Archive for the ‘learnin'’ Category

NTKOG #116: The kind of thin-skinned neatnik who spends her evenings wearing a ruffled apron and those ridiculous yellow latex dishwashing gloves.

I am: immune to pain. You’re looking at a dude who ate a steak sandwich twelve hours after getting her wisdom teeth out. I once put an ice pick through my whole palm, then went on mixing mojitos without so much as a schmear of Neosporin.

I am not: so delicate or anal-retentive that I need hand prophylactics just to wash a few dishes.

The Scene: My matchbox-sized apartment, slaving like Cinderella over a teetering stack of bowls super-glued together with soymilk residue. After spending the past year as a kept woman in a palatial converted 1920s mansion, it was a rude awakening to move back into an apartment where the dishwasher is this guy. As a result, I strenuously believe in blasting the water as hot as possible to at least approximate machine-powered sanitation levels.

Problem: I could only wash a glass or two before my skin would scald seventeen shades of fire engine and my finger tips would start peeling off. Great for my secret life as a gentleman art thief (no prints!); terrible for pretty much anything else.

The answer to this, as in all things, came from the charming Muscles. Muscles — as his epithet implies — has the heart of a lion, the physique of a well-groomed bear, and the hands of an 18th century duchess. Last summer, after dinner at his and Justice’s estate, he gathered up the dishes and snapped on a pair of yellow gloves.

“Dude?!” I sputtered. “You look like a promo for The Pacifier 2.”

The power of the gloves was immediately apparent: he didn’t even flicker at my ribbing, just gazed on with the smug serenity of a Bikram instructor. “They’re more helpful than you’d think,” he replied, then thrust his gloved hands into the cloud of steam rising from the sink.

My first purchase when I moved into my Boston apartment was my own pair of dorky yellow dish-washing gloves. And frig it if the ol’ guru wasn’t onto something.

The Verdict: Every time I peel off my gloves after a half-hour spell of doing dishes in 180-degree water, I gaze at my dry, unscalded hands in delight. If I were a 17th century peasant, I would burn these gloves because surely they are tools of magic and of wonder. But I am not a 17th century peasant. I am just a happily unboiled dishwasher — even if I am a slightly dorky looking one.

Also, I’ve fought the draft of this post for months now, convinced that y’all would leave me forever for sharing a story so dorky and banal. But after twenty minutes of passionately proselytizing about rubber gloves to Anglophile the other day, I realized my conviction is too great to keep bottled. If one dishwasher-less person reads this post and goes out to buy gloves, dude, this whole blog will have been worth it.


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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a dang iPod. Also, check out today’s Secret Society of List Addicts list of totally insane things I do when you stupidly leave me alone in your room. (Then delete “ask TKOG over for weekend!” from your Google Calendar.)

NTKOG #104: The kind of placid, capable girl about the house who spurns pre-packaged this and processed that, opting to cook in grand old pioneer style.

I am: a typical busy/lazy broke early-20something.

I am not: Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pa would play a low, mournful tune on the fiddle if ever he witnessed my domestic laziness.

The Scene: The refrigerator box that I rather grandly call a kitchen in my Brighton studio. When I’m at home I eat fairly healthily: an almost entirely vegan diet (yogurt is the only moo product I keep in the house); low-fat this and low-sodium that (’cause I enjoy being able to fit into my bathtub). I’m generally okay about cooking two big meals a week and living off of the leftovers, with nutritional cracks filled in by whatever snack I’m currently obsessing over — usually some variation on the life-giving peanut butter.

Where my  basically sound food and financial strategy falls apart (I mean aside from random convenience store jaunts) is the amount of pre-made ingredients and snacks I rely on out of convenience slash “dude, you can make that?!” ignorance. Last week, inspired by your comments on my broke and hungry post, and heedless of the time and expense of the project, I set about to live a more home-made life.

btdubs, this is literally all of my counterspace.

After I was done chopping up the veggies, all the scraps went into homemade vegetable stock. Ma Ingalls is so proud she's probably knitting me mittens AS WE SPEAK.

