First of all, I want to apologize to all you, my loyal readers, for my sudden drop off the face of the earth. What with my job and my search for a more interesting job and my life and my search for a more interesting life and all this business with the red and the green and the birthday party for an infant (I don't know why people bother, really, I mean, it's like taking your kids to art museums or Europe or really nice restaurants if they are under the age of 8, they aren't going to get it and they are ruining it for the rest of us. Yes, I just said children ruin Europe, and I stand by that. Fact.) I haven't had a chance to chronicle my struggles, which is a real shame for all of you, as they have been PLENTIFUL. Ah, if we had world enough, and time...but we don't and we live in a culture of speed, so instead of giving you the Russian-classic length story of my comings and goings (and fallings...) of the last month, I'm going to enumerate them in list form for you instead. So sit back, relax, and hunker yourself down for a litany of someone else's bad decisions. After all, tis the season.
My Naughty List:
1. During the whirlwind rush that is Hanukkah (which came way too early this year, I mean, that thing practically arrived before Thanksgiving. Thank you so much, ancient harvest calender, for having me stuff myself with Turkey AND latkes in the space of one week. You're a peach.) I went up to New York for a reading of a new play I wrote. The reading itself was a mixed bag, the good being that I go to hear the play and the bad being that it would of been nice to have people who can actually speak English reading it. But my friend Gabriel (hi, Gabriel!) was in it, so that's a win.
2. In New York, I stayed with my friend Michael (hi, Michael!) in his apartment (tiny by Struggledelphia standards, a veritable Palladian Villa by New York estimates). After running up and down the West side like a maniac trying to see some so called friends (is it too much to ask that people drop everything in their lives and come find me the second I arrive in New York? Oh, it is? Crap.) Michael and I celebrated by making dinner, drinking copious amounts of Trader Joe's Finest vintages and braving the elements to see our extremely white, Jewish, well bred friend Aaron (hi, Aaron!) rap at a bar in the East Village. And you know what? He was secretly awesome. And Michael dropped me on the dance floor. Thanks, buddy.
3. Upon my return to the fair city of Struggledelphia, I found myself at a house party in Fishtown the very next weekend with my friend Kate (hi, Kate!). One look inside the converted garage/performance space/living room up in the heart of blue collar white supremisist Northern Fishtown, and Kate and I realized we were way too dressed up for this. Not only were neither of us sporting awkward facial hair, chunky thrift store sweaters or tights and shorts (no. just...no) but we had committed the cardinal sin of cleanliness. If you think about it, there is something really bizarre about the icon of the dirty hipster. Hip away all you want, folks, but if you are going to be in a confined space for any amount of time, at least consider sporting a pinch of deodorant. Isn't that what Toms of Maine is for?
4. Decided that I'm in no place to drink PBR, even if it's meant to be done ironically, I curled up with a hot toddy (nothing says Struggledelphia like a colonial themed beverage) and enjoyed the spectacle and the scream band. After enjoying ourselves for a few hours and bowls of vegetarian chili, Kate and I realized our lack of hand rolled cigarettes weren't making us any friends, so we absconded with our clean hair still intact.
5. The next evening, I won quizbowl. That's right, true story. So despite the fact that my not-Yale education has yet to procure me a job in my field, a handsome and extremely successful trophy husband, OR world dominance, at least I can still earn the respect and envy of my peers by answering questions about Christopher Marlow quotes and the population of Latvia. Happy Holidays to ME.
My Nice List:
1. Um, I give money to same charities....
Oh, screw it, I've got nothing. Happy whatever-the-hell you do this time of year, and be safe. Make me jealous with your New Year's plans in the comments. Me, I'm thinking about renting a movie.
Sometimes life is lovely, wonderful and shining, full of possibility. But most of the time? It's not. For example, I SHOULD be out there, enjoying the the gorgeous fall weather here in Struggledelphia, frolicking amongst the leaves, wearing cute sweaters and drinking pumpkin lattes (of course, I would never do that last one because I dislike pumpkins and really really dislike lattes) but instead I'm sitting in my home shotgunning tea and getting really into Make it or Break it (it's seriously hilarious, I can't stop watching it. I hate you, Hulu.) And how did this happen, you may ask? Well, that's sort of a long story.
