Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Break! Sort of...

This was Spring break for both Dave and Hannah (who came up to visit us for the week), but I still had work. I do occasionally miss the school year system.

Saturday the 12th
On the first Saturday evening of Spring break, Dave, my mom, my sister and I all (finally!) saw Elton John in concert - in Worcester, MA of all places. The "finally!" comes from the fact that we were supposed to see Elton John and Billy Joel in Buffalo in the Spring of 2009. That concert was postponed to the Fall of 2009. That concert was also postponed, and we gave up. This past year John released an album with Leon Russell, a very famous singer/songwriter who I had never heard of before The Union came out. Listen to that album, by the way. There is a song about Captain Goddamn Ahab.

Anyway, we finally got a chance to see Elton John. He played for about an hour, and then started talking about the new album, and what a pleasure it had been working with Russell and going on tour with him for a while. He said that playing the music without him just wasn't the same. Then he said that we didn't have to worry about that, and out tottered Leon Russell. I could have sworn the man was in his late 80s, but he's apparently only 68. They played at least half of the album before Russell left. He was, by the way, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two days later.

Elton John, as always, was an amazing performer. he played for close to three hours straight, brought tears to peoples' eyes when he dedicated Your Song to his husband and newborn son, and wore a jacket with his own name embroidered on each lapel. I look forward to seeing him again, hopefully with Billy Joel, for real this time.

Sunday the 13th
On Sunday morning we all went to eat at Minado. It is a small chain (5 locations, one of which I just discovered, is close to Allentown!) all you can eat Japanese buffet.

The food was all really good. Not the best sushi I have ever had, but close, and with everything else that is offered, it is totally worth the price.

Sushi bar: yummmm.
My favorite roll had apple in it - really nice sweetness and crunch in combination with spicy fish.

Before we drove back to Maine with Hannah we stopped by a number of the Indian grocery stores in the area. We got lots of food - I got a huge pack of Parle-Gs, a cookie I haven't had since I was in Mumbai, and a couple frozen naan pizzas that turned out to be amazing. Dave and I got samosas from one store that I assume had been sitting out for a few days, considering they gave us food poisoning. Those I do not recommend so highly.

Tuesday the 15th
On Tuesday we took a day trip to Ipswich and Salem, Massachusetts. Hannah, being the geography expert that she is, had originally wanted to take a trip to Virginia, confusing it with "the other state that starts with a V", Vermont. She was delighted to find out that Salem is so close to us - only about an hour and a half drive - so she changed her request.

Ipswich, it turns out, does not have a lot more in it than fields and cops Hannah can scare the crap out of, so we weren't there for long. Salem was a lot more interesting. Hannah had a bad experience with the witch museums when she was younger, so we didn't go to any of them, instead making our way though as many of the shops as we could before closing time.

Pamplemousse (my favorite French word, meaning 'grapefruit') a bath and kitchen supplies boutique. I added to my collection of weird cookie cutters by getting a pig and a castle. The pig, incidentally, is identical to one my mother has had for decades, which, by some stretch of the imagination, could conceivably be a polar bear. It has been used as such for more Christmases than I can remember. I now have a polar pig of my own, and this makes me insanely happy.

Harrison's Comics and Collectibles is your basic comic shop with a used book section. In addition to some books I got a Firefly decal for my car. Oh yes.Derby Square Bookstore was terrifying and delightful at the same time. The books you can see through the windows there only hint at the chaos contained within those brick walls. A man hides behind a mountain of books and is something akin to the classic "teacher" character of fantasy novels - he knows where everything in the place is, despite the apparent lack of order. One must think very skinny thoughts when traveling through the stacks, as any wrong move risks sending a flood of printed pages in every direction. Some other patrons, regulars, I assume, whispered this fear to each other, "I've only heard of it happening once. It was awwwwful...". Hannah took one look at the inside of the store and chose to stay outside. I recommend it at least for the novelty of being in the place, if not for the fact that most of the books are brand new, and every single one is 50% off the original price.