Black Beans: Full disclosure: not only do I only eat beans made from a can, but I’ve sworn multiple times I couldn’t handle the pressure of the other way. Justice has been on my case about it for months, telling me that home-made beans are cheaper, tastier and no more difficult to cook. I assumed this was just her leftover un-American spirit.

A pound of uncooked black beans set me back $1.69 — same cost as a can of black beans if you’re silly enough to buy them not on sale. Set ’em in cold water in the base of my crockpot while I slept, then while I was at work, let them simmer in vegetable broth and a container of (deli-section) fresh salsa. Came home to some really delicious black beans that were promply mashed into like sixteen black bean and sweet potato burritos. Dude, let me tell you, when I made my next grocery stock-up, didn’t buy a single can of legumes. Home-made is cheaper, tastier and not a huge pain in the ass. Why didn’t someone tell me?!

Vegetable Broth: While peeling the potatoes, it occurred to me: no one composts out here, so is there something more clever to do with my veg scraps? Quick google search told me I should be saving ’em in my freezer, then churning out delicious homemade veggie stock. Once my bag was totally full, I surveyed the ragtag assortment of motley scraps, and filed this one away as a loser: sweet potato peels, onion, bitter eggplant peelings, a few apple cores, and some slightly past-prime tomatoes and bell peppers. Wrapped the refuse up tightly in cheesecloth and simmered it for two hours in a gallon of water — and can you imagine my surprise when the whole thing turned out so delicious that I actually ate a few ladlefuls straight?! Unlike store-bought vegetable broth, the smell of this won’t magically take you back to ninth grade bio.

Granola: Holy shit, people make that?! I’d always assumed granola was one of those things, like batteries, that you either had to buy or live without. Dude, screw you, granola lobby — I am no longer your pawn. I used Alton Brown’s recipe and was blown away by how fucking good it was. It’s a little on the spendy side (due to the price of maple syrup and the fact that I stupidly bought nuts at Whole Foods instead of Trader Joe’s), but everyone I fed this to raved about it. Plus, seeing simple, boring oats transform into golden clumps of lightly sweetened granola? Made me feel like a sorcerer on a terrible Voyage To Health Food ’70s cartoon. My favorite feeling.

Popcorn: Did you know you can make your own popcorn in a brown lunch bag? All you have to do is put in a quarter cup, fold the bag over a bit and staple it or close it with a bit of tape, then put the bag vertically in the microwave and nuke ’til the kernel pops slow down to two seconds apart. That is INSANE. I always imagined there was some kind of miracle air inside the bags or something, to justify the exorbitant taste.

The only problem with learning how easy and cheap it is to make popcorn: it may or may not lead to you blogging at 8am while finishing a bag of cardamom-sprinkled breakfast popcorn…

The Verdict: Whoa! Completely successful NTKOG! I was obviously expecting to Learn A Lesson, but I wasn’t expecting for every single instance of home cooking to be cheaper and easier than the pre-packaged crap. Plus, my sodium intake was insanely low, which makes my inner 50-year-old man happy (you know, the part of me that smokes cigars and sports a badass fedora).

As a result of this experiment, I want to start taking on another pre-packaged kitchen culprit every week or two and giving it a healthy make-over. Any suggestions for me to get started on, you brilliant foodies, you?

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NTKOG #89: The kind of hopeless, anonymous romantic who meets a man at random and — after losing him in the crowd — throws a (metaphorical) message in a bottle to catch him again.

I am: in the habit of falling in love with half a dozen men a day.

I am not: so short of great lost loves that I need to dig them back up on the internet, it stands to reason.

The Scene:  The Brookline Booksmith (aka: Brookline’s literary Disneyland), shortly after moving here. I had a moment with the clerk after purchasing a book from the bargain table and — thuTHUD, is the sound of TKOG falling in love. For months, I would get all dolled up before browsing the bsmith, in hopes of meeting him, but alas, I never saw him again.

