Sunday, February 28, 2010


We took Metro North up to Cold Spring last Wednesday after work, a quick overnight trip to visit friends up there. I wrote this on that train ride north with the intention of maybe turning it into something bigger:

"Three years ago this month I took the train back to the city after a long weekend with Arielle. I was trying to knit a scarf -- one I'd decided would be for Sarah -- in soft warm shades of cream, rose, sky blue.

It was a lot colder that year, in that month of February, and I spent most of the trip back staring out the window at the river drifting by beneath sheets of ice.

I rem
ember trying to describe to Sarah later that week how frozen I felt, how close I felt to cracking. It's funny, the lengths we sometimes go to just to ascribe words to feelings that exist beyond language.

This February is warmer, and more solid, and more calm."

We got back home Thursday afternoon, drenched to the bone after walking through sleeting slushing snow, and made Evan's mother's famous lemongrass seafood stew. Friend Nick was kind enough to drag himself uptown to join us for dinner that evening, despite the nasty weather.

Evan's cell phone rang just as we finished eating and he went into the other room to take the call from his mother. She was calling to tell him that his brother had died that afternoon out in Washington State; that his brother, in an unknowable moment of rage or despair, had killed himself that afternoon, and after that phone call things seemed abruptly colder again, a little less solid.

It's been awhile since I've lost someone -- through a breakup, through departure, through death -- and you forget, somehow, that sense of drowning, of freezing, of being taken by waves of sorrow.

I never met Evan's brother (though I kind of assumed I would) and it's been awhile since I've even been in a role to comfort someone I hold dear. It's not an easy thing, being witness to such loss.

Nick left abruptly during the phone call Thursday evening and we curled in to each other after that, curled into the spaces between us. We talked about Big Love (which we've been watching) and we talked about Llama (who was being particularly ridiculous) and we talked about Tim. We talked about grief, and about having to tell people, and I thought of my mother making phone calls the afternoon that my father died, and how awed I was by her strength (how to stay calm when the recipient of your call drops the phone and starts shrieking) and by her logic (whom to call first so that your husband's parents are not alone when you call them to say their son is dead). And I thought of my brother (the same age back then as Evan's niece is now) coming down the back porch steps, hands covered in flour from baking cinnamon raisin bread, to meet us as we returned from the hospital.

Friday afternoon we ventured up to Fort Tryon Park for a walk in the snow with Erica, who then joined us for tea and hot chocolate. We met Jessica and Andrew for dinner later that evening at the Locksmith, and then headed up to Inwood Saturday morning with Erica for brunch at Indian Road Cafe. We came home after brunch and got him all packed, headed south to Penn Station where we parted ways -- him taking NJ Transit out to Newark Airport, me walking up to El Centro in Hell's Kitchen to meet Jill for margaritas.

It's strange to be mourning someone I never knew, strange to be caught up enough in another family to grieve on its behalf, and strange that February, though so short, seems so inclined to inflict damage. I will be glad for tomorrow's March.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

oddly enough

Oddly enough, someone asked me this afternoon where this blog name came from and it took me the rest of the day of intermittent brain-wracking to actually remember.

Eric's Trip, Love Tara, Frame, 1993.

(Frame, at 4:30)

"it's your obsession, not mine
i'm not obsessed with the darker mind..."

Also Behind the Garage, Stove, Happens All the Time.

going home, 2.20.10

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leek, Sweet Potato, & Navy Bean Puree Soup

Evan and I walked up to the Inwood Farmers' Market a few weeks back and came home with a pound of the prettiest little dried navy beans tucked away in our market bag. They sat in the back of the cupboard for awhile, but then last Friday I decided to make up a batch of navy bean dip to serve with pita chips during the Olympics' opening ceremony that night.

I rinsed the beans, covered them with water, threw in some salt, a couple springs of rosemary, and a few crushed garlic cloves, and simmered them for a couple hours. Then I drained the beans (but saved the cooking water in the fridge), ground them up in my trusty little mini-Cuisineart with some olive oil, reserved bean water, black pepper, lemon juice, scraped it into a big orange bowl, and drizzled the top with olive oil, sea salt, and smoked paprika.

This was only okay.

It occurred to me the next day that what this huge bowl of leftover bean dip really wanted to be was a pot of soup, so a couple days ago I came home from work and came up with this:

Leek, Sweet Potato, & Navy Bean Puree Soup:

3 leeks, white & pale green parts only
1 medium sweet potato
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
vegetable broth
leftover navy bean dip
leftover bean water from cooking the beans

Slice the leeks lengthwise and then in thin slices crosswise, and rinse thoroughly in a colander. Saute, with chopped garlic cloves & pepper flakes, in butter & olive oil over medium-low heat till tender. Turn up heat and add wine, let cook down. Add the leftover cooking water, several more cups water, and a vegetable bullion cube. Turn down heat, bring to a simmer. Wash sweet potato and dice into small cubes (don't bother peeling it), and throw that in the pot. Cook for 20 minutes or so, and serve with the rest of the white wine and with Evan's amazingly delicious fried rice, as taken from Mark Bittman.

