipe. Cooking for my church small group requires a certain level of healthy sophistication. The potluck supper we share sends me Ellie Krieger and Whole Foods vibes. I’m learning to fit in.

You can find the recipe, ‘Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa,’ here. I actually have the full cookbook, ‘Meatless,’ which includes the nutritional content. There are 55 calories per 1/4 cup serving. I added a can of diced tomatoes to my batch, and had to mash rather than dice my over-ripe avocado. Enjoy!

sweet potato salsa 2

Cry Me a River…then Shake, Shake, Shake it Off

13 Feb

funny singles day

If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, take a moment to indulge in self-pity. Yes, you are attractive! Yes, you are smart! Yes, you are funny! But you are still single, and it’s a little sad. I place a high emphasis on self-worth and being content regardless of relationship status. But when V Day hits, especially when it hits on a Saturday, it’s OK to let down the Katniss Everdeen meets Margaret Thatcher exterior and be vulnerable. Critical to having an enjoyable Singles Awareness Day is first getting out the angst, the inner rage and frustration. I mean it. Literally scream it out, cry it out, blow it out. Then, we can focus on the benefits of being exactly where we are. After all, it won’t last forever.

Step 1. Identify the source of your irritation. What bothers you the most about being single? Do you feel undesirable? Do you think everyone who is dating someone pities you? Is it a fear of being alone for good? Do you have residual feelings for your ex, including but not limited to resentment, sadness, or lust? Or are you generally lonely, and begrudge the commercial world for putting a holiday up for sale which you have no part in? Right now, the source of my irritation is a feeling of being left behind. The couples canoodling tonight  are eons ahead of me. I have a tendency to mark ‘meeting the right person’ as a goal which concrete steps should be taken towards. From this perspective, ‘coupling’ is equivalent to earning an academic degree. Couples are already at their university of choice, and I haven’t even decided where to apply.  Have you ever read the comic strip Cathy, in which a single, slightly overweight woman nearly foams at the mouth in frustration over just about everything and anything? Now that my greatest difficulty with being single has been exposed, we look like twins:

panicky cathy

Step 2. Like I said before, let it out. After today, you must return to pretending like being single is ever-glamorous and alluring. Take time to release that tense ball of ‘still single’ anxiety. It needs a break from the cramped quarters your rib cage offers. Do something not at home that you really enjoy, be it shopping, getting a massage, a yoga class, or even a trip to the bookstore.

Step 3. Decide how you will cope. I’ve adopted Lucille Ball’s mantra: “One of the things I’ve learned the hard way is that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a waythis american life
of life can restore your faith in yourself.” I’ve also recently discovered This American Life, one of the most popular pod casts in the country . If you, too, are late to the party, the podcast is a journalistic exploration of a weekly ‘theme,’ articulated via a variety of stories. The beauty of This American Life  is in its ability to probe a vast spectrum of ideas and events. Stories range from trivial yet hilarious, such as Mayor Giuliani’s tirade against David Guthartz, executive president of New York Ferret’s Rights Advocacy, for his ‘excessive concern with little weasels’ (listen here), to sober and emotionally piercing, such as the story of Afghani women’s rights advocate Hamida Gulistani and the negative effect losing U.S. troops’ presence has had on her work. Ever since I started listening to This American Life, I’ve felt less sorry for myself, and more intrigued and distracted by what’s going on around me. I’m not saying that listening to the show will have the same effect on you. My point is, when something fully absorbs you, the thought ‘woe is me’ becomes less frequent.

Step 4. Gain some perspective:

  • Liz Taylor was divorced seven times, Marilyn Monroe three.
  • Sophia Loren married this dude:

sophia and carlo

  • Female leads in TV dramas commonly have tragic love lives: Ellen Parsons’ gorgeous fiance is brutally murdered in Season 1 of Damages. Elizabeth Keen’s adorable, 4th grade teacher husband turns out to be a spy who only married her because she is his ‘target’ in Season 1 of  Blacklist.

    David Connor, in hit show Damages, is much cuter alive

    David Connor, in hit show Damages, is much cuter alive

  • Forced romantic gestures are awkward. Whether dating a month or married twenty years, couples America-wide must somehow convince one another that generic Hallmark cards, CVS chocolates, and red roses are particularly unique to their relationship. Phew, we dodged that bullet this year!
  •  You can shamelessly buy Valentine’s Day candy the day after, when it’s half-off!

Congratulations, your pilgrimage to making peace with Singles Awareness Day is complete! I have two recipes today, one from me and one compliments of the Brown Eyed Baker. The first, a roasted veggies recipe, complements getting out the ‘I’m single’ funk, since vegetables make you feel cleaned out. The second, a brownies recipe, is to help you celebrate being single and fabulous in the most delicious way. Truly, I’m the on-the-DL brownie queen, and this recipe is tops.


(Servings: 3)

INGREDIENTS:roasted veggies

-1 Tbs. olive oil

-2 carrots

-1 red onion

-2 small potatoes

-1 large broccoli crown

-1 Tbs. minced garlic

-Seasoning: salt, pepper, chili powder, vegetable seasoning (i.e. McCormick)

-3 Tbs. Low Moisture, Part Skim Shredded Mozzarella Cheese


Heat oven to 425 F. While it is warming up, peel and chop carrots. Chop onion into larger wedges. Slice potatoes. Remove stems from broccoli and chop crown into smaller pieces. Line a 13 x 9 dish with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt. Arrange chopped vegetables on sheet. Season with more salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and vegetable seasoning. Sprinkle veggies with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Place dish in oven for 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven and stir vegetables. Place back in oven for another 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Per serving, add 1 Tbs. cheese and melt in microwave. Enjoy!

CALORIES per serving: 190

Now for the treat! Kudos to Michelle for posting the ‘Baked Brownie’ recipe on her blog: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/the-baked-brownie/