End of Eden

The sum total time f my counter space with tonight's dinner prep all over it. It is literally a 24 square inch patch.
Actual entirety of my work counter.

I’ve been working on a postage stamp space in my kitchen for a generation. I have used all of my wiles to maximize the chopping, measuring, mixing, cleaning and plating space. I stage in the sink. I manipulate pots and pans and cauldrons across the stove when I need to hold something. I rotate mis en place on the counter, on the storage cart behind me, in the dish drainer, in an open cabinet on top of the dishes, and, occasionally, when it’s not in use, inside the oven.

Today, I just might have hit a wall that I knew not of.

I knew not because I was managing in what is. When the kitchen designer asked me what I didn’t like in my kitchen–what didn’t work–I looked at her blankly. I actually never thought of my kitchen in that way.

Sure, I’ve broken a glass or burned my wrist or spilled a plate full of food on occasion. But these faults have been exceedingly rare.

Yes, I cook many days during the week. And, yes, I enjoy trying new foods and new techniques. And, yes, I’ve hosted many dinners. And, no, I didn’t think it was any trouble. I was simply cooking in the kitchen I had. Nothing to complain about, because I got it all to work. If it didn’t work, then there would be reason to complain.

Today, I almost lost it. I didn’t have enough room. I was working in layers. There were piles upon piles of workspaces in order to mimic more than the less than two square feet of workspace. It’s actually smaller than that, since the kettle and dish soap and olive oil and salt are permanent tenants on that patch. Why don’t I move them? Because there is no place else for them to go.

In fact, lots of things have no place to go. And when there is no home, things mill around like a grade school class without seats. Chaos.

I’ve been plotting where things would go in the updated kitchen. With it’s new cabinets, ample drawer space and new island that, by itself, is six times bigger than my current counter space. I stand at today’s sink and think about turning around to line up four or six or eight plates, plopping down the rice or potatoes on each and then the green beans, next, the chops or steaks or thighs and, finally, spooning the relish or sauce–all without tying myself up in the pretzel contortions to which I am expert and accustomed.

I stand near the door where there will be a dishwasher that I’ll remove the used utensils and bowls to–rather than figure out how to get enough space in the sink so I can get the full salad bowl just waiting for it’s vinaigrette out of the work’s way.

The imagining has been fun. I’ve been anticipating the efficiency and ease of a right-sized and right-spaced kitchen. But not today. Today I was frustrated.

Today, I was annoyed at the high level of tightrope walking and high wire balancing that I perform every time I try and get a good meal on the table.

If the architect asked me what bothered me about my kitchen today, I’d tell her that it isn’t the kitchen that I will have. I am dissatisfied with my culinary life because now I see myself in a new environment. One that is not so difficult.

I’m hungering for something better than what I’ve had that I didn’t actually feel was that bad. It’s a loss of innocence.

I feel like I’ve taken a bite from the apple. I like apples.

You Can Tell By the Way I Use My Walk

Almost a June night in DC.

Saturday Night Fever is a lousy movie. But when Tony Manero (John Travolta) struts down the street to Staying Alive you have all you need. All of it.

I grew up in a city that didn’t walk. It was the Motor City. So we drove. We raced. We saw the world out of a window–sometimes up and sometimes full wind–at thirty five miles per hour. Occasionally we were stopped, at a red light. More often we were faster. Way faster.

But when Tony left the paint store and owned his sidewalk/catwalk we rocked shoulder right and left with him. We joined him in his prowl as he looked back at another’s high and proud swagger. We followed his head. To the right. To the left. All on tempo.

I walked the street tonight. From the prototypical DC power environ. And I looked up.

I saw the end of the day trying to assert itself. But it’s almost June. The day is hanging on as long as it can. There is a bit of dark blue in the sky, at the edge, but the day ain’t done yet.

It peeks itself from behind the trees on 16th Street and peaks from behind a tall building–for Washington standards. It plays gray and gold and navy. It’s not going easy.

And I’m flouncing on the sidewalk to an internal beat. Staying alive to the drop of the subway where the day disappears.

Parallel Lines

Blondie LP Cover for Parallel Lines

One of my superpowers has two parts. First, it’s finding street parking in the city. Second, and, this is the really impressive part, is getting my car into the tiniest of spaces.

