Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fahnestock Chronicles Entry no. 3: In Which She Finds Out That She Does, After All, Like Being Busy

There were just three of us Seasonals (as we call ourselves) on today. The campground is still deserted except for some through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which means that it stays (fairly) clean. Usually, this time of year means that we sit in the office doing absolutely nothing until late June, and although that means I get a lot of reading done, it also means that I start to feel like my soul is sinking into this abyss of Nothingness. But today we had several tasks to complete. Three actually. It was like a fairy tale, where the heroes have to complete three tasks of increasing difficulty before earning the reward. Except in our case, the tasks weren't things like "spin all of the straw into gold," but "rake all of the mulch that is piled up outside the playground onto the playground" and the reward wasn't the hand of the princess but the ability to go home.

So our first task was the daily one: clean bathrooms. It was by far the easiest, because as I said earlier, no one camps this time of year. Our next was the aforementioned raking. This was slightly more difficult. The playground is small. Tiny, in fact. It's hard to really consider it a playground. But they ordered 200 feet of mulch, which, piled up outside of the playground probably reached higher than the slide. Even I, who can't back up a car, who tries to put circular containers inside square ones, and who constantly has bruises on my hips because I can't tell where my body ends and door frames begin realized that this was a little off. There was just far too much mulch for that little space. But we did our best, shoveling and raking until our hands hurt (and sides. I did enjoy knowing that I was getting a core workout, because I haven't been to the gym since last thursday) and the mulch was overlapping the slide and ladders. Yes, it still spilled over the sides. But no one will EVER get hurt on that playground now. Our third task was to paint the women's bathrooms at the beach. Although I haven't painted much, I discovered that I'm quite good at it. Painting works well with my perfectionism.

I realized that although I still haven't finished my book, I enjoy being busy far more than not. It makes the day go faster and I really feel like I do something at my job, instead of wasting my life. And I'm off tomorrow and friday! I'm going into the city overnight to see Sonia and Maddy and get dinner with my Firenze Friends. I'm so excited. Knowing that I'm going to the place that I really do consider my other home makes me so happy.

Also, I've totally been MIA over the past week. It takes a lot for me to want to leave the house after work. Usually I'm tired and numb and all I want to do is sleep. But force me to, please. I won't do it on my own.

And in other, totally unrelated news, everyone should run and listen to something written by Osvaldo Golijov. He's this Russian-Jewish-Mexican composer who writes glorious Latin music that even non-classical people would like. Listen to St. Marks Passion. It's life changing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fahnessotck Chronicles no. 2: Oh the Things That You'll Find

This time of year is slow at the Park. Neither the beach nor the boat rentals are open on weekdays yet, there aren't many people in the campground, and there honestly just isn't much for us to do most days. However, today our Esteemed Assistant Manager decided that it was an excellent day to send the three summer-job kids (including me) to this trailhead on Route 9-D which apparently had a lot of garbage to be cleaned up. However, he didn't mention that this garbage must have been there for years. It was to the point where the bags were buried under the ground. In fact, there were several bags that I couldn't even get to because the roots of a tree had grown right over them. The weather wasn't bad, though, and the garbage was so old that anything able to decompose had already, so nothing smelled. In fact, it became kind of interesting to keep track of what we were finding, like the buried treasure of Things People Throw Away. Among these, we found:

- A computer keyboard from the Windows 95 era or earlier
- A sneaker
- A bag of bones (animal, and clean, so they'd been there a while)
- A bedframe
- A sandal
- Tires
- A bottle that looked like a soda bottle but with thicker walls and a child-proof top. It was filled with liquid, which made me wonder if perhaps it was toxic, hence the Top of Death
- A very large vertebra

I'm not sure what makes people decide to dump their trash by the side of the road instead of giving it to the garbage collector or driving it to the dump. It's not difficult, nor is it terribly expensive or far away.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fahnestock Chronicles Entry no. 1: Prehistoric Man Walks Among Us

