Tuesday, July 18, 2006

After School Special.

Of the many secret delusions I harbor in life, one is that I would today be a great musician, if only someone had offered adequate training and encouragement in my youth. I like to tell myself that since my raw genius went unnurtured, there's really nothing to be done about it now. This allows me to continue spending my time on episodes of 24 while blaming my parents for my own sloth and lack of achievement.

The only possible explanation for my having signed up for drum lessons recently is straight-up denial. I bought drum sticks and keenly awaited my first lesson, ignoring the fact that we have no room for a drum kit, that most of my peers have by now traded rock-star fantasies for children and promising careers, and that I can't really read music.

I arrived at the community music center early and waited until my instructor was finished with the lesson in progress. An eight-year-old boy and his mom emerged from the room, and then the seat was adjusted up to "rejuvenile" level for me. The instructor excused himself to make some photocopies. "Have you ever played drums before?" he asked. "No," I answered. "Well, I'll be right back," he said. "Go ahead and play. The room's soundproofed, you can hit 'em hard!"

For a moment it felt like I had been told to race a burro. I slumped in front of the drum kit. I hit it tentatively, but all of a sudden I wasn't feeling very Sheila E. What was I doing here? It was a relief when the teacher came back and I didn't have to make conversation with the drums anymore.

He had a brisk, well-developed patter you could tell he had used time after time, probably mostly for audiences under 10 years of age. "You'll want to buy a drum pad," he said. "The reason for that is, you don't want to ruin your furniture practicing."

I laughed dutifully. "Or my cat," I offered. He frowned. "Your cat?" "Well, it's my boyfriend's cat," I said. He seemed thrown by the audience response. "OK, some issues there. Moving on..." I decided to let him be the jokester and focus on learning the rimshot.

We went through the basics and I felt some pride when the instructor commented that I was picking things up quickly, until I realized that basically meant I had managed to make contact between the sticks and snare on some kind of rhythmic basis.

Now I sit in my apartment, happily tapping out exercises on my drum pad. I love this phase; it's like dating, where it's 100-percent potential and imagination. If it were a movie, you'd just see a montage of me rehearsing (over a couple months, maybe?) before I get to the big gig and knock everybody out with my amazing percussion skills.

Unable to stop myself, I went to Craigslist and looked up "drummer" in the musicians listings. At the moment, no one seems to be looking for someone with one week of experience who doesn't know how to use the cymbals yet, but my eyes are peeled.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fruits and Nuts.

This blog got started because of my ability to make a vaguely or potentially awkward situation certifiably... you guessed it, uncomfortable. Let's begin with my latest "success story."

We were meeting another couple for dinner, a couple whom we had only met once. I always get nervous in these kinds of situations. Statistically speaking, UM likelihood is directly proportional to the number of people in any given social setting, and inversely proportional to how well you know the people involved.

As we made a third loop around the restaurant, looking for parking, we spotted the male half of our dinner friends. I slowed down to a stop, and we let him know we were looking for a spot. What I didn't realize was that a handshake was in progress at my passenger window. I began to pull the car away, only braking when I realized our friend was doing a weird jog to prevent his arm from being pulled out of its socket. What kind of a jack-arse pulls the car away when two people are shaking hands? Me, that's who.

Anyway, it all turned out fine. At dinner we heard a story about our friend's relatives in Pennsylvania and their reaction to the fact that one of their flock lives in California now. "Fruits and nuts, that's all they've got out there," the relatives said. Apparently this was the refrain whenever California came up: "Fruits and nuts." Our friends rolled their eyes. We laughed.

Let's leave aside the ugly aspect of this comment, an attitude that explains why this country has managed to elect a chimp two terms in a row, and why that supposed freedom-spreader talks about taking a prejudice-filled dump on the Constitution. The comment here was, for a split second, interpreted by my brain as a literal reference to food. Thus, my attention is diverted.

It seems impossible to be awake lately without hearing something about organic food and eating locally. It used to be virtuous to spend $12 on five heirloom tomatoes, because they are organic and good for you. But if those tomatoes had to be shipped across several states, you are now a thoughtless twit who is personally responsible for climate change. Clearly, while buying your groceries, you have failed to adequately contemplate the food chain and our entire globe. You have to get your produce locally, friends, organic or not. Who do you think you are, anyway, with your Earthbound Farms, Big Organic bullshit? Do you even know a farmer? With people like you, it's only a matter of time before the label "organic" means "grown with radon and sprayed with landfill essence, imported from India."