Enter Craigslist Missed Connections. Because surely a dude who reads George Saunders can read a measly little personals ad, right? Attached, verbatim, is the ad I posted last Thursday:

Bookline Booksmith former employee with taste for postmodern lit – w4m – 23 (Brookline)

You: hulked-out Korean (I think) former Brookline Booksmith employee with badass tattoos and a taste for postmodern literature.

I: came in sometime in September. Fast-talking brunette with black plastic-rimmed Weezer glasses.

We: bonded over a mutual love for George Saunders when I bought a copy of “In Persuasion Nation” off the bargain table.

You: asked if I had read any Barthelme.

I: am reading “60 Stories” as we speak.

You: were my imaginary boyfriend until you stopped working there at some point within the past few months.

I: miss having a reason to put on make-up on Saturday mornings.

You: got any more great book recommendations?

Your Former Imaginary Girlfriend (unbeknownst to you)

No word back yet; not even a book recommendation from a stranger. Oh well. That’s the thing about messages in bottles, I guess: sometimes they’re washed away forever, sometimes they’re found by someone else entirely. Almost never are they discovered by the person you intended.

The Verdict: I still totally support this one. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was nervous about posting a Missed Connection in the first place — aside from the fact that when I see a guy I like, I tend to do something about it. But next time I miss my chance with someone, I would completely try this again, because what’s the worst that could happen?

Actually, the worst that could happen is that Booksmith Guy could email me back:  “You, TKOG, like so many other George Saunders-loving brunettes, have been driven to the brink of madness by my pomo literary tastes and badass tattoos. Based on your prose style, might I recommend The Da Vinci Code?”

Man. That would be horrible. Please don’t do that, Bookstore Guy! Otherwise, I’m down with Missed Connections.

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Guys! After several weeks of sloth, gluttony and absolute bliss, I wake up from my holiday coma, ready to start blogging again. Lock up your google reader, ’cause I am officially back. (Though no comment on when I expect to catch up on the 507 unread items in my Google Reader.)

NTKOG #84: The kind of brazen barhopper who likes your style and sends you a drink to prove it.

I am: broke. Really broke. I can barely afford to keep myself preserved in ethanol, let alone ply strangers with it!

I am not: big on interacting with other in bars anyway, lest they gain the misimpression that I want to talk to them.

The Scene: Buffalo Wild Wings in Vegas, where Sister and I spend an inordinate amount of our time — not only because buffalo wings are the best proof of a merciful god in this crazy, mixed-up universe, but because we are die-hard fans of NTN trivia game broadcast through the bar at all times.

Over all the years we’ve been coming, Sister’s and my team (LeJinq — named after our unpleasant cat) has been routinely demolished by a competitor with the handle CurlyQ. Despite the fact that we’ve only ever caught fleeting glances of Curly over the years, his mystique has grown. Every time we play against him, rumors swirl: Curly weighs 400 pounds, consisting almost entirely of wing sauce; Curly plays with two trivia buzzers to ensure maximum point-racking. My friend chemist actually saw Curly once, and swore on his life that Curly was a male-to-female transsexual. Our nemesis is quite the source of contention in my family, is all I’m saying.

On the night in question, Sister and I noticed with shock and horror that Curly was actually IN THE BAR and, by all accounts, the only other player. After he defeated us in a round, I flagged the waitress down. “Hey, can you do a little recon for me? I’m trying to find the other person playing trivia. Curly Q. We have — kind of a rivalry.”

Sister was mortified, but the waitress was intrigued. A few minutes later, she rushed back to the table, breathless: “There’s only one other guy playing. At the end of the bar. He’s been here for several hours now.” What does he look like? “Kind of old. Overweight.” BINGO. That’s our target!

“Send him another of whatever he’s having, along with this.”

Surely CurlyQ would, after all these years, acknowledge our presence and come thank us, or at least raise his glass. Enough of the rumors and propaganda, we  would finally SMOKE THE BASTARD OUT.