I should back up here, and explain that I am of the opinion that life is like one of those Rube Goldberg machines, that is, it takes about 8 million steps and reactions before the chicken hits the ball (or spills the water or lights the lamp, whatever, Rube Goldberg was a sick man). So the story of how I got sick (first cold since Hamburg in March, not to shabby, Franqui!) is therefore not just point A to point B, but involves many little steps in between. And the steps are as follows:
1.After a stressful week I lose my debit card AND my license while attending a truly painful production of Uncle Vanya with Mama Struggs. Killed my wine buzz from dinner, luckily left my bank account intact.
2. Poor Mama Struggs rolled over something (Broken glass? Stick with a nail in it? Switchblade? Scythe? You never can tell in my neighborhood!) and two of our tires suddenly underwent an air-reduction. That was fifty percent of our tire, right there.
3. Then Mama Struggs got sick. In a valiant effort to avoid illness I tried to create a three foot barrier around us at all time.
4. Unfortunately, because I live with and work with my parents, that proved more difficult then I had previously imagined. And what with the arrival of Strugglemano for my favorite holiday, the planning of said favorite holiday, and all the stress of, well, struggling, I woke up yesterday with the clogged nasal passages and throat on fire feeling indicating less then perfect health. Super.
So now I'm blearily staring at a computer screen, lightly congested, gently delirious, wondering when it would be acceptable to dive into the day's third bowl of soup. This better clear up before I have to spend the day arms deep in a turkey carcass. Although, that would give me the perfect opportunity to make the REST of my family sick while I'm well on my way to recovery...Something to think about.
There are many ways in which I am nothing like an early 19th century prospector/explorer. For one thing, my greatest fear isn't dysentery or rattlers. I'm certainly not interested in forming my own polygamist religion featuring terrible hairstyles and bunkers, nor am I often found searching the soil for gold. I bear no ill will towards Native Americans (or is it first peoples, now?) and while buffalo is DELICIOUS I can usually resist the urge to kill one when I see it. So clearly there is a strong divide between me, Leah Franqui, strugglextrodinare, and, say, Louis and Clark. Nevertheless, I recently found myself unable to resist that great and wild urge present in all members of the United States (at least according to Fredrick Jackson Turner). That's right, my friends, I went West.
More specifically, I went to San Fransisco. Apart from the fact that Padre Struggle had a hankering to see some free lovers-turned-litigators (can you imagine California Law Schools in the 1970s? It's like, guys, guys, guys, look at this legal brief, but really, LOOK at it. It's beautiful.), Strugglemano only lives a brisk 6 hour drive south (you can cross five state lines on the East Coast in the same time it takes you to get from Los Angeles to San Fransisco. I cannot understand California).
On day one the trifecta of struggle found itself awash in the salty breezes of the Pacific, climbing up hills, more hills, some other hills (we took a walk around the city and it was uphill BOTH WAYS. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?), peering at charming Victorian homes and their filthy hippie residents (thank you, Haight Ashbury, but I would not like a hit of that), stuffing ourselves with Dim Sum in Chinatown, dodging gangs in the Mission, and generally having a wonderful time. We walked so much on that first day that my shoe literally fell apart, and when I bought a new pair and asked to dispose of the now-derelict sneakers, I was advised to give them to a homeless person. They were accepted gratefully, I'll have you know, which just goes to show that one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Having all pulled leg muscles exploring the city, we decided to spend day two relaxing in Berkley. First we went to Chez Panisse for lunch, and the only appropriate word I have for Alice Water's flagship enterprise is FOODGASM.
Then we saw the university. Maybe it's just because I went to not-Yale which, despite it's many graduate programs and hugely inflated ego, is really rather small, but Berkeley seemed enormous to me. I mean, I can't understand how students navigate the place without becoming extremely lost! We comforted ourselves with Ethiopian food and South African wine, as one does.
