Tag Archives: blogging

Some Things and Their Places: A Story

Things on Ships:

Pirates

Sails (extra ones below deck)

Parrots

Rats

Engine (depending on the type of boat)

Yar

Swashbuckling

Skipper

Yellow bellies

Things on a Christmas tree:

Hope

Christmas lights

Dream

Half a strand of dead Christmas lights

Tinsel (also all over the house)

Grandpa and Grandma (a picture of them)

A gingerbread man ornament that I always wish I could eat but can’t because it’s an ornament and not actually made out of gingerbread (even though it looks really tasty)

The Christmas ornament that creeps me out but that I keep using anyways

Things in my room:

An empty canister of Nescafe Tasters Choice instant coffee that’s been there for 9 months – could probably recycle this now

A poster on the wall with my goals for this year, and where I spelled “General” wrong so it says “Geneal goals for the year”

Calcium chews – I may have had two of these today since I couldn’t remember if I’d eaten one in the morning or not

A Monster energy drink that I purchased one night in September

Self-reflection

Desk, chair, and bookshelf that were all found on the street

Two cottage cheese containers full of money

A phone book – I thought this would be useful for some reason

Warm

Things in my head:

Memories in picture format

Scent memories – my house where I grew up, pine needles, cologne

Forgotten dreams

Remembered dreams

The indisputable fact that everyone is staring at me

Instant coffee granules

I think he likes me

Ideas like “I could sell my doodles,” or “what if I did man-on-the-street interviews at lunch”

Hope

Pirates

The song “The Christmas Waltz”

Laughter

Things in my heart: 

Ruv

Angst

Hope

Pirates

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That’s Just Me Staring at Your Ear

Scowl_earI find myself staring at ears a lot nowadays, on the subway or when I’m standing behind people in line at Peet’s. I zone in on the ear, or the back of the neck, or the elbow of the jacket, where it’s pulled tight but I can still see some wrinkles in it from where it’d been crumpled up and left in the passenger’s seat.

I try to memorize every detail possible, or at least take them all in.

The staring started after I got interested in other people and wanted to swim into their lives and know all their stories and secrets. I’m pretty sure that makes me the opposite of a psychopath, so you don’t need to worry about my mental health, mom. Also, I’m taking vitamin B12 which improves mental function and tastes like candy.

The ear is a very personal part of the body. Only best friends and lovers know the ears of others intimately. I myself don’t know my ears very well. If you stared at one long enough, you might get to know it better than I do, and then in that one way, you would know me better than I know myself.

The same applies to certain parts of clothing – the back of a shirt or a coattail. I’m not aware, as I’m going about business as usual, how my clothing sits on me, how the wind is affecting it or what the pattern of raindrops is on my back or umbrella. Only someone else could know those things about me.

In digging into these minute observations, the boring pattern of ear hair, where a certain mole falls on the neck, or the mundane way the fabric appears to be worn at the knees and the jeans are feathering, I feel – and stay with me here – that I’m taking back control of time and adding detail to the blurs that other people can become around me.

earOften, during the past month or so, I’ve wished I could memorize every single face I see, the eyes and the nose and the skin tone and the blemishes, and that I could understand something of the story behind that face, where she had come from and where she was going, what he was thinking about and hoping, and everyone with a different story, all of them distinct but reassuring in their similarities, in the familiar concerns everyone has, the desire for good health and love, the dream of  taking time off to be with family or friends or travel the world, the fears of being alone or not living a life that’s worthwhile.

Jostling, rushing for a seat on the bus, walking past others on the streets – this is the way I have to live in a city. I’ve learned the ways to cope when there are so many people and so many heartbreaks and joys that could burst out and give me some perspective on my life. It’s self-defense, and it’s necessary.

But on the MUNI, when I’m staring at ears and dress pants, it becomes clear that there’s really nothing between me and this other human, that I could reach out and start a conversation with them and they would respond as they would respond. That’s the real fear – that there’s nothing there, no barrier, not a single thing.

We’re all in the same vehicle together with our burdens and curiosities and there’s nothing stopping us from sharing them with one another, except for everything.

And now I’ve overstepped the bounds of this article of talking about my new habit of ear-detail-gathering, and I know longing for intimate conversation on the MUNI is bizarre and would be psychotic except for those B12 vitamins I’m taking, but I guess I just want to remind myself that life is more interesting than the boundaries I create for myself.

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Why I Don’t Give Restaurant Recommendations

Ghee-colored pancakes

Ghee-colored pancakes

Over the past year, I’ve eaten breakfast at 43 different restaurants in the Bay Area.