Yesterday, someone demanded to know what his state taxes were doing if not paying for the beach parking fee. Which is $7. He looked like the former Army-man type, early to mid 30s, clean-shaven, muscular, with one of those square, flat topped haircuts made famous by every 1950s sitcom bully or gone-to-seed gym teacher who calls the unathletic kids 'faggots.' I felt like responding "bailing out Citibank," or "well, no one is making you come to the beach," but naturally I chickened out and just shrugged and raised an eyebrow, trying to hide my probably obvious dislike (my face shows all of my emotions as I feel them, but dislike and incredulity show particularly well). But really? You're going to complain about a $7 parking fee? Most state parks require and entrance fee plus a parking fee. And he continued to ask me after I said I didn't know!

Prehistoric Man: "But seriously, where do they go?!?"
Prehistoric Man's Wife: "Come on, honey, she doesn't know that"
Prehistoric Man: "But I want to know!"

What did he honestly expect me to do? Say, 'Oh, just one second, let me get Governor Patterson on his cell. In fact, we can conference call him right from the beach booth! Then you can tell him all of your issues with having to pay that hefty, wallet-lightening $7 parking fee. I'm sure he will be sympathetic. In fact, he might make EVERYTHING free for you! Groceries! Your (poor, poor) child's college education! Governor Patterson surely won't think you should pay for anything!"

Friday, May 22, 2009

What. On. Earth.

Today, while cleaning out my closets (parts of which I haven't touched in at least 10 years) I found an old Keepsake Box, aka an Old Cardboard Tea Box That I Filled With Random Crap. Inside, among old plastic necklaces, that black stationary designed for those terrible Milky pens that always stopped working in the middle of writing something important, and imitation Revolutionary War coins, dice, and pencils (I was SUCH a Revolutionary War geek back in elementary school), was a small tin heart shaped box. I remembered that box very well, and I remembered putting something in it when I was really little. So I opened it up. Suddenly, there was brown powder all over my bedspread, and the smell of old, stale coffee grounds filled my nose.

I was the strangest child EVER.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Random and Perfunctory Thoughts

I'm still waking up at 6:15 every day. The time change messed up my body clock, I think. Since I already get up early, coming back to the US just made my body want to get up earlier. Although I've always been rather fond of being awake during the daytime hours, it's getting slightly ridiculous. I have nothing to do with my time this early in the morning. The gym isn't open yet, my friends aren't awake (and soon won't be here at all), and it's too early to blast music and clean shit.

Last night Lauren had her barbeque, which devolved from a traditional "cook burgers and hot dogs and eat on the deck then maybe make s'mores in front of the fire pit" to "the boys are mixing keystone, vodka, lemonade concentrate, red bull, and pineapple juice to make 'The Force,' getting really shitty and talking about rugby." Rather entertaining, until the Rugby Talk began and I decided to go home. This is a shout out to Mitch, who told me to go home and write Witty Things about him. Ummm....Witty Things, Mitch, Witty Things.

So most of my friends are abandoning me beginning this weekend, going off to do Meaningful Things with their lives in various parts of the country while I stay home and work at Fahnestock, and in my spare time making bread that I won't eat. I've decided that when work starts, this blog is going to take on an alternate personality called "The Fahnestock Chronicles," where I entertain my wide, wide audience with tales of my work day. "The Fahnestock Chronicles" sounds so mysterious and full of adventure, like The Chronicles of Narnia or the Spiderwick Chronicles or Whatever-Ripoff-Of-LOTR/Chronicles of Narnia/Harry Potter-Lazy-Authors-Are-Writing-These-Days-To-Capitalize-On-A-Trend-Without-Making-Any-Significant-Impact-On-Good-Children's-Literature. Unfortunately, The Fahnestock Chronicles (I'm tired of typing quotation marks, and if that bothers y'all you can go suck it) will probably veer off in very non-mysterious, non-adventurous directions. I'll try my best to be all David Sedaris in Holidays on Ice about it though. Things like "Today, someone shat on the picnic table on campsite 28," or "We found a hypodermic needle in the back bathroom this morning," or "A crazy Appalachian Trail hiker tickled my foot today while I was reading Anna Karenina in the beach booth" do offer good possibilities. It'll be my masterwork.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last night my friends and I took a night off from sitting around Mitch's living room doing crossword puzzles and watching Family Guy marathons to go to the movies. I had been wanting to see Star Trek since I first saw the trailer, not because I know anything at all about Star Trek but because I had read good reviews and just really needed to get out of the house. I didn't really know what to expect. But it was really good! Surprisingly good! I mean, it was a bit annoying when a new character would be introduced and the entire audience would be all aflutter with "Ohmigosh that's So-and-So!!!!!" and I would just be like "hey, that guy has funny hair." But still, I got the general gist. But what I got out of the movie even more was a new crush on a fictional character. And no, it wasn't on Captain James Tiberius Kirk, that chiseled pretty boy with a devil-may-care attitude. It wasn't that doctor whose name I can't remember with funny hair (that's the one!). Nope, I'm all about the Spock.