Five minutes later, the waitress came back.

Waitress: It wasn’t that guy at all, actually. It was a woman. She’s in here all the time. Like, all the time.
TKOG: !!!!! A woman?! Point her out to me! Quick!
Waitress:  She’s right — oh, that’s weird. She’s gone now!

God damn you, Curly Q! You cannot evade me forever! Also, just so you know, you have given some credence to the transsexual speculation (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The Verdict: So there are two things, I think, about sending people drinks: 1) it never turns into anything (as I realized a few weeks later, when a boy sent Kiss-Ducker a drink in a bar and, after much giggling, she decided just not to even acknowledge it); 2) it gives the most ordinary evening such a tinge of adventure that I don’t even care. This was hilarious and I’ll be doing it again — providing it’s somewhere where the drinks are cheap.

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In a few days, I’ll be two months into this little project — about a sixth of the way through — and it seems incredible to me that only a few months ago I was sitting out late one night on our balmy Vegas lanai, explaining the first glimpses of this project to my father, and doubting whether it would actually change me as a person.

I can’t tell you what I’m going to know about myself by August 23, 2010, but this much I can already say for certain: Not That Kind of Girl already made some huge changes to who I am, how I approach social situations, and even how much joy I can suck from my day to day life.

Because the vast majority of this blog is explained through anecdotes, I realize there isn’t a firm barometer of how much I have changed in my minor daily interactions. Indeed, since I started the blog, so much of my outlook has drastically altered that little interactions that would have shocked me just a few months ago have become part of the fabric of my everyday life, things I don’t even think to share on the blog.

So a few words on big realizations that I’ve reached during this process, that truly do crop up in every moment — even the ones I don’t blog about:

If I want something, I ask for it. Period. Turns out, as I had always hoped, people are nice. They, for the most part, want you to be happy, as long as it doesn’t infringe on their own happiness. Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve started telling people “No” when I need to, or letting them know when they’ve made me uncomfortable. If I think a stranger can help me with some daunting physical or social task, I ask for that help without being afraid of what they’ll think. A concrete example: when I’m in a store and there’s no one behind me in line, sometimes I’ll just straight up ask for a discount. And at least a quarter of the time, the employee will actually hook me up with a discount or coupon or let me know about some hidden sale. Sweet financial repercussions, guys. And truly, the worst anyone has said was no.

I don’t waste nearly as much energy on embarrassment. Most people, it seems, aren’t as catastrophically obsessed with me as I am with myself. I used to be entirely paranoid about what people thought. Like, unable to walk into the restroom in a restaurant without making that little handwashing pantomime, lest people realize I was going to go pee; unwilling to nod my head or tap my knee to the rhythm of the song on my iPod, lest strangers judge my taste in music; unhappy when forced to ask people on the street for directions or sometimes even recommendations for local hang-outs. I do all of those things now, and more. I mean, really, kind of whatever I want. The most reaction I’ve ever garnered was an occasional askew glance, but you know what? Screw you, askew glancer. I’ll never see you again and meanwhile I’m the empress of my own universe, able to indulge whatever little eccentricities amuse me.

People are lonely. Or at least happy to engage in a little polite conversation. This is big. Even though this doesn’t always come across, I’m extremely introverted. One of those people who’s hard to get to know, but ultimately worth knowing — eventually. I had a hard time even talking to acquaintances. Now? I talk to three or four strangers a day. Nothing huge or life-changing, but if a woman in front of me in line is wearing a truly divine skirt, I compliment it. If the guy next to me on the T is wheeling a suitcase, I’ll ask where he’s going. And often these comments are met with a nice reply and then left at that. But sometimes they’ve turned into absolutely charming ten- or fifteen-minute conversations that have taught me new things about the city or just put a smile on my face for the next few hours.