The Salem Magic Shop, or "The Salem Harry Potter Store" was not as big as the one in LA, but still quite awesome. Dave and I purchased a Ravenclaw banner for our bedroom, because we are just that nerdy. We were also told by the proprietor that Rowling is working on three more books, news which seems to be both true and not widely talked about. I'm not sure why, I'm certainly excited, especially if they are prequels, as is rumored. I'd love to read more about Snape's history.

We had dinner at A Passage to India, a restaurant I had seen mentioned in about half of the websites I looked at about where to go in Salem. It lived up to all expectations. Even Hannah really liked her food, and she is not normally a fan of spicy things with lots of ingredients. The atmosphere was really nice - dimly lit and warm, it seemed more like and English pub or hookah bar than a restaurant. The food was fabulous and reasonably priced, and I absolutely recommend it after a long day of sightseeing, especially if it is cold outside.

Thursday the 17th
Being that Thursday was St. Patrick's day, and because I don't work on Fridays, we decided to celebrate the day appropriately in Boston. All of the annual Dropkick Murphys concerts had been sold out for ages, but to my delight I discovered that the High Kings would be performing as well. I listened to the High King's debut album incessantly during the months I was writing my thesis, and a few of their songs even worked their way into the script, so they hold a soft spot in my heart. We even met half of the band before the concert.

The concert itself was awesome. A great combination of traditional and rock sounds and songs, the music appealed to the entire audience, which was an even mixture of young and old. One of the band members, Brian Dunphy, is the son of Sean Dunphy, who represented Ireland in Eurovision 1967. His father was on hand, and they sang a song together in one of the most moving moments of the concert. Another was the rendition of The Fields of Athenry, after which there was not a dry eye in the audience.

They ended the performance with The Parting Glass, arguably the most beautiful song ever written. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for our eardrums), we didn't get the bagpipes.

Friday the 18th
We spent the night at Sisi and Chen's place, because they are wonderful people. They both work in the morning, as real grown ups are wont to do, so the three of us fended for ourselves for breakfast. In Chinatown. I have yet to meet a Chinatown I don't like.

After introducing Hannah to the wonders of dim sum last year, she is addicted, so we went to the Winsor Dim Sum Cafe for breakfast. It has all the regular dishes at the same low price ($2-4 for a bowl of dumplings or buns), but rather than the normal set up of a large restaurant with women pushing carts around, every dish was made to order. Since Hannah had a train to catch early, we were worried about time, but our first dish came about 8 minutes after we ordered, and they rest followed soon after. We were in and out within 40 minutes, and it was $10 each. Also, the food was great. Definitely give it a try if you want a small restaurant feel rather than the hectic cafeteria feel.

Hannah's other demand before leaving was stopping at a Chinese bakery, so we went to the Hing Shing Pastry, right around the corner from the cafe. The prices were a bit different from the Tai Pan bakery in NYC that we usually go to (sesame balls a lot cheaper, mooncakes a lot more expensive), but it evened out in the end and we all got enough pastries to keep us happy for a few days.

It was sad to see Hannah go, since it signaled the end of a week of sort-of vacation, but it did give Dave and I a few days alone to... do laundry and stuff. It was a fun week, and made me really glad that I will be living closer to my family next year.

Photo Credit: Hannah Nast, 2011
Check out her work, she is amazing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Still Finding Myself

After working for the past 7 months in the home care field, I have decided to go to nursing school. I love my job, and the people I work for, but there is no training, no learning. I want to be able to actually do things. So, after working all through college to be a writer, I am back to where I was in high school, the health care field.

It is ironic that my life has taken this turn, yet again. I had been searching for a profession that would actually pay, in addition to writing, and I'm lucky to have found one I like so much. It just makes me feel as though I wasted all those years at school.

It also makes me think of a story I wrote for a workshop a few years ago. This remains the only piece I have had 'published', and that only in a school magazine. If anything, it reminds me to not overreach.

How to Fall in Love

Age 4
Go to play group and feel far superior to all the other children who do not yet know how to tie their own shoes.

Watch educational programs on public television, mostly Sesame Street. Decide that you will one day marry Savion Glover. Tap dance around the house as often as possible.