Every Friday morning, I wake at the godly hour of 5:15 am and leave the house by 6:30 to go eat breakfast at 7:00 at a new restaurant – always a new restaurant.

Every time, to what extent possible, I get breakfast meat, pancakes, hashbrowns, eggs, coffee, and toast. It’s a feast for one, for my heart and soul. Do you know what color the sunshine is on Friday mornings at 7:00 am as it streams over a short stack of pancakes? It’s butter. It’s clarified butter. It’s ghee.

Listen here – the  hours between 5 and 7 am are a secret. No one knows about them, and during those hours the most extraordinary things occur. Different buildings appear and familiar ones change shape.

Houseboats float in the air next to colorful songbirds, and both are feathered and free. The morning streets are gleeful, speaking with each other in excitement about the coming day. AT&T park enjoys its morning coffee before being filled up with and vomited on by Giants fans. The Embarcadero bends and sways in a morning song before it’s drowned out by business heels tramping to their desks.

And if you’re out at that hour, you’re one of the lucky ones. You get to see the other side.

Restaurants are magical in the morning. Only the most faithful, the most loyal patrons are present, eating their usuals. The staff is chatting with each other, getting ready for the day. Everyone is at their best. There’s no anger, no stress. Everyone sighs in bliss together. A plate of pancakes at 7:30 am is unlike a plate of pancakes at 11:00 am. Corned beef hash at 7:19 am is unlike corned beef hash at 11:02 am. The former is a treasure, the latter a commodity. The former is enchanted, the latter ordinary.

Restaurants that open at 6:30 and 7 am love their patrons and open early for that reason, to serve them the food they need to get to where they’re going. Sometimes the upholstery on the booths is cracking and the stuffing is coming out. Sometimes the decor made up of dusty fake plants and faded Polaroids on the wall, but at the best of places, this all points to a love of people. And what could make the food taste better than brotherly love?

I have an unmitigated love for magic breakfast. Each time I get up and venture into the morning world, it’s the best experience of my life.

When others hear me speak of my breakfast love and of my many adventures, they often ask me which one was my favorite. I instantly freeze up and have no idea how to respond. What do they want me to tell them? Where they can get the best food? The most pleasant atmosphere? The edgiest cuisine? The cutest waiters?

Am I a god that I should judge these things for other people?

For me, the hot stack of 7:25 am pancakes in front of me is always the best food I’ve ever tasted. The snaggle-toothed, wide-hipped waitress with a bad dye job is always the most beautiful woman in the world. A mostly empty restaurant with yellowing posters of Hawaii on the wall is always the most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever experienced. The gentle song of coffee refills, newspaper shuffling, and morning phlegm-clearings is always the most lovely music I’ve ever heard.

Come with me one morning at 7:00 am, and maybe you’ll see what I see too. Until then, be wary of asking me for restaurant recommendations. They might not prove as useful as you might guess.

***
If you want to read more about how much I love breakfast, check out these posts: Oh My God, It’s Breakfast in Istanbul, I am the Breakfast Whisperer, Your Life Coach Recommends Biscuits from Pork Store Cafe

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On the Two Year Anniversary of this Very Blog

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary Blog

Tonight, at my apartment while my roommates are out with their boy things and I just got back from improv practice with an awkward 30 minutes before I need to sleep so I can drone appropriately at the office tomorrow, I pick up my computer from my desk – the same computer I’ve had for nearly six years, the one that’s been with me to several continents and now makes disgusting whirring sounds if it’s left on for too long, and I sit down in bed, and I tell myself that I am going to do this, that I am going to face my bloggerly self, and I log into my WordPress account for the first time in 2 months.

I see a tiny trophy in the corner of the screen where WordPress tells me how much everyone loves me and wonder what I did to earn it this time. Turns out, it’s the 2-year anniversary of This Very Blog. All of the sudden it became clear, my blog had called me to itself for a purpose. It wanted me to remember its birthday.

Let me take you back, all the way to May 26th, 2011 and the birth of Snotting Black.

I had just graduated from Boston University and was another bleary-eyed, short-snouted, two-toned Boston Terrier entering what I hopefully and unimaginatively called the real world.

I was in the middle of a euphoric semi-relationship that seemed like the most exciting thing that had happened in the course of history, had spent a dreamy weekend with my family in Bar Harbor, Maine, a city so quaint even the squirrels have impeccable manners, and then had flown all the way to Cairo, Egypt, where I was entering a one-year Arabic program to finally become fluent in a language I had studied since I was a senior in high school.