Day three had us wandering the hallowed halls of Stanford, whose golden buildings and palm trees made me think of the University of Salamanca crossed with Hawai 5-O. At this point Strugglemano and I also learned a new life rule, that every major university in the United States has an Alexander Calder. Every. Single. One. Any evidence to the contrary is merely an illusion. I then spent the evening hanging out with high profile lawyers in their late fifties/early sixties. If I ever recover from that experience, I will let you know.
Day four, ah, day four, a day that will live in my dreams, day four, we went to Napa. Glorious Napa, fragrant with the stench of fermenting wine and expensive brunches, filled with rolling hills of grapes and, well, nope, that's it, grapes. Strugglemano, being our resident wine expert, arranged three tasting for us at three different wineries, and may I just say, there is nothing quite like the buzz of wine you will NEVER be able to afford consumed well before 5pm (East Coast AND West Coast time). Dear lord, it was glorious.
And so, several thousand pounds heavier (give or take), Padre Struggle and I boarded the plane back to Struggledelphia, while Strugglemano contemplated the long drive back to Southern California. Take heart, Strugglemano, car beats wagon trail hands down. Nothing like a Westward Ho! interlude to refresh the soul, eh? Or at least get it drunk enough so it forgets about work on Monday.
I just got back to Struggledelphia from San Franstruggle. It was my first trip to the Fog City, and, to be frank, I was not expecting to love it. After all, I have very negative feelings about the OTHER city in California (if you can call a place where a car is a non-negotiable a city...) and didn't expect to find a town built by robber barons and gold prospectors to be that interesting. However, I don't know what the hell I was thinking, because obviously anything built by robber barons and gold prospectors is BOUND to be awesome, number one, and number two, it was Padre Struggle's law school reunion, and number three, Strugglemano took a one-man six-hour road trip to meet us, and as a result, hilarity ensued. And while I will be happy to break down all the crazy in due time, for now, I'm just going to give you some images, and let you imagine the rest. The best story will get a large prize! And by prize, I mean bragging rights. Come one, don't give me that look, there is a recession on!
Liminal seasons as they are, fall and spring seem to be the times of year in which we most crave change. Call it spring cleaning (or fall dirtying? why doesn't fall get a thing?), but I always feel like doing something new when the weather changes, like changing my nail polish color or shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die or something. You know, something festive and fun. And normally I would be eagerly anticipating the change of seasons with joy, but this year, well, I can't really get into it. Why, do you ask? It's the silence.
You see, I've been applying for jobs for a few months now, and, things being what they are in the world, etc, I've found myself facing a flurry of rejection, a handful of awkward interviews, and a giant void of silence. The rejection I can deal with, I mean, I went to high school in the United States, so, I've got that down. The awkward interviews don't faze me, awkward is, frankly, my calling card, so I make it work, taking each one with a grain of salt, (and, later, a shot of tequila). It's the silence that has begun to get to me, though, it's the silence that is bringing me down. You pour your heart and soul and the better part of an hour into a cover letter explaining in great but succinct detail how you would be the perfect development assistant/fry cook/baseball coach/mayor, and you check that everything is correct and that everyone possible has been thanked for their consideration, and then you carefully send it off by email/mail/carrier pigeon, and you wait. And wait. And wait. Godot himself walks by during your time spent waiting, he says hi, you two have some coffee, he moves on. And all you are left with is silence, nothingness, the sound of one hand clapping. No wonder they called it the Great Depression, because this is painful.
Look, I know that in this situation the companies and businesses and clown troupes have the power; there are ten million of me and only a few of them, I get it. And I'm certainly not expecting a hand written thank you note every time I send in an application. But really, is sheer silence the only option? Can't there be any kind of acknowledgement that I have, in fact, made an effort and you have received the fruits of my labor? Because as it is I can't help but imagine my job applications floating out there in the universe, blowing the wind, disturbing sleeping homeless people and amusing squirrels. I don't like squirrels, and I really don't appreciate the image of them getting acorn pieces all over my cover letters and mocking my special skills section on my resume. I'd like to see THEIR resumes, stupid squirrels...