I am really that good.

I am so good that I people on the sidewalk stop and watch me and applaud. I am so good that truckers pause and shake their heads before they see me adroitly place my car, at which point they nod approvingly as one pro to another. I am so good that when I did a u-turn to fluently slip into a spot across the street, an offended police officer gave a low whistle before he upbraided me for an illegal traffic move. No ticket, either.

I might do a little bit of bumper tapping, and occasionally I have to reset, but, in the end, it’s me next to the curb in a tight spot.

I will never forget when this superpower was granted to me. Ann K., my boss at the arcade, saw me struggling to get my car next to the curb. I was going nose in.

“No, honey.” (She called everyone honey.) “You can’t get in like that. Let me tell you how my uncle told me.” In a few seconds she passed on the power. She never showed me. She simply told me. I don’t know if there was a green spark or subtle neon glow that marked the powerup. Maybe. Regardless, I’ve been parking like a boss ever since.

There are, of course, physical limitations. Like you can’t put your car in a spot smaller than your vehicle. You CAN, however, put your car in a spot that LOOKS smaller. Knowing the difference is part of the superpower.

It’s really all mechanics, you say. And I say, no. It’s the power of trust. It’s believing that when you apply the mechanics your car will fit into the spot. And it does.

I guess that those new automatic car parking features are my kryptonite. I bet that most people who have them either use valet anyway or live in the suburbs and park in lots.

Me? I’ll trust in my own power.


that stupid bad-guy prince from Frozen being mean on a valentines card.

Somebody asked me what I was doing for Valentine’s Day. We were in the kitchen at work. People were talking about their weekend plans–especially looking forward to a federally induced 3-day weekend.

“So, you have plans for Valentine’s Day?”

I was in the midst of my beeline for the coffee maker. I came to an immediate and full stop. The question halted me, and, before I could check myself, I said that Valentine’s Day was a bullshit holiday.

Now everyone in the kitchen froze. The only sound was the very faint whirring of the microwave in the background. Someone was making oatmeal, I think.

I realized what I did. I spoke bad about that (b.s.) holiday of romance among people who were primed for romance. Or pined for romance. Or thought that they were supposed to participate in this external marker for romance.

And here I was, offering grumpy-Sanders, bellicose-Trump pronouncements on hearts, chocolates and flowers. On overpriced dinners for amateurs who only go out once or twice a year.

Truthfully, I like chocolates and flowers and fancy dinners. I often buy them myself. It was part of my training, because my truly loving spouse does not show unending devotion via these symbols. [Except for the dinners. We do that together. They are fun. We like to eat. And drink fancy drinks. And wine, too.] We have our own way of maintaining civility and sparks just shy of an incendiary device as part of our long term Waltz of the Incompatibles.

So my highly attuned senses dismissed the idea that V-day is important to show love in your life. Dismissed it a little too quickly and with a bit too much fervor.

Someone broke the silence and said, “I’d think you’d be like that about Valentine’s Day.”

I really appreciate that “do what you want” attitude. So, you all do you.

Tasting Sweet, Seeing Green

A Monkees record on a Honey Combs cereal Box. I think I had this one.

When we were little there used to be cool toys in cereal boxes (and in boxes of Cracker Jack, too, when Cracker Jack came in boxes versus bags). The toys in my childhood cereal boxes were like toys kids get in a Happy Meal except they were always plastic. Sometimes you get a stuffed toy in a Happy Meal. Never in a cereal box.Occasionally there would be a record manufactured right into the cereal box. We’d cut it out and try and play it in the red Close N’Play. It always–and I mean every time–was unplayable. But we’d act like we could make out the tune because it was a record, and it was ours.

Usually the prize was inside of the box. The box also housed a highly-sugared, highly-manufactured grain like Cap’n Crunch (I’d pick out the crunch berries if Mom got that kind), Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks (my definite fav) Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms (of which the commercials were significantly superior to the cereal. Yea, even at those times).

Okay. I admit that I ate all the cereal that I would never buy my own kids. Guilty as charged.

The giveaways in the cereal boxes were featured in the ads during the Saturday morning cartoons. No. Seriously. There used to be a time in which kids didn’t have cartoons on demand. We had to wait until Saturday mornings for our cartoon binges. I’m not making this up.