Come on, tell me you wouldn't hit that. I mean, that's how I like my men, apparently; cerebral to the point of autistic, outwardly emotionless but inside churning, but still able to kick your ass. So my new goal in life is to find one of my own. In human form. Real life would be good too. Sorry Rahm Emmanuel. I'm moving on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Right Boulanger!

See my bread-making skillz? Jk jk, I'm far better than this.

In the copious amounts of spare time I've had in the past week (haven't even heard from work yet about when I'm supposed to start. That doesn't bother me too much, since no one else, including the adults, have heard from our boss), I've taken up baking bread. I LOVE bread. It's the one thing I tried everywhere I went in Europe (well, along with chocolate, pastries, ice cream, etc. I like sweets too). The best bread I came across (suprise!) was in France. There were the knots of bread filled with olives, or ham and cheese, or tuna and cheese, or pistou in Nice and baguettes in Paris (I feel like I should write something in parenthesis just to keep the one-pair-of-parenthesis-a-sentence trend going). And now that I'm home, and despite the fact that bread in the US is actually quite a bit better than the no-salt-sawdust Tuscan bread, I really want to learn to recreate the wonderfully starchy, glutiny, carby things I ate.

So I made dinner rolls. Cornstalk dinner rolls. They really looked like cornstalks, meaning that you had to rip each "ear" of bread off yourself. And they were delicious. Success! Then came the no-knead bread. It had to rise overnight, then be shaped and cooked in a large cast-iron pot. Didn't have one of those so I used a stainless steel pot, which worked even though the crust was rather thinner and softer than it should have been. But it was also good! Success no. 2! Thennn I attempted a baguette. I definitely let it rise too long, because I wanted to go to the gym. And nothing is more important than my yoga. And I also had no idea how to shape it into a long loaf thing. So as it cooked it spread out instead of up. It didn't form a crust. And when you bit into it, it tasted like pizza dough. As it cooled, it became the texture and hardness of a baseball bat. Sooo baguette fail! Oh well, I guess it's how you learn. Dinner rolls are on the menu for Lauren's barbeque tomorrow. Buttermilk fantails and Parmesan pull-aparts! Oh yeah.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I Might be a Masochist

So I'm actually totes excited that the MET is doing Wagner's the Ring Cycle this season. Even though it's four nights of Wagner. Heavy, trumpet-y, thick, angry Wagner. Each night being like 5 hours long. But come on. Going to see The Ring Cycle is like a badge of honor. Like living through 'Nam or an episode of 90210 while holding on to your sanity. And I'll be ready. I'll train, man. I'll listen to 20 minutes of Wagner every day until I can take it. Oh yeah. Wagner, here I come.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Welcome Home

So hey. I'm um, home. Yeah.