My friends are total badasses. Okay, this one I knew before, but still, it should never go without saying: I am touched and humbled every day when my amazing friends and family are so incredibly supportive of this project. Moving cross-country and out of a relationship with a man I still loved was — to understate my case — a pretty fraught decision, and I am truly blessed to have friends who are so enthusiastic about all the little changes I am making to try to lead my best possible life. They follow my dang rambly anecdotes, come up with prospective NTKOGS (suggestions always welcome and desired!), and are just generally amazing friggin’ dudes. I am especially thrilled at how close this move has brought me to my sister, who I love beyond all measure, and who has been my biggest fan and promoter right from the start.

You are badasses too. I love you guys for commenting and emailing and actually kind of caring about this random girl who wants what everyone else wants — to be happy, to be brave, and to be just a little bit more than she thought she could ever be. I’ve discovered some amazing blogs through comments here, and have had some great exchanges. I’m totally inspired by you guys and reading about your lives.

Oh, and it turns out I like coffee and baseball. I know I said I didn’t, even after NTKOGing them, but the other day my sister and I watched a Sox game the whole way through (boo that they’re out of the playoffs, but as long as the Angels beat the Yankees, all is right with the world) and I friggin’ loved it. I drink a cup of coffee every few days. I’ve discovered new types of music, started watching TV shows I used to pooh-pooh, and just generally teaching my grumpy old-dog self a ton of new tricks. And, I mean, mundane as these concrete things are, it’s just a nice reminder that the world is infinite and, as long as we don’t forget to take advantage of that, we’re pretty infinite ourselves.

Sorry to get all sappy on you guys, but I’m procrastinating packing for what I hope to be a NTKOG-ful weekend in DC, and procrastination always has a way of bringing out the philosopher in one, don’t you think?

Anyway, cheers to two months into my new life — already, it’s pretty amazing, and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. At this point, I’m going to tentatively say I hope I keep doing some thing uncharacteristic and personal-boundary-pushing every single day of my life. But looking at my booked NTKOG calendar for the next month or so (wigs, a risque hands-on seminar at an adult bookstore, and my stand-up comedy debut, for starters!), that might be up for debate at the next state of the TKOG…

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NTKOG #18: The kind of beret-clad Picasso who casually strolls into a semi-nude model sketch session, churns out hauntingly beautiful portraits in a few masterful strokes, and doesn’t even giggle awkwardly in the process.

I am: a fairly artsy dude — or at least one with a passable passion for classic works of art, the human form, and, um, nudity?

I am not: capable of drawing a straight line, a perfect circle, or anything in between.

The Scene: Your typical neighborhood heavy metal bar (?!), on a bright Sunday afternoon in Allston, I packed up a notebook, Bic ballpoint and $8 cover charge to head to a burlesque life drawing sketch session. During the walk over, I burned with a single question: what the heck kind of people would routinely pay real human earth dollars to draw pictures of some Bettie Page wig-wearing chick wearing half of a flapper dress for multiple hours?

Mostly middle-aged women, apparently.

The back of the bar was packed with two distinct breeds of people: middle-aged braless women, and 20something girls in hippie skirts. All eyes were on the model — mid-20s, maybe, fake hair and fishnets for miles, with slim quivering calves curving up, in that inevitable burlesque aesthetic, to slightly pulpy thighs and flared, fringe-laden hips. Her lips were trained into a constant expression of amused melancholy; her nose sloped gently, like a garden path you’d want to walk down on the first day of spring. Really fucking beautiful, is what I’m saying. This bears noting for later.

As we sat through the first four five-minute sessions, it became readily apparent that I was the only member of the thronging masses who didn’t come with charcoals, watercolors, an easel, or even a proper damn sketch pad. Way to go, TKOG. Putting the “sketch” in sketching session.

After about an hour of various poses, costume and wig changes, etc, a ten-minute break was called. A Wooden Allen lookalike in an unseasonable cardigan ambled over. “You doing any nice drawings?” asked Hippie Skirt, politely. “Oh, I’m not here to draw,” letched Woody, giving me a conspiratorial wink.

