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Seventy percent of adventure is just showing up, or, in this case, having an obsessive friend who lives in the middle of nowhere and can’t quite live out his dreams the way he wants.

Backstory: The new The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie is coming out soon.  This is the one in English, but still takes place in Sweden (which is pretty annoying), and I was a bit indifferent toward until I actually saw the trailer.  Then I realized that I was actually going to, potentially, live a different kind of dream.

Backstory to the different type of dream that I’m living:  I can’t be the only person this has happened to.  Remember when you were younger, and you’d get an album that was like the soundtrack to your life?  You loved it, every song; it fit together seamlessly like a puzzle that’s worth framing and you eagerly anticipated the new album from that same band.  The new album comes out, and the band has started “growing” and “experimenting” and while it may sound ok, it’s just not the same.  That’s when you realize that what you actually wanted was not for this band to evolve, but to write a second album that sounds essentially the same, but one that has different lyrics to sing along to and different hooks to marvel at. But that never happens.

Except when there’s an English version of an already solid movie trilogy that not only stars talented folk, but is directed by someone who has made me happy in the past… this could be my second Silverchair/Bush/insert another band from 1994-1999 that had a shitty second album-album that doesn’t suck.

Where the obsessive friend comes in has to do with a contest that this film has been running that I was unaware of until around 12:20pm November 21st when Joe frantically emailed me a google map and said “There’s a “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” scavenger hunt taking place across the world. Today it’s in your town. GO!”  He told me to go to the location on the map, which is about a block from my house, find the instructions, follow them and I would be rewarded with a kick ass prize.

So I wandered down to this old call box across the street from the video store not really expecting to find anything.  There was a tiny envelope duct taped to the side of the box, and inside was this note:

Something about the use of the word package immediately made me feel like I was in a spy movie.  Everyone out and about in the neighborhood was immediately suspect, and I imagined that all of my running and purchasing sensible shoes would finally come in handy.  In reality, I walked quickly and without incident to The Curatorium and told the proprietor that I was there for the package.

He looked stunned and laughed, “I was really wondering if someone would actually come for this!”  We chatted briefly and a red-headed man came into the store.  “You’re just in time” the proprietor told him, “she just showed up.”

“I know,”the red-headed man said, “I was watching.”  Then he looked at me, “You were a woman on a mission.”

Clearly my paranoia was justified as I was, in fact, being followed.

The package, was actually a piece of art used in the movie:

Made to look like it had been sent to the person it was sent to in the movie–duh.

And this was inside:

I think it’s a juniper?  I have no clue, but it’s cool, came with David Fincher’s autograph, and a certificate saying that this is #20 out of 40 total–the only one in existence. Here’s everything else that has and will be found–mine’s in the upper left.

This whole experience was made all the more surreal by the fact that I wasn’t feeling well, hadn’t eaten, and had a fever.

I am the official owner of movie nerd gold.  Please don’t rob my house.

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I was wandering around my neighborhood today after meeting a friend for coffee, and I found the greatest sign in the world.  This masterwork is a mere four blocks from my house!  And it works on two levels!

Thank you, Providence for being full of hipster artists who are sometimes amazingly clever.  This is the greatest discovery I’ve ever made.  I feel like Magellan.

Since beginning my job a year ago, I’ve found that gross old men who frequent the library just can’t get enough of me.  It’s annoying and bizarre and according to my boss, it’s unlike anything she’s seen in 22 years of public librarianship.  I love being unique, but I wish it was for something I was happy about.

Frankly, I just don’t get it.  Yes, I’m friendly and attractive, but so are my co-workers who don’t have to deal with these attentions.  Honestly, I do not feel that I am hot enough to have to put up with this.  I’ve never reaped the benefits of being a hottie i.e. getting free drinks or airline upgrades, so why do I have to put up with the drawbacks?

This also sounds like a whiny thing to complain about, but the fact is, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  It makes it hard to do my job, to focus on the task at hand and to not overanalyze all my interactions with male library patrons.  I shouldn’t have to try to do my work knowing that there’s a person using a particular computer just so he can stare at me, and my co-workers shouldn’t have to field and deflect questions about my whereabouts and work schedule.

Since I’ve been having more issues with a new gross old man at work, I finally broke down and bought a stunt ring i.e. a fake wedding/engagement ring to send the clear signal without words, “I’m not interested in you.”  What’s hilarious about all this, is if I was actually engaged/married I probably wouldn’t wear a ring.  I really dislike wearing jewelry, and the few items I own, I never remember to wear.