Nothing has changed, really. Well, there are new curtains in my bedroom. I finally cleaned out my closets, and now I have no clothes. And I don't want to shop for any until I lose Italy weight, all 8 pounds worth. And I think since I lost a ton of weight before, it makes me even more impatient for this to come off. Every time I start to get a panic attack or start to think I have a double chin I sit down, breathe deeply, and repeat "At least it wasn't ten at least it wasn't ten." Maybe it's not the healthiest mantra, but it helps.

I've pretty much resigned myself to going back to Fahnestock. I'll just read the entire Random House List of the 100 Best Works of Fiction of the 20th Century. I don't want to commute an hour to work, and I want the scholarship. I've decided to put it towards a week or two in Paris after I graduate as a gift to myself.

I don't miss Italy really. I just miss being busy and having 8 people around all the time who I like. One thing that last semester taught me for sure is that I can't live alone. I like being alone for an hour, or an afternoon. But too much alone time makes me depressed.

Mreh. I guess I should like, wash the bathroom or go to the gym or something.

Yay for seeing Jessica and yay for everyone who is actually coming home this summer coming home soon! And yay for having enough money for a train ticket sometime in the near future.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What are you doing to me, Florence?

A perfect sunset over San Lorenzo, which I never went in because it costs 4 Euro to enter a damn church.

I should have known this would happen. Florence is sneaky. It riles you up and makes you angry with its disorganization, its casual relationship with things like "opening times," and its suicidal moped drivers. It makes you feel so, so ready to go back to the United States, where things are open 24/7 (because there is always the chance that someone might need chocolate chips and beer at 3:00 AM), there is no language barrier (unless you go to Spanish Harlem), and a stop light really means Stop, not stop-if-your-feeling-like-it-but-if-you're-not-then-mreh. But the last few days have been the most beautiful that we've had all semester, with crystal clear blue skies juxtaposed with the bright yellow of the buildings. And the people! I have no explanation for this, but suddenly they're being nice. Really nice. A really imposingly elegant old man with a frown that seemed to be plastered onto his face smiled and winked at me when I reached in front of him to press the Stop button when on the bus yesterday. And when Jen and I wandered around getting gifts, we stopped to get chocolates for our parents at Vestri, my favorite chocolate store in the city (their basil-chocolates are divine, weird but really really wonderful), the man behind the counter gave us free samples and THEN free gelato!

Pistachio, Praline, Blueberry. Exactly the flavors I would have picked myself. HOW DID YOU KNOW, VESTRI?

And now, I don't feel prepared to leave. I was all set, ready and even excited to leave Italy. But with this weather and the Florentines finally not acting like they have a collective stick up their asses all the time (excuse my bluntness), I really would like to stay a while longer. There are places I didn't get to go, like Calabria and Sicily and Abruzzo. There are places I would have liked to eat, pastries to buy, cooking classes to take. NYU should have given us a few days to relax before kicking us out of housing, to do all the things in Florence that we haven't had time to do with work and then finals (which went really well, to keep y'all updated). But they don't. And I will have to content myself with yesterday afternoon, when I wandered around with Jen for hours, without any real goal after buying chocolates, and took pictures that I never took because God Forbid the Italians Think I'm a Tourist. A few pictures from my travels yesterday:

Oh Via Micheli, I will miss you so much.

The best window ever, and I will recreate it in Brooklyn. Yeah. Maybe.

The architecture building of University of Florence was always my favorite.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Final Countdown

4 Days until I leave for home! 5 Days until I get there.

Please let them go quickly.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Things I'm Currently Obsessed With

1) The Hazards of Love by the Decemberists

I haven't loved an album quite as much as this in a long time. Considering their penchant for writing songs about cranes that turn into women, family feuds, and ghosts who haunt the barrows, it's surprising that it took them this long to write a prog-rock opera. And it's amazing. A little heavy on the death-metal guitar riffs, the complex plot line totally makes up for it. There's a maiden who finds a hurt faun that turns into a man when the sun falls, a crazy queen who found the man when he was a child and turned him into a faun to save him from the human race and hates the maiden for taking him away, a sociopath father who murders his three children then abducts the maiden, and the three ghost children who come back for revenge. Like you would expect from a Decemberists album, shit goes down and doesn't end happily. But it's so amazing, I can't stop listening to it. And the instrumentation! is! great! They totally use harpsichord at one point.