In times like these when you find yourself confused, concerned, and contemplating squirrelicide, the best solution is to breathe, try to relax, and find yourself something else upon which to place your focus. And if you can't change your career path and the authorities wont let you hunt squirrels in public places, there is no better place to go then to your appearance. And so I cut off my hair. Well, I say I did, but really it was a nice man with expensive scissors and more product then that one character in Glee. After all, if change wont come to you, you might as well go out and find it.
So, I'm still applying for jobs, I'm still living in the huge hit of silence and suffering, and I still hate squirrels. But I look good. So, you know, net gain, I say. Happy October, people.
Oh, man, I can't believe that the Live Arts/Philadelphia Fringe festival is over! It seems like only yesterday I was leafing through the Gutenberg Bible that is the guide, and now it's gone, with the wind, but without the southern accents, obviously. I saw punk rock musicals and telenovelas and children's stories and dance and music and all kinds of delights, and that was just in one weekend. And while there was just SO much good in this year's festival, there was also a large ratio of struggle.And I'm going to focus on that because, well, petty as it may seem, it makes me feel better to point out the short comings of others. Yes, I know, but at least I have the guts to express what we are all thinking, right? Happy Yom Kippur to ME.
And so, without further ado, I present my rules to you for how to avoid making bad theater. You know how they say only a very good actor can play a very bad actor? You will be interested to know that in my experience this is not always the case...
1. Don't offend the costumer. Seriously, don't do it. She/He/They will make you look so bad that small children will run, scared, screaming from the theater. And anyone who manages to stay and watch will be consumed the entire show with the question of what the hell you did to the costumer to PUT YOU IN THOSE SHOES. They will construct elaborate theories of how you ran over their puppy while holding their grandmother hostage and seducing their significant other and remaining at least ten pounds thinner then them at all times. And whatever else you are doing on stage will not at all matter because all they will be thinking about is that poor puppy. I promise you, this can all be avoided if you just buy the costumer a cup of coffee and compliment their shoes. Be cool, okay? Don't offend the costumer.
2. Don't write a play that is solely about your last failed relationship/job interview/search for the perfect pair of skinny jeans. No one finds it as interesting as you do, and the fact that you sit in the front row crying during each run is a dead give away. Living well is the best revenge. Setting your last personal tragedy to the music of the Beach Boys isn't.
3. Don't assume that just because it's a Fringe Festival no one will notice the lack of lights/sound/plot just because you've included nudity. They totally will notice. They may not CARE, but they will notice.
4. If you absolutely must do a pure improv show (and the jury's still out for me on this one, unless we are talking about my friend Ned, hi Ned! who is legitimately great at improv) please be legitimately great at improv. Otherwise it's like watching a young boy's bar mitzvah, it's awkward, everything is cracking, and even the after-party booze doesn't erase all the memories.
5. Don't do anything by David Mamet. Admittedly, this one might be a personal preference, rather then a real rule. Nevertheless, I'm allowing it.
So that's my advice to you. Stick to these five basic rules and you should be okay. Or, make a show that is entirely composed of these five elements and let the chips fall where they may. Who knows? It might be so deeply bad it's secretly awesome, like, say, the new 90210 or Vegemite . If that turns out to be the case, can you score me a ticket? Because I totally want to come.
If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would say that I am a person of supremely eclectic tastes. For example, I enjoy both Klezmer Music and the stylings of Jay-Z, I like a cool crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc and well whiskey, I like quiet foreign films about relationships and I like Star Wars. Simply put, if my tastes were a vehicle, they would be the town bicycle, and almost everyone would get a ride. But if I can combine things, for example, listening to Klezmer, drinking wine and watching Star Wars, that's the optimal situation. So imagine my surprise and delight when Padre Struggle suggested that we spend our Labor Day NOT burning steaks on the grill or fighting through crowds of shwasted individuals of Italian American descent at the Shore, but rather attending the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair. I, to be frank, kvelled.