I wrote my first blog post from the airport in Boston and was instantly hooked. Turns out, I loved exhibitionism and making even my most ridiculous thoughts available for the world.  I blogged almost every day for a year.

I blogged from the dusty couches and furniture of three different Cairo apartments and one balcony. I wrote about sandwiches and revolutions and expatriates and travel and unicorns and instant coffee as I dealt with the immensity of Cairo and its endless high rise apartments and highways filled with people and as I traveled here and there where I could – Italy, Ethiopia, Turkey. I got out of a relationship and into another one.

The year in Cairo ended. I wasn’t fluent in Arabic and in fact didn’t much care for studying the language anymore. I was ready to go home.

So home I went to Oklahoma, where I co-delivered a knock-out speech at my sister’s wedding, and then moved to San Francisco in order to follow my dreams, which were undefined. Something about writing and performing and being universally loved and known. As the days pass, my blogging dies down. There’s not enough time between relationship, hostessing, babysitting, and job-hunting to keep it going steady.

Then I get a “real job” and time speeds up. I’m busy almost every night, either with improv, which is now a huge part of my life, tech meet-ups, concerts, lectures, or friends. I find it almost impossible to stand still.

I rarely blog, even though I renewed the domain name under snottingblack.com and changed the description a couple of times to try to refocus it. But I don’t know what it’s about, and when I think about blogging I think of sitting on the balcony in Cairo breathing the night air and watching the bats in the trees.

But life goes on: I’ve eaten at over 30 different breakfast places in the Bay Area, ended a relationship, have a hole in my work shoes, and brought my work computer home this past weekend even though I knew I wouldn’t use it.

Two years is not a very long time for a stone or a 30-year old. But it seems like long time for me. Rather, I’m surprised that all those experiences added up to be 2 years. It seemed shorter than that. Am I who I thought I would be two years ago? The older I get, the younger I feel, and the newer the world seems to me. I hope that lasts forever.

I do know that some of the Cairo dust that graced the crevasses of my keyboard in those first months of blogging passion is still jammed in there, and that’s comforting for some reason. Those parts of my life are still around and always will be.

I guess Walt Whitman said it best when he said, “I could talk about myself and my experiences forever.” And that’s why he created blogging.

Happy Anniversary.

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Stop everything and think about this

cool picture(Skip to the quote if you’re short on time)

So I’ve been using the thinking part of my brain and the talking part of my mouth recently, having those kinds of conversations with older people that make me wonder why I ever thought I knew anything in the first place.

One of those was with my former professor, who I now call by her first name and that’s a little weird. I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation, but I remember coming away from it, shocked to learn that there are many stages in life, and the fact that she is a professor right now doesn’t mean she will always be a professor and in fact she hadn’t even imagined she would ever become a professor.

To me, this was mind-blowing. For some reason, probably because I’m too intelligent, I imagined popping out of college and entering “career” or “dream job,” neither of which turned out to be true, and in fact I don’t even know what my dream job looks like. Understanding this stage in my life as part of something greater is extremely relieving, because that means I still have the chance to revive 30 Rock and write for it in 10-15 years.

On the note of life stages and the illusion of permanence, I read an incredible quote today, courtesy of Literary Jukebox. The quote is from someone I’d never heard of with an equally unknown book, which gives me hope that one day my words might inspire someone even if they’ve never heard of me. Debbie Millman in Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design writes

“I discovered these common, self imposed restrictions are rather insidious, though they start out simple enough. We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis […]

Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it […]

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”

When I read this, I find it extremely challenging and convicting, and it reminds me of something that Stephen Elliott of The Daily Rumpus (and other) fame said once in one of his letters.

He said that people will never be surprised at your failure if you try to do something “impossible,” like make a movie, or publish a book, or travel around the world. In fact, they expect it. They’ll say “of course you couldn’t publish your book, of course you couldn’t make your movie, of course you couldn’t change jobs” etc. etc.

But the reality is that people are doing those things every day, and the only difference between them and me is the fact they’ve been pursuing their passion with a relentless fever, making the impossible happen for themselves and not listening to the consolation of others.

What does it take to be extraordinary? I’m not completely sure, but I know that part of it is steely tenacity. Today I resolve to be more tenacious.

(By the way, if you don’t read the site Brain Pickings, you should. A side-burn of Brain Pickings is the tumblr Literary Jukebox, which is also fantastic.)

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