We’ll see if this actually works and allows me to go about my workday in peace, or if I need to come up with a plan B.  The only plan B I can think of right now is dressing poorly, which sounds like a lot of expense and effort, so I’m hoping this ring is the magic bullet I need.

Day One: Wore the ring to work and discovered that not only is it slightly too big for me, but it is also incredibly heavy. I put some scotch tape on the back to make it fit better, and tried to ignore the heaviness.  Creepy Old Man #2 came in and did his usual use the 15-minute internet computers right next to me for over an hour and stare at me routine.  I make a point to run my fingers through my hair over and over, displaying the ring prominently as I did it.  The ring got caught in my hair a few times, which did not feel good.

By the end of the day, one of the fake diamonds was missing, but at least it’s one on the side.  I’m starting to think I need a different stunt ring, one that’s less cumbersome, but also would rather not spend a whole bunch of money on jewelry I don’t even want. Plus now, can I really sub in a new ring? Damage done, card played, I’ve got to keep up the pretense.  I am not cut out for jewelry wearing.

Day Two: Forgot to wear stunt ring and got asked out by a man named Earle.  Is this some kind of joke?

I decided to replace initial ring with something smaller.  I then spent an hour on overstock.com shopping for engagement ring for myself for less than $15, which was odd to say the least.  I finally found something that was the right price and size, and was moderately attractive if a bit ostentatious.  Let’s hope it doesn’t turn my finger green.

It’s not bad, I don’t hate it.  I hope it doesn’t start some kind of rumor in the workplace.

Fast forward to three weeks later, and I’ve been wearing the stunt ring every day at work, and then taking it off immediately at the end of the day.  I’ve injured myself several times getting it caught in books, clothes and all kinds of hazards I never previously noticed.  I also find it a bit hard to type while wearing it.

Several co-workers have asked if I’m engaged, one scoffed and said “my god that looks fake.”

The newest creepy old man in my life has stopped coming into the library since that first day I wore the previous stunt ring.  He may still be coming in on my days off–but who cares!  Life is good again and it’s all down to a piece of ugly jewelry.

If I wasn’t so happy I’d be totally depressed.

Gentleman Scholar and I are worldly, educated patrons of the arts, so when he read an article about the Museum of Bad Art, we decided that we simply must go a view the masterworks.  MOBA has two locations, one in the basement of a theatre in Dedham, MA (right near the bathroom), and one in the basement of a theatre in Somerville, MA(also near the bathroom).  Though I read the same article, and knew a little bit about the museum, I was ill-prepared for how awesome it was.

I’ve seen bad art before; I’ve created bad art on a number of occasions, but I have to say that the stuff they picked was really top-drawer.  Not just any bad art is accepted by the museum–they have very exacting standards.  To quote Wikipedia “The museum has been criticized for being anti-art, but the founders deny this, responding that its collection is a tribute to the sincerity of the artists who persevered with their art despite something going horribly wrong in the process. According to co-founder Marie Jackson, “We are here to celebrate an artist’s right to fail, gloriously.”‘

The placards are pretty glorious as well: A work of undisputed tenderness which places the spiritual above the physical through careful disregard for details of the human form.

This disturbing work “makes an offer you can’t refuse”. The chilling, matter-of-fact manner in which the subject presents the severed head to us is a poignant reminder of just how numb we have become. The understated violence implicit in the scene speaks volumes on our own desensitization, our society’s reflexive use of force, and the artist’s inability to deal with the hindquarters of the animal.

This disturbing work “makes an offer you can’t refuse”. The chilling, matter-of-fact manner in which the subject presents the severed head to us is a poignant reminder of just how numb we have become. The understated violence implicit in the scene speaks volumes on our own desensitization, our society’s reflexive use of force, and the artist’s inability to deal with the hindquarters of the animal.

So this was a fantastic way to spend part of a Saturday afternoon, and I cannot recommend enough that everyone go, and also read both the MOBA website and the Wikipedia page.  The only downside is that while the Dedham location is free to visit, in Somerville, they make you buy a ticket to a movie before they let you through the lobby to the basement where the museum is.  Movie tickets are $7 on Saturdays, so we did not actually see that branch of the museum, but we’ll try to catch a matinee sometime.