We've got some leftover soup, and friend Andy is coming over for dinner this evening, so Evan made up a batch of bread dough yesterday and will bake this afternoon (Classic French Bread from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day -- thank you, Jessica & Andrew!). Fresh baked bread and this soup -- it's just barely seven o'clock in the morning and I'm already looking forward to dinner!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic watch

I've found myself excited about the Olympics this winter, probably for the first time since high school. My parents and I loved watching the figure skating competitions, and once every four years I got a free pass on staying up way past my bedtime for these events. We loved Debi Thomas, and we loved to hate Katarina Witt, and it broke our hearts a little when working-her-way-through-medical-school Debi lost to East Germany's little princess.

I've been half-watching, half-knitting, half wondering what the hell the big deal is, half unable to turn off the television. The pairs finished last night, the men began tonight, and the women and the ice dancers are still to come. In between, of course, there's luge and moguls and alpine skiing and nordic skiing and snowboarding and speed skating (adorable little JR Celski...) and curling (I still have never seen curling!) and all the rest.

And here, for my dad, who rhapsodized for years about Torvill & Dean's Bolero, and who I'm pretty sure came closer to tears than he'd care to admit when Debi Thomas lost the gold:

Friday, February 12, 2010

quote of the day

"The difference, of course, between Joe Biden's folksiness and Sarah Palin's is that sometimes Joe Biden knows what he's talking about."
(Joan Walsh)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

avatar & me

Went to see Avatar finally, Monday night, with trepidation. Not because I thought I wouldn't like it (though I did find its colonialist/epic-hero story both somewhat ridiculous and offensive), and not because it wasn't anything approximating original (see Disney's Pocahontas, McCaffery's Pern series, but especially LeGuin's The Word for World is Forest), and not because it wasn't beautiful and impressive and violent and moving and lovely, because it was all those things.

Mostly I was worried I would get a headache. A really bad headache. And nausea. And disorientation. And I did. It's the eye thing. I don't normally see in 3D, you see, and I guess those glasses can't make my eyes work right, either. Oh, I could tell when something was supposed to be floating out from the screen, and I could almost see it, but mostly those things just looked blurry. And about half way through the movie the splitting, shooting headache kicked in, and a little while later the nausea. I stuck it out (it was just compelling enough not to want to walk out of!), and poor Evan got me home afterward, made me peppermint tea, and put me to bed.

So I've learned my lesson, and I hope that though inevitably Avatar's success will lead to a 3D-ification of the film industry there will be hold-out 2D movies for us defectives to enjoy.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

in which emma becomes a troll

I lay the blame at the feet of Pam's House Blend, purveyor of leftist/feminist/queer politics and one of my favorite blogs, and a recent post there that linked back to the black hole, the moral void, the horrifying vacuum that is the blog of the ironically-named National Organization for Marriage (which, contrary to its title, exists solely to fight till its last dying day to prevent people from marrying).

I've been trolling*. I can't deny it. I've been trolling, though I like to think not (exclusively) in the antagonistic, argumentative, pointless way that is the common understanding of trolldom. I've been reading NOM's blog, and the comments therein, and feel like I'm stuck in quicksand, entrenched in a quagmire in foreign, in alien, territory. I've been trying to defend my truths, and question theirs, without being wholly difficult, but rather with calm and reasoned statements.

What I really want to shout (type) is, of course, "You're all going to die some day! And younger people are more and more tolerant, more and more supportive, of equal rights! And your grandchildren will discuss you and your homo-talk in the same hushed and embarrassed tones my generation uses to discuss how some of our grandparents used the N-word!"

It's like a scab.

It's like a scab, an inescapable itch, a cut on the inside of my cheek that I can't stop poking at and prodding at and cringing with a certain satisfaction at every moment of jagged sharp pain.

It's a group of people, a world view, that I just don't understand, and I feel like I'm venturing behind enemy lines, even safely ensconced in my office behind closed doors on my lunch break, even hunched at my desk at home when it's late enough that I should be in bed.

There's a whole other world out there, a world I sometimes forget, or only understand and think about in the abstract, and now that the curtain's been lifted I just can't seem to stop staring at what's underneath.

*Trolling: the act of purposefully antagonizing other people on the internet, generally on message boards. When done in a moderated internet community, this can result in banning. When done to uptight people such as fundies, this can result in hilarity. (As taken from Urban Dictionary)

catch 22

Admiral Mike Mullen, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, might just be my new hero. While testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he had this to say:

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

Of course on the other side we've got dear John McCain, "deeply disappointed" in Admiral Mullen & Secretary Gates for their support of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell despite claiming a few years back that if military leaders said it was time to reassess the policy, he would certainly listen to them.

And I know this is a hugely obvious observation, but how do people justify or rationalize or otherwise claim that DADT is just, or even functional? At its core, it is a paradox. Gay men and lesbians can serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation a secret. But if anyone finds out, they're booted. So gay men and lesbians cannot serve in the military.

This illogic dismays me, and in this day and age to fall back on this as a rationalization for preventing able-bodied men and women from serving in a military already stretched thin seems not only disgustingly homophobic but also detrimental to national security.

Of further reading interest:
Bill Kristol's cold-blooded take on DADT (best, by which I mean most callous, line ever: "As an intellectual matter, gays in the military is a not uninteresting question.")

The Economist's lovely take-down of Bill Kristol

Paul Waldman's piece at the American Prospect