Let me explain something here. I love the Renaissance Faire. I have always loved and will always love the Renaissance Faire, and no amount of public ridicule or private humiliation will ever sway me from my vast abiding love of the Renaissance Faire. I should make Greensleeves my RINGTONE that's how much I love the Renaissance Faire. And as fairs go, Pennsylvania has a pretty amazing one. Not only is it 30 years old and ridiculously well attended, but it has it's own winery and includes at least 25 different theatrical and musical shows, including swordplay, jousting, and wenches galore. I mean, what isn't to love? They have enormous turkey legs and funny hats! They have mediocre Chardonnay and jesters! They have glassblowing and a human chess match and at least seven stalls selling WINGS! It's a strugglers paradise! I mean, good Lord, it's such a struggle that it passes through the struggle barrier (that's just before the sound barrier) and actually goes through to the other side and becomes not struggle but success! Do you know how rare that is?
And so, as I enjoyed a hearty meal of Ye Olde Pannini and the Queens Greens, I found myself twisting my head with delight like a hysterical owl, desperately trying to take it all in. And my god, was there a lot to see. There are so many people who travel all the way to Lancaster, PA to watch people in Elizabethian outfits mangle UK accents, it's insane. And who I am to judge, really, since I'm clearly one of them. But considering that judging is like a form of breathing to me, may I just raise one point of censure, not to the Faire itself, but to the other guests of the event. As everyone knows, the Ren Faire (as those in the know call it) is an opportunity to dress up in period clothing and escape the realities of 2010 while still enjoying the amenities (period clothing, yes, period toliets, not so popular for some reason). But it's called the RENAISSANCE Faire, people, not the Elven Dr. Who Battlestar Galactica Belly Dancing Victorian Goth Slutty Vampire Disney Princess Faire! I mean, how could you even fit that name on a commemorative cup? Shape up, Pennsylvania residents, and when you come to the Faire, make damn sure you come prepared. That being said, thank you so much for the Hot Topic fashion show, that was fun. But maybe I should just relax, and take some advice from one of my favorite fictional characters, Howard Wolowitz:
Howard Wolowitz: Renaissance fairs aren't about historical accuracy. They're about taking chubby girls who work at Kinkos and lacing them up in corsets so tight their bosom jumps out and says "howdy". Sheldon Cooper: Bosoms would not have said "howdy" in the Fifteenth Century. If anything, they would have said "Huzzah!" Howard Wolowitz: I don't care what the bosoms say, Sheldon. I just want to be part of the conversation.
There are a lot of things I don't understand about the world. For example, why does the media still want me to care about Lindsey Lohan? Jennifer Love Fricking Hewitt has made more recent films. Why does this blog get so much Chinese Spam? Is there something about how I write that attracts the Spam of China? What's up, China? Why do people use emoticons? What's that about? Does a sad face really comfort me in times of stress? What is a hedgefund? No, seriously, what the hell is a hedgefund? I googled it. It didn't help.
As you can see, I've got a lot of questions about the universe, and I don't know that I will be able to answer them any time soon. Especially not right now, because right now I'm getting myself mentally, physicaly, emotionally and metaphysically prepared for my favorite time of the year. Is is Christmas? No, silly strugglesome readers, that's my LEAST favorite time of the year (damn tinsel getting all over everything....) That's right, it's the Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival! And I couldn't be more excited. Or, for that matter, more terrified.
You see, the thing about the festival is, it always reminds me of that expression, a kid in a candy store. And while for children this might be a very appealing vision, the practical side of me recognizes that children in confectionary shops do not, in fact, have a delightful time, but do, in reality, stuff themselves with suger, rot their teeth, scream, vomit, and, if they are lucky, meet creepy older gentleman and their small orange friends. While not as caloric, in every other respect the Live Arts/Fringe Festival sounds a lot like that. There are 200 shows in total in the festival, and that includes music, improv, dance, dance theater, clown shows, happenings, maybe even a straight play or two if people really want to get crazy, and, frankly, I kind of want to see it all. And this year? I think I'm finally going to be able to do it. Just as soon as I hook this caffine IV up and learn how to give up eating, sleeping, and my entire bank account balance.