This is possibly the easiest thing I’ve ever made–simple, simple, simple, and made easier by the fact that I got myself a new immersion stick blender!  Wow, life changing. This will be a winter of soups.

I’ve tried to use the hand mixer in lieu of the blender, and that was a splattery disaster, plus a cleanup hassle.  This time around, I made a bit of a mess, but not bad at all.  Plus my hand mixer is silver–it’s so sexy.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

1 14-ounce can vegetable broth, or 1 cube bullion + water
1 cup water
1 pound broccoli crowns, trimmed and chopped (about 6 cups) –I used 1 bag frozen, rinsed to get the freezer burn off
1 14-ounce can cannelloni beans, rinsed (Canned beans are super high in sodium, so next time I’m going to buy dry beans and soak them)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I did not add salt because the canned beans are salty already, as is the bullion–tasted great)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

  • Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add broccoli, cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in beans, salt and pepper and cook until the beans are heated through, about 1 minute.
  • Transfer half the mixture to a blender and puree, or use kick-ass hand blender.
  • Transfer to a bowl and blend the other half of the mixture.
  • Stir in cheese.

Yes, this looks like throw-up, but it is delicious and fantastically fast and easy.  I will be making it again soon.

cooking-poisonThis cooking venture of mine is really starting to take off. A while ago, I mysteriously started getting Shape Magazine in the mail. I’ve given them no money, but it just keeps coming, which is fine with me because free things are awesome. I guess Shape also includes recipes because I found what sounded like a delicious recipe for corn chowder–one of my favorite chowders.

It turned out so well, that Gentleman Scholar looked at me with amazement and said “I hope we can have this again sometime.”

I said, “Of course we can, this is America.”

Since it was in Shape magazine, it may actually be a healthy recipe, but I also added cream cheese, so it may not.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter 1 tsp minced garlic–the original recipe called for both onion and celery, but as I hate both those ingredients, I left them out.  Also, I think you could sub in olive oil for butter without ruining anything.  I’ll do that next time.
  • 2 small Russet or 3 medium red potatoes, cubed small–I used Russet
  • 3 cups whole-kernel corn
  • 2 cubes vegetable bullion–since I left out the onions and celery, but this definitely made it more flavorful (I imagine)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk–recipe called for whole, I used 1% then added 1 tsp of cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Other spices to taste–I used Rosemary, Basil, and Oregano

Melt butter and add garlic, pour in water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add vegetable bullion and cubed potatoes, and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Add corn, and milk, bring back to a boil, add cream cheese (if you like), and stir in.  Reduce heat and let sit for five minutes or so.

Serve with crusty Italian or French bread, or oyster crackers and watch LOST while eating.

kayak_bannerI decided a while ago that I would like to describe myself as an enthusiast of some kind.  I like the sound of “I’m a _________ enthusiast,” even though that phrase kind of reminds me of this very tense woman I used to work with at corporate bookstore who described herself as a “birder”, and assured all of us that she could take any customer looking for the best bird guide for their specific needs.  I ignored this offer for help, and sent those customers straight to the shelf with the advice “Sibley’s is the best.”

I’m enthusiastic about many things, to be sure, but it seems like to label yourself as an enthusiast of something, that something must be somewhat unique, perhaps unexpected–you can’t just match it up with every hobby or it loses its zing.

I’ve now found the thing that I am an enthusiast of.  It is rather unique, totally unexpected by me, and I think has a nice ring to it–kayaking.  I am a kayaking enthusiast.  The fact that kayak is a palindrome is just a delightful bonus.

This past weekend, Joe Roch hosted a lovely shindig at the lake where we drank entirely too much, played parlor games, made s’mores, grilled, drank, swam, and I unearthed my affinity for water sports.  What a time of discovery.

I’ve always been somewhat intimidated/put off by water sports, for a number of reasons:

  1. My family has never had a lake cabin, or been particularly close with anyone who does (except my Aunt and Uncle in Wisconsin, but we only saw them once a year at best).  Therefore, there was no opportunity to practice anything I might be good at.
  2. Since we never had our own lake domicile, we also didn’t have any kind of watersports equipment. Again, we were at the mercy of my Aunt and Uncle who had a torpedo, speed boat, and water skis–no kayak.
  3. When I was at summer camp, a few of us took out a canoe for part of the afternoon.  I had ridden in a canoe before, never paddled, but since I had technically BEEN IN A CANOE, I was considered an expert by my bossy friend.  I had to be the steerer, which only works if the other paddler is competent as well.  The other paddler (bossy friend) assumed that I was solely in charge of where the canoe went, didn’t really think about how she should be paddling and working with me, and kept yelling at me for misrepresenting my skills (which I had not done), as we gracefully and majestically went plowing through the roped-off swimming area sending dozens of campers diving for cover.
  4. The above experience was not fun, and not something I want to repeat, so for years I insisted that long narrow boats are simply not for me.