The early five-minute sessions convinced me that perhaps I hadn’t given the whole representational art racket a fair shake. It was like Pictionary, without all that distressing pressure! Then we moved up to ten-minute poses, and my pictures didn’t get any better. By the time we worked up to twenty-minute sessions, I had to admit they were actually devolving.

After two hours, the novelty had worn off, both of my feet were asleep, and someone had stuck a piece of used gum to my favorite purse. “Only time for one more pose!” called out the organizer, to a moue of anguish from the assembled crowd. “But how about we work on this one for half an hour!”

Silently, I packed up my bag, slipped a few bucks in the tip jar, and slinked out of the room. Hey, Picasso didn’t start out as Picasso either.

The Verdict: Let’s just let my drawings speak for themselves, shall we?

Um, did I mention that the model was in actuality quite beautiful? So. Yeah. My most grievous error, madam. Shan’t happen again.

[Edit: Ah! Found a picture of the model. Ummm. Clearly she looks totally like my drawings.]

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NTKOG #15: The kind of student who hangs back after class, bright-eyed, asking professors eager questions in a brown-nosed attempt to lap up every last drop of educational insight. (The title sounds salacious. I don’t mean it that way. At least, mostly.)

I am: absolutely silent in classes unless I have something to say that I know will make at least three-quarters of the assembled audience laugh aloud. Yeah, I just referred to my fellow knowledge-seekers as my audience. Deal with it.

I am not: that great at paying attention, honestly, sometimes. The vast majority of the time, discussions in the humanities strike me as obtuse and pretentious to the point of parody. I get most of the value of a course out of the assignments and workshops.

The Scene: Tonight, after lecture in one of my creative writing classes, another girl and I hung back to ask the professor for help with a problem logging into the class website. After he fixed her account, she scuttled off, leaving me alone to chitchat idly with the professor. Fun fact: chitchatting is the thing in the world I am worst at, with the possible exception of ice-skating. But I politely asked about his novel and his eyes went limpid with self-narrating delight as he told me all about the semi-autobiographical epic he’s writing, based on an experience he had after undergrad. It has taken him nearly a decade to write. I find this — like him — sweet in a vague, wearing-socks-to-bed kind of way.

We fix the problem with the computer and at this point I would usually wave a quick goodbye, mutter something about catching a bus, and sprint downstairs before the laptop is resheathed. But tonight, not so! I waited for him to pack up and asked him questions about finding agents, his revision proces, thoughts about publications.

I was surprised to find that the conversation didn’t have an office-hours pedigogical feel: it flowed more like a conversation. He was refreshingly free of that tenure-track god complex one so often sees (especially in the humanities where, forgive me, the stakes are so small), and his advice felt fresh and interested — writer to writer, which made me feel like a fraud in all the most flattering ways.

Once we walked through the main paths of the campus green, I tried to politely edge myself to the exit in order to manufacture a breaking point, but he asked where I was going, and I said to the T, and he told me the gate I was heading toward was locked, but we could walk together through the side exit. And so we did, chatting about Northern California (where his wife — boo) used to live, and his next novel, and whether it is psychologically traumatizing to glue googly eyes on Roombas*. He walked me to the escalators in the T entrance and I told him it was lovely chatting, expecting an awkward moment of him also going to the T and my having to get on an Outbound train to avoid continuing the conversation.

BUT NOT SO! He said goodbye and doubled back the way we had come, to walk to a parking lot. He walked out of his way to escort me to the T, so enchanting was my conversation!

The Verdict: Huh. I’m still not an office hours kind of girl, and I think this chat was so nice primarily because he gave me lots of useful publishing insider input without pulling out the professor card. Still, I’m going to call this one a net victory, if only because … um … dude … professor.

Good thing nothing like this ever happened in my crazy undergrad days, or else I would definitely have done some serious scheming. (And, needless to say: too bad nothing like this ever happened in my crazy undergrad days. Or else I would have done some serious scheming.)

* (a brilliant and whimsical bit of mad scientistry slash socio-robonomic commentary I unrepentantly stole from Brain Doctor)

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