At any rate, while seeing everything may be an impossible dream, seeing nothing is completely unacceptable, so I'm going to have to find some kind of happy medium there. Of course, given that my sense of balance in life is akin to my sense of balance in yoga class (that is, I have absolutely none...) I'm sure I will fall more on the side of struggle then sucess, putting aside things like a social life or proper hydration in the name of the THEATAH. Whatever, man, it's worth it, this is the FRINGE we are talking about! I just gotta hack it. Just. Gotta. Hack. It.
Apart from dancing around to the Final Countdown in an effor to get myself ready, I will also be blogging reviews of shows AND stage managing a show (cue the shameless self promotion). If you want to see what I think about the many artistic expressions I manage to squeeze into my busy schedule you can see my reviews here. To buy tickets to MY show, go here. To save me from myself, find me a good therapist. Or buy me a cup of coffee. Both work just fine.
Oh, my dear darling readers, where does the time go?And why doesn't it take me with it? As August moves on at a pace a race car driver would envy, I find myself considering the nature of time. Time flies, time waits for no man, time is on my side, thyme is excellent in a marinade... it's all getting a bit convoluted for me. Maybe that's because I haven't been getting much sleep.
The trouble is that I've been a touch, well, busy. I've been very busy. I've been out of control busy and I don't know what to do about it. I can't even imagine what to do about it because I don't have the time to do so! It's such a quandry....And I can't possible think about stopping because then I will lose all focus....
People say you can sleep when you are dead. To be fair, such people are morbid and a touch crazy (and therefore have free reign to just come sit by me) But it's always been something I've taken to heart, and though it conflicts with my deep seated love of sleep. The truth is that I just can't imagine not be horrifically busy, although lately it seems to be catching up with me. Between my job, restraining myself from hitting people in the face, applying for other jobs, being rejected by other jobs (it's almost like there is a recession on or something!), restraining myself from laughing at people right in front of them, shaving my legs (sometimes I hate summer), stage managing a Fringe Festival show, and restraining myself from screaming in public, I just don't seem to have time to sit back, relax, enjoy my netflix cue and unwind. And because I don't fancy the concept of falling down and passing out in public (so hard to find a good fainting couch these days), I let my father convince me to take a day off and drive over to New Jersey for a day at the beach.
Okay, confession time. I've never (gasp) seen a single episode of the Jersey Shore. Not one. Not even once. In my defense, I was traveling during it's premiere season and so I missed all of the screen-printing and social vomiting delights I've heard ran rampant in favor of art, culture, and the joys of fried desserts (thank you, England!). And furthermore, I live in Struggle-fricking-delphia. I don't need to watch a television show about New Jersey. I can just GO to New Jersey and LIVE the madness of strange tattooed men with great abs and a wardrobe by Ed Hardy saying stupid things. And I can bring my father along with me.Those of you out there who live in other states? It's okay to be jealous.
So, woefully ignorant of bump its and spray tans, Padre Struggle and I packed our car, waved goodbye to our cats, and drove two hours to Island Beach State Park, which is, frankly, the nicest beach New Jersey has to offer. I don't care what you say or how much you love Sea Isle or Ventor or Cape May, this beach is nicer. It's clean. You can, on certain occasions, actually see the bottom of the ocean. Frankly, that's a Jersey Shore miracle! Moreover, it's generally free of trashiness and trash, and therefore is actually a pleasant place to spend the day, rather then a debilitating attack on your nerves and body (that's right, Atlantic City, I'm aiming that at you). The day was fair, the winds breezy, the water bracing, and our picnic lunch was sandy but satisfying. All in all, it was a delightful interval.