Fortunately, here in the Golden State we have many options when it comes to buying locally grown organic produce, as opposed to when I lived in D.C. and would have had to depend on one weekly farmer's market and whatever was growing in my apartment.

For me, the main disincentive to buy organic is not so much that it costs more, or that it might not look as pretty. It's that those fruits and vegetables have to last until we eat the tortilla chips, cheese, bread, candy and whatever other inorganic items we have in the apartment. Usually by then, it's too late. I have to throw the produce away, newly aware that I am wasting not only the food itself, but the resources used to grow and ship it.

This conflict came to a head recently in the form of a hotly debated issue at home: The "Mostly Fruit Box." (See no. 10 below.) It's a nice idea: We support a local farm, and a box full of organic surprise goodies arrives at our doorstep every month.

The reality has been less enchanting. First of all, there have been a lot of beets. Second of all, I have seen items rot literally within hours of receipt, because they couldn't be refrigerated right away. Third, it's a fruit-fly party. And fourth:

Republican: we just don't eat most of the stuff, that's my main objection
Democrat: we will this time
Democrat: we don't throw most of it away
Democrat: we eat at least half, often more
Republican: I do, out of guilt
Republican: anyway you like it, it's your thing
Republican: I'm not going to eat out of guilt anymore
Democrat: it's got bananas and peaches and plums
Republican: it can all rot
Democrat: ok, don't eat it out of guilt
Democrat: jesus

I know who comes off badly in this IM exchange. Call me a killjoy and a hater of small local farmers across America. It's just that I can't stand the idea of rotting food, especially rotting pricy food. For other people, it's, "Hey, we got some neat stuff in this box! That's great!" What gets eaten gets eaten, and the rest, ah well. Done and done. It's a fun treat, like a monthly gift.

But for me, it becomes a daily race against produce time, as once-edible items turn into desiccated, moldy proof that I am a wasteful person who was not worthy of them. I compulsively slice and stew and wrap as fast as my little ungrateful hands will allow, mainly to avoid the alternative of throwing it all away. You might reasonably respond, then why don't you just let it go? Why not just live and let Fruit Box? I'm resolving to try, but a phrase keeps coming to mind: "Fruits and nuts... fruits and nuts..."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Supposedly Fun Things.

As the average U.S. home grows ever more bloated in size, this blog continues to operate out of a disproportionately lean abode. It's been this way for awhile, unsurprisingly for someone who has chosen to live in expensive cities with an earning power based on her English B.A. and a smart attitude. For me, "living large" means that my bedroom has an actual door on it.

However, in recent months, my apartmenthold has been fueled by two incomes instead of one. Despite the boost in finances, our current place is smaller and sparser in amenities than the home of anyone we know. It is situated in America's Hangover, otherwise known as Haight-Ashbury, where most of the T-shirts cost $45 or more, but grating street performances and abusive commentary from drug addicts can be had for free.

This setup is fine with me. It's cozy, and the low rent allows us to save money. It also permits us to indulge -- giddily, though not without guilt -- in yuppie pleasures that we were previously unable to afford. It's like being DINK superheroes. By day, we wash our clothes at the laundromat and give away belongings because there's no room for them at home. By night, we dine at Danko and treat ourselves to spa packages.

This list began when I was mocked, deservedly, for uttering the first sentence below. Here are my top 10 ridiculous yuppie complaints of 2006 so far. The items that follow are not verbatim, but they are actual situations that one of us has commented on, usually resulting in a stale look from the other party.

They never give us enough olive oil for the bread at this wine bar.

My roadster convertible is getting totally ruined by street parking.

I can't believe the prices for manchego at this store.

It has taken Kenneth Wingard fully a month to deliver our chairs.

I don't know what it is but I can *never* find an organic chocolate bar that I like. Why is all the good chocolate not organic?

This farmer's market is out of control. Look at that line for microroasted artisanal coffee.

Closed? But this apothecary is the only one in the Marina that stocks Yon Ka products.

That massage was great, but my sinuses always get so clogged from the face cradle.

My tongue is burned from the latte I had today, so I can't fully appreciate this sopressata.

We need to cancel the farm-fresh fruit box delivery. This time they woke us up at six in the morning trying to deliver it, then left it on the street.