You will be a ballerina when you grow up – throw a screaming fit in the middle of the department store when your mother refuses to get you a tutu. Get kicked out of Brownies for informing the scout leader that the Cubs have more fun.

Age 6
Go to preschool and are not yet embarrassed by the fact that your mother sometimes helps the teacher with the class projects. Learn much later that your teacher is the daughter of the guy who played the grandfather in The Princess Bride – this will be very cool at a later age. Inform the boy who puts sand in the Stone Soup that he was not helping, and should never attempt to help anyone again. Get reprimanded by your mother.

Chase your ‘boyfriend’ around the playground – the fact that he lets you chase him rather than punching you means that you will marry him one day. You go to his house for a play date and play Duck Hunt, your hands barely big enough to use the laser gun. He beats you, badly (you have never played a video game before, and will not again for another thirteen years) and you decide he is not fitting husband material.

You do not see your father this year, as he is in graduate school. This is The Year Dad Lived in the Basement. You want to be a teacher when you are older. Survive off WIC checks and the money your mother makes babysitting neighborhood kids. Learn that not all children have toys, so you play with pine cones with your next-door-neighbors.

Age 9
You are in fourth grade with thirty other children in your class. You are the only student not of color. This is normal to you. You are also one of the youngest – one of the older girls leaves halfway through the year because she is pregnant. You still have not heard the word ‘sex’. You are mortified when your mother comes to the principal’s office in a fury – you cringe when she bellows that you sit in the office, while the boy who hit you in the head with the chair during lunch sits in class. You weep from exhaustion when you are up late doing the assigned 150 math problems. You will weep again, twelve years later, when you see the obituary for the teacher who assigned them.

You fall for the Indian kid in your class – he reminds you of Patrick from that movie with the magic cupboard that makes toys come to life. He is the only one in class who can beat you at Minute Math tests. He is worthy of your affection. You write your initials in the backside of your closet door. You blush when he applauds your presentation on Diane Fossey. You are going to be a wildlife biologist when you grow up.

Your mother works in the middle school library in a district an hour away from home. You don’t see her much now. She hates her job and cries often. Your father teaches you to make pizza, to burp on command, to quote Shakespeare. He writes poetry that you don’t understand.

Age 11
You are home schooled this year. Your parents want you to get a good education before you switch to a private school, and since they were teachers for seven years, they know they can instruct you better than the teachers in your inner-city public school. You are unsure of what sort of catching up you need, as you are already light years ahead of your classmates with math and reading, but you don’t question. Your only contact with other children this year is through your string symphony and soccer team.

You are unaware of males this year, simply because you are not exposed to any. You don’t miss them.

You have a new baby brother and you learn childcare alongside algebra and cartography. You become the unpaid babysitter. You wonder if your parents waited this long to have him on purpose. You decide that you will one day study wolves in Alaska and live in a tent. You will have no husband and children.

Age 12
You attend private school and hate it passionately. There are fewer people in the school than there used to be in your grade. There are no black kids. No one speaks only Spanish. You have no friends. You watch The Mask of Zorro and fall madly in love with Antonio Banderas. This is the one true celebrity crush you will ever have. You immerse yourself in fantasy and convince yourself that if you can be like Elena, Antonio will fall in love with you too. You decide to learn to fence.

You find a fencing club in your city and you are the only girl. You like it that way. You have found that you are more comfortable in the company of boys. They tell you to your face when they don’t like you. Your coach is beautiful. He is European and tall, with an easy smile and a thick accent. You will grow more infatuated with him over the years but never tell him of your attraction. Your first sex dream will feature the two of you in the equipment room – masks and swords flung to the floor as he pushes you against a wall. You will wonder why you are so tough with people when you really desire to be manhandled.

Your teachers inform you that you will make no money as a biologist, so you decide to be a veterinarian. Your classmates inform you that this is a girly profession, so you decide to be a doctor.

Age 13
You beg your parents to remove you from your private school and they say you can leave at the end of the year. You know they are secretly relieved – the tuition is far more than they can afford. You move this year from the only house you can remember living in. You leave all your neighborhood friends for a house in the middle of the country. Your little sister hates it – she misses the sounds of traffic at night. You love the silence, as well as the cows next door.