That is, until I returned home and had 25 messages and innumerable emails and a long rehearsal and more things to do then hours in the day. Oh well, I thought, I'd better buckle down and focus all over again...
Holy hell, I just met someone with those Japanese Anime character contact lenses. Wow. That just happened. And all of a sudden none of it matters. No matter how busy I am, that's something worth taking a break about.
If you are anything like me (and I'm just solipsistic enough to assume most people are), then you love the summer with all the abandonment of a small child, dashing through the sprinkler, gorging yourself on ice cream bars (I love that they are called novelties, I mean, how cute is that) and collapsing into a happy heat stroke at the end of the day (what's summer without a trip to the emergency room?).
But there is something about the heat that seems to make other people a little nutty. The other day while browsing a favorite vintage store down on Fabric Row (nothing like spending a day among cheap bridal fabrics and bric-a-brac to make your social life seem more exciting then it otherwise might appear), I heard a radio announcer declare that in this heat you should be sure to check on your older friends and relatives, just to make sure they are still breathing. How very encouraging of them. Motown hits and "make sure grandma's not dead" reminders. If that's not a Struggledelphia radio station, I don't know what is.
So, in an effort to assuage those people out their who are more into cold showers then humid afternoons, I thought I would provide a nice little tropical side dish recipe the ought to help with the heat. You can bring it to all of your elderly friends and relatives, it's a good excuse for dropping by.
Grilled Yucca with Pineapple Salsa:
1 large ripe pineapple, diced
1/4 cup chopped Thai basil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, diced
Cilantro (this is optional. While some people worship at the alter of the god Cilantronus, others find it tastes like soap. This is actually a genetic predisposition, rather then a preference, so stop making fun of your friends when they crave or disdain fresh coriander!)
Combine all of the above ingredients and let sit for at least an hour. Because I first made this in Puerto Rico, I added a splash of rum, which works wonders. Of course, how could it not...
1 large yucca (most of them come large. I've actually never seen a small one) peeled and sliced into rounds. Soak rounds for at least an hour in a bowl of water. Coat yucca with cooking spray and pre-bake yucca in the oven for 30 minutes on a lowish heat, between 250 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat with another round of cooking spray or oil and grill until the outside is crispy and the inside is flaky and tender. Smother with pineapple salsa and enjoy, assuming you haven't fainted from the heat. If so, do let me know, I'll eat the leftovers.
The worst thing about a vacation is having to come home. I recognize that this isn't a particularly original thought, but most essential truths turn out to not be original, for example, Love Hurts, No shoes, no shirt, no service, gravity is a rule, not a guideline. All true, all cliche, all painful if you find yourself on the wrong side of them (especially that gravity one, trust me on this as someone who falls down a lot).So I don't know why the hell I was so cheerful and optimistic when I stepped on the plane departing from San Juan heading back towards Struggledelphia. After all this time, you'd really think I would have learned that struggle dogs my every move, wouldn't you? Alas, my friends, just like the possibility of me tripping over a loud Puerto Rican family's luggage, the eventual epic failure was inevitable.
The trick with an epic failure is the build up. You can't fall from grace until you actually all up on top of grace, you know what I mean? In order for the fall, you have to have the pride goething, or it's not hubris, it's just ho hum. So as I was gently tucked into my soft, plush, fully reclinable first class seat (thank you, US Airways upgrades, you truly are amazing!), and plied with wine and warmed cookies and moist hot towels (I don't know why they do this, but I LOVE it. I want this service as part of my every day life. Note to self, marry rich...), I hummed gently with pleasure and curled up with Gogol's Dead Souls to enjoy myself. In the three and a half hours that it takes a plane to leave the Luis Munoz Memorial Airport and arrive in Philadelphia I had covered two hundred or so pages of the book, enjoyed two enormous glasses of cheap white wine, and stolen the majority of my mother's cookie. In short, I was really enjoying myself. And that's when tragedy struck.