I have overcome that trauma, and had several pleasant canoe excursions since that time, but never have a felt so enthusiastic canoeing as I did in that lovely kayak.

Enthusiast!

sunnyside_bannerOne of my favorite authors of all time is Judy Blume, and one of my most-beloved books by her is Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great. I have no idea how many times I’ve read and loved this book, and I plan to re-read it again just as soon as the copy I requested arrives at my local library branch.  In this book, Sheila Tubman (nemesis of Peter Hatcher of Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and Superfudge fame), and her family leave NYC for the summer and go to Tarrytown, NY.  She meets a girl who lives in Washington Irving’s old house.  The house is full of secret passages, low doorways, and rambling hallways that fascinated me when I was younger.

I had heard of Washington Irving, read some of his stories, and seen the Disney cartoon of Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but the fact that someone lived in his house just blew my mind.  When I moved to Providence, I saw a flyer for Halloween festivities in the Historic Hudson Valley, which included Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s estate.  Since the Hudson Valley is beautiful in the fall, and there’s that Sleepy Hollow connection, this makes sense.  My long-dormant fascination re awoke, and I began scheming ways to get me to Washington Irving’s house.

Jewish Friend loves a superfunliterary adventure AND she went to college in the Historic Hudson Valley, so we packed up the car and took to the highway.  Of course, Sheila Tubman’s friend doesn’t really live at Sunnyside–it’s a tourist attraction purchased and restored by John D. Rockefeller in 1945 and opened to the public in 1947, but I’m not mad at Judy Blume for leading me astray.  I could never be mad at her .*

Upon arriving at Sunnyside, I saw a Halloween-colored cat wandering in the parking lot.  It had tags, looked completely at home, and when I indicated it should let me pet it, it graciously wandered over and spent equal time with me and Jewish Friend.  After a few more cars arrived, it scuttled under the fence and wandered in the garden.misc2 179

We followed a long downhill path to the house and found another cat hanging out on the low stone wall.  As we were petting this one, two ladies came down the hill and one exclaimed “Oh! There’s Eloise!”  Apparently, these two cats live at the house and wander around greeting guests and hanging out with the groundskeepers–nice life.

Sunnyside is a guided tour, and they only allow ten people at one time because the hallways and stairways are so narrow. There were two other people on our tour, which was actually perfect because we they seemed to be (almost) equally enthusiastic about literary tourism, and had had a really good tour when they went to The House of the Seven Gables (which means Jewish Friend and I should probably try again).  Bethany, the tour guide, wore a hoop skirt and told us that she had been working there for thirteen years.  This girl knew her stuff, which was awesome, and she encouraged us to ask lots of questions even saying at one point, “This is your tour, so please, ask me anything you like.” I don’t know why, but just hearing her say that, made me really happy.  She seemed to really enjoy her work, and our asking questions, which made the whole experience that much more fun.  misc2 183

Washington Irving never married, but he loved being around people.  Sunnyside, was originally 28 acres (now 10), and Irving along with a few friends designed it to be a romantic, flawless destination where a person could commune with nature.  He encouraged the people of the town to stop by to visit, or just walk the grounds.  He constructed a road that came up practically to his front door and fans would stop by and ask for autographs.

The house itself, was designed by Irving, and was originally a groundskeepers cottage which he expanded.  Since the original structure was so small, and he had so many visitors, there are six tiny rooms sort of jammed in, narrow hallways, and small passages.  He lived in the house with his brother, and five nieces, but always had friends come to stay, and served formal dinners from 3-8pm daily.  It’s rather amazing he found time to write anything.

It’s hard to pick favorites among sites of literary significance, but Sunnyside is very high on the list.  I would go back there tomorrow, and possibly again the following day.  I would also pack a picnic lunch as guests are encouraged to picnic, wander the grounds, and enjoy the garden–sigh.

*Upon re-reading OKASTG, it turns out that her friend didn’t live in WI’s old house, just in one where he slept.  Judy Blume did not lead me astray–I remembered it wrong!  All is right with the world.