2) Trattoria Cibreo

Cibreo is widely acknowledged as the best restaurant in Firenze. It is, however, mad expensive and completely out of my reach. Not so for the small trattoria next door, which shares the same kitchen as Cibreo and a lot of the same menu. On thursday, Nicole, Jen, and I walked over, keeping our fingers crossed that they'd have a table (they don't accept reservations). And they did! Plenty, actually. The waiter was the nicest old man ever. He helped us with the menu, and seemed sincerely happy that we attempted to communicate in Italian. Cibreo only serves tradition Tuscan food (read: no pasta), so Jen and I split a plate of polenta for a primi. I got salsiccia e fagioli for a secondi, the traditional sausage in black eyed peas. It was amazing, really simple but hearty and good.

Then for dessert I got their famous flourless chocolate cake. It was incredible, and tasted a lot like dark chocolate fudge. We sat there talking for a long time, and then the waiter came over, winked at us, and put another dessert on the table. It was the nicest I've ever been treated by an Italian. This entire semester. And I know he was being paid for it, but whatever.

3) Astology

Last night we had some people over for dinner, and our friend Chris started talking about astrology. He's really into it, to the point where he used to ask people their sign before even asking them their name. But anyways, he was explaining our signs to us and what all the different signs and planets mean, and then he gave us this website that will calculate our chart for us. And oh, my, god, how true it is. I'm such a virgo. Apparently each person has three main signs. Your Rising Sign is the side of you that you show to the world, basically how people see you. My Rising Sign is Sagittarius, meaning that You are known for being open, frank, outgoing and honest. At times, though, you are also blunt and quite indiscreet...You appreciate living your life in a straightforward and simple manner -- you dislike social niceties and consider them to be hindrances to real communication. Which is to a certain extent true. Your Sun Sign is the side of you that is inside, the way you really are. I'm totally a virgo. Extremely careful and cautious by nature, you value neatness and order above all else. You rigorously practice very high standards of living and conduct and you demand the same of everyone with whom you come into contact. At times, you are so supercritical that you are merely nit-picky. You are very good at practical skills and quite handy with tools of all kinds. You are also greatly concerned with hygiene, cleanliness and personal health problems. Very likely your health is much better than you think it is -- don't worry so much! Extremely methodical and analytical, you are a perfectionist -- this makes you the perfect person to carry out highly detailed, precise operations. But, at times, you pay so much attention to details that you lose sight of the larger issues. Creepy, right? Then your last really important sign is your Moon Sign, which is the way you act in emotional, high stress situations. Once again, eerily accurate. You tend to be serious-minded but cheerful for the most part. You need tasks that engage both your mind and your hands. A careful worker, you enjoy making things. You are neat and orderly, and are very concerned with good health habits. Fastidious to the extreme, you cannot tolerate messes and will immediately clean them up. Reserved, shy, and very self-critical, you tend to be very hard on yourself. You usually will go out of your way to be helpful and useful to others. Practical, reliable, efficient and conservative, at times you are a bit of a prude. You are known to lead a simple, uncomplicated, frugal, methodical and unemotional lifestyle. You are devoted and caring to those you love. The the kicker is, it even echoes my taste in men down to a T. Here's my Venus sign, the love sign. You have a striking, regal appearance and demeanor that attracts others to you. Your friendship is highly sought and you tend to take friendships quite seriously -- you remain loyal and true to those to whom you are attached. For you, love is mixed with pride and respect. Relationships are over when you lose respect for your partner. Be careful of a tendency to relate only to those who make you look good -- the powerful, important and influential. This can lead to arrogance and selfishness, and neither of these qualities becomes you. I mean, ignoring the whole thing about the regal appearance (I'm 5'1''), THIS TOTALLY EXPLAINS MY LOVE FOR RAHM EMMANUEL.