You have your first boyfriend this year – you go to the science museum and the movies and hold hands, but nothing more. Your big date is seeing the Harlem Globetrotters at the local university. Go to the school dance at the end of the year. You both sing along to You’re the One That I Want as you dance.

You are happy to leave your private school. You leave few friends, and when your boyfriend breaks up with you, you only regret that he was able to do it before you could.

Age 15
You love high school – not because it is so wonderful, but because it is so much more enjoyable than your middle school. You are in advanced math and science courses, and you take classes on entering the medical field. You hate history, but then, you always have. You play in the school orchestra and relish in the fact that the music program is worthwhile.

You fall in love in Spanish class. A friend of yours tells you he wants to raise his children bilingual, and you realize that you want his children to be yours as well. Fall in love again while you watch him in the school play. Glow when he smiles at you after the show, cry when he winks at the prettier girl. Talk about poetry and Marley, try to ignore the always present smell of weed. Never tell him how you feel, but shed more tears over him than you thought you contained.

Resist more feminine activities – go to summer science and sports camps. Make one of the best friends you will ever have at the latter. Talk every week on the phone for hours, but only see each other every few years. He will adopt you as his little sister. Apply to his college, get accepted into a pre-med program. Dream of being a pediatrician, of going to Africa and spending your life helping. Your deep love of children has surfaced slowly, but it is strong. Truly never think about the money.

Age 18
You graduate high school, realizing at the last minute that you have no real desire to become a doctor – only to help. You take a year before starting school again to think. Work three jobs, hate them all in their own unique ways. Learn to detest the smell of popcorn and ice cream, learn to love the music of Wham!. Go to Europe for the summer with a friend – realize your dream of falling in love with Venice. Promise yourself that you will one day live there.

End your trip in England, meet an American from NASA. This one will hurt. You think he likes you too, but it doesn’t work out. By the time you let your feelings show, he has given up, moved on. You won’t forget this pain for the rest of your life.

Determine that, with your father’s influence finally settling, you need to work in the movie industry. You know only that you want to be behind the camera, nothing more. You also want to study religion. If you can’t believe in it, at least you can learn about it.

Age 19
Start college. Your mother moves out in the same season you do – you are very grateful to have left home. Realize only later that you attempted to bandage this wound with your own love. You fall in love many times, are hurt more than once. You draw the line at a fling with your TA, but it is a near miss.

When a friend tells you of his affection, you jump. You have been wishing for love, any love, for so long, you are happy for any. And he is nice. He doesn’t take advantage and then leave. He doesn’t tell you how badly he wants you while his fiancĂ©e sleeps in the next room. He holds you while you cry for the destruction of your family, but he doesn’t relate. You lose your virginities to each other this year. You conclude that sex is overrated. Ignore the warning signs when things start to come apart. Make up for differences by spending too much time together. Lose friends, try to tell yourself that you don’t care.

Bury yourself in school work – it pays off. Get into the program you desire. Cry with happiness.

Age 21
Study everything you love – you have found that you love history as well. You realize that you are truly your father’s daughter, and have become a writer. Write screenplays that gain tears from your mother, and respect from your teachers. Have new life goals. You dream of the English countryside, half a dozen children, a career that you love. Move into your own apartment, don’t see your boyfriend for an entire summer. This summer you meet the man of your dreams.

This one is the hardest. He is perfect and you know it at once. For the first time in your life, have no faith in your own feelings. Ignore than as best as you can. This is hard when he lives twelve feet away. Almost destroy your relationships with both him and your boyfriend before learning that the only way to make anyone else happy is to make yourself happy first.

Choose the man you have dreamed of your whole life. He makes you laugh and doesn’t make you cry. He wants as many children as you. He supports your dreams. He wants to help those in need. He, too, does not think of the money. He is the most beautiful man you have ever seen. You conclude that sex is not overrated. Conclude this many times a day. Finally feel complete.

Look at him now, fall in love with him again. Repeat for the rest of your life.