DinersDriveInsandDives_bannerI was answering KGB questions a while ago, and someone asked a very specific question about an episode of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Since I haven’t had cable in years, I had never heard of the show, but since Rhode Island is the home of the diner I was eager to see where all they had been.Grey's Ice Cream

At that time, the only place in Rhode Island they had visited was Grey’s Ice Cream, which is certainly not a diner, nor is it a dive, but I guess it qualifies as a drive-in since you stand outside to order.  I was seriously outraged and told everyone I could think of how stupid this show was for dissing Little Rhody (Also, the host is one of those morning radio DJ types with the shock of bleached blonde hair–I really hate that).  I mentally composed a strongly-worded email half a dozen times, but never actually wrote anything down.

Yesterday I read this, which says that one of my favorite diners will be forced to close abruptly along with 1,200 other small businesses in RI who are being levied a tax bill because the state is in trouble financially.  I wasn’t able to go support them yesterday, but this morning when Jewish Friend called me and asked if I wanted to go there for breakfast, I was eager to try to do my part (if it was still open).

Not only was it open, but there was a giant stand in front of the place that said “Read Before Entering.”  What it said was that the Food Network was inside and entering the building meant you agree to be on their show.  I wonder would have happened if the place was forced to close down yesterday…

So, Jewish Friend and I may be on an upcoming episode of the show.  We tried to sit in the dining room, but it was full of equipment, so we sat at the counter and tried to act like casual brunchers without a care in the world.  Then our meals were delivered, but we were not allowed to start eating until the photographer had gotten a good shot of the food being brought out and placed on the counter.

I ate granola and yogurt on camera, which was nerve-racking and extremely awkward; we answered some rather inane questions in a rather inane way, and sweated under massive kleig lights with me wishing all the while that I had showered.

In the five years I worked in television, I was never on television.  I even refused to tape a staff Christmas Greeting, now I’m going to (possibly) be on a cable show that I’ve been trash-talking for weeks.

When I was in High School, I went to a Rolling Stones concert in Winnipeg and was interviewed for the Winnipeg Free Press. I assume they picked me becuase I was 18 and everyone else there was 45.  When I read the article the following day, I was horrified to find that the way they quoted me made me sound like an absolute moron, and they put down that I had “giggled.”  I’m naturally apprehensive to see what a trainwreck this could become, but it is an interesting way to spend a morning.

I don’t much care for Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I appreciate his contribution to literature and philosophy, so we went to his house.  One thing that was interesting about this tour was that they do continuous tours, which I’ve never seen before.  What that means is, you ring the doorbell like you’re coming to dinner with Ralph, and then you join a tour already in progress.  This is nice because it eliminated all of the milling around in the giftshop waiting for the tour to start.  This was bad because we began the tour upstairs, and did not get all of the background on who all lived in the house.  Then the tour guide would say things like “so and so’s room” without explaining who so and so was, and we did not understand the significance at all.

It wasn’t bad though, overall.  We had two different tour guides.  rwe_concord_ma_06One started with us upstairs, then handed us off to another one in the parlor, then finished up again in the alcove.

Upstairs girl was the better of the two, but they were both rather awkward.  Upstairs, she mostly indicated at paintings and told us who was in them.  She said um a lot, and seemed like she was rushing a bit.  A couple people asked questions, and she said “I don’t know, but the lady downstairs does.  We can ask her.”  at least she didn’t try to make something up.

Downstairs girl was similar to the girl we had at the House of the Seven Gables.  She was awkward, and very hard to understand.  The situation was made more awkward by the fact that when we were on her part of the tour, we were the only two people.  She stared at the ceiling and orated on the life of Ralph Waldo, while we scanned the walls trying to understand her.  I think that there’s a trend among tour guides in New England to not only have a regional accent, but also a speech impediment and a penchant for mumbling– I’m kind of over it.

Fun facts about Ralph Waldo Emerson: In his later years, he was always late to church, and he blamed it on the fact that he could never find his gloves.  Thoreau built a special drawer into Emerson’s chair, so he would always have a place to keep them, but he was still late all the time anyway.  He had also been a minister for years when he was younger– must have been sick of church.

The best part of the tour was the end when we went downstairs and had a lovely conversation with the woman manning the gift shop.  She was a librarian as well, so we complained about the lack of jobs, and made fun of library school.  I kind of want to go back just to hang out with her.