Anyway, when we’d open a new box of cereal, we’d immediately flip the box over to see the prizes featured on the back. There would always be pictures of the prize inside. Sometimes the prize would have wheels, sometimes the pieces of the prize had to be disengaged from plastic that held all the pieces inside a cellophane bag and sometimes the prize had a rubber band so that you could launch something. To be clear, we never put an eye out. Dad did, more than once, step on a toy wherein it would be embedded in his foot. So it’s not like these prizes were without danger.

We–us three kids–came up with the rules on who got the prize. At first, someone would dig through the box and just grab it. Possession nine-tenths being what it is and whatnot. There was some coming to blows with this method. Grabbing the box. Fighting over the box. Just sneaking the box. Punches and sometimes tears.

We needed something new.

The next method was that when you poured the cereal, if the prize fell into your bowl, you got to keep it. This seemed beautifully random. Except it wasn’t. There was some maneuvering of the box, shaking to one side to unearth the toy and unfair joggling and manipulation. This technique soon came into disuse, likely because of blows being had.

There had to be a better way.

Turns out that their was almost always different toys in each promotion. There would regularly be three color options for the toy. Almost always blue, green and yellow. We used this to create a system that effectively avoided blows. When we got the box, each of us would select a preferred color and whatever color the toy was, whenever it appeared, we knew who it belonged to.

We went one step further and standardized on a selection order–by age. I was in the middle, so I was okay and the youngest was just happy to be in the game.

So for years I thought that my favorite color was green because the Oldest Sib would always always always always select the blue toy. And nobody wanted the yellow toy. So I would select the green and made myself feel good by deciding that it was my favorite color anyway. The Youngest Sib got dibs on the unwanted yellow.

Eighty or ninety or even 100 percent of the time there would be a yellow toy in the cereal box. So the Youngest Sib, despite not making a choice, made out well. And, most importantly, there was no coming to blows anymore.

Cereal boxes do not have good toys anymore. Even though I don’t buy the crap cereal that I grew up on, I still nostalgically look at the boxes. No toys. Those times are over. The other time that is over is the time in which kids would figure out what they decided was fair–without any parental meddling.

And, in case you were wondering my real favorite color is red.

Old Women Bruhs

What is the old white woman version of the word “bro?”

Gloria Steinem–second wave feminist icon–totally stepped in it when she tried to old-splain why young women were not supporting democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Women are more for [Clinton] than men are. Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, women get more radical because they lose power as they age. 

They’re going to get more activist as they grow older. And when you’re younger, you think: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’ —More here.

I kinda get her motivation. She’s like, “Damn! I just might see a woman elected president of the United States in my lifetime! And I don’t have any idea why young women are not wanting this, too!”

Classic and historical problem with American 2nd Wave feminism–white, middle class, educated and tone deaf to the needs of the women who are not them.

Now, Steinem did take it back. Using the classic and historical excuse of “misspeaking.”

But still, insulting people who you want on your side because they disagree with you just might be the problem.

Origin Stories

As part of the offsite, participants had to share their origin stories. It wasn’t put that way, but it was part of the ice breaker exercise.

One person spoke about an idyllic childhood in a communist country. Since there were so many constraints it was a simple time. When pressed, it might not have been all good. They did have to stand in crazy lines for hours and the shelves in the stores were empty.

Another person conveyed the challenges of being bi-racial. They didn’t know that it was important until high school when people started confronting them with “what are you?” This led to much soul searching. Someone else lost a parent at a very tender age and had to overcome being a nerdy outcast but found a circle of great friends on the way to great success.

It seemed everyone had a struggle to overcome–although everyone seemed to see their struggle as simply part of their origin. Made me wonder if there is something about the expereinces people have that draw them to different types of work. This offsite was at a non-profit.

What would this ice-breaker be like in the investment banking industry. Would participants talk about growing up with cooks and servants? About prep school, the tennis instructor and the golf team? Would they talk about meeting their future spouses at a Renaissance Weekend at an exclusive Hilton Head hotel? Would they talk about their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents preceding them at their Ivy League college? About getting a loan from Dad to start their first firm or build up their investment portfolio or to pay off a bad business break? Would they bemoan the challenge in getting a good apartment in Manhattan?

Just wondering about origin stories.