Just as we were circling the landing strip, our valiant captain informed us that there was a storm directly over the airport. He also mentioned that the storm had come unannounced, which surprised me, as most storms send me a short email at least an hour before their arrival, but I went with it. He then mentioned that the plane didn't have enough fuel to continue circling the airport. This, frankly, terrified me. What the hell, enough fuel? What would he have done if we had been delayed in the air on the way? How was there no contingency plan? Come on, people, it's a giant metal object hurtling through the air, it's not going to propel itself! But instead of a fiery death in a heap of wreckage, instead we got the next worse thing. That's right, they decided to land us in Atlantic City.
I can't tell you anything meaningful about the Atlantic City airport because I wasn't permitted to enter it. Instead we sat on the plane for 2 hours (with nary an offer of more wine in sight) waiting for weather conditions to improve. Well, most of us did. A full 11 people actually opted to leave their baggage behind and get out in Atlantic City. I honestly didn't know you could really do that, treat a plane like a local bus line, but, hey, what do I know?
When we finally landed in Philadelphia, having been delayed for a full 3 and a half hours (for those of you playing along at home that is the exact amount of time it takes to get from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia, so it was double or nothing that night, apparently), my poor little family and I found ourselves waiting patiently at the baggage claim, dodging other passengers in their gladiator like attempts to wrestle with their luggage. Out came piece after piece after piece, but no bags marked Familia Struggle did we see. An hour later, my mother finally gave up and went to the US Airways baggage center, where they told us that our luggage was patiently waiting for us at a completely different terminal. Sure. Of course. That makes perfect sense that our bags would be seperated from those for the rest of our flight and we would need to hike through a universe of car rental stops and concrete Escher-wannabes to find it.. And there they were, waiting patiently for us to find them, and finally, FINALLY, go home.
Upside to all this? I couldn't even remember my vacation to be nostalgic and sad about it. It all felt so far away...
I'm going to be 100% honest with you here (when am I ever anything but), I really love the beach. I always have. As a wee little struggle I could be found spending my summers padding about in the water, filling my hair with sand and, this being Atlantic City where I spent the summers of my misbegotten youth, avoiding beer cans and hypodermic needles as I trotted along the shore. My father, Padre Struggle, has always shared this affinity for sun, sand and surf with me, and to this day as our paler family members shroud themselves in cover-ups and sunscreen and hide in the shade of a nearby cabana, we two wander the beaches of the world bronzing in the sun and scaring fish. So when we decided to take a weekend trip down to San Juan, Puerto Rico, finding the steamy Struggledelphia summer just a touch too cool for us, it was only natural that we would find ourselves oceanside.
Now, the beaches of Puerto Rico are famous not without reason. Apart from the fact that the waters of the Carribean are so insanely clear that you can see far more of your fellow bathers then you might actually want to (plus, you know, animals, and whatever), they provide a welcome respite from the more, shall we say, colorful aspects of my fellow Islanders. In a culture with more hand gestures then an interpretive dance group and more deep-fried objects then a McDonald's test kitchen it can be nice to get away from el tapon (while a literal translation of this might give you plug, the denizens of Boriquen know it best as traffic jam) and spend some time relaxing with the sound of the ocean trilling in your ears. Of course, as it happens, in the months between May and September, you might not be the only person with that idea in mind.
For example, when we strolled up to our favorite beach, El Escambron, a scant twenty minute walk from Viejo San Juan, ready to spend a little time getting to know skin cancer intimately, we realized somethings very quickly. Number one, every single other person who lives in the general area of San Juan had arrived there before us. And number two? They had brought the entire contents of their homes.
It must be said that my family and I do indeed bring quite a few things on any excursions we take ourselves. I personally am capable of packing a small suitcase for a less then 24-hour trip. And that's when I'm restraining myself. So I understand that when you take a beach trip you need sunscreen, towels, your sarong, your sunglasses, a book, another book if you think you might get bored with the first book, a notebook, a camera, a snack, a second snack because you burn so many calories burning in the sun, and a chair. At the very least. But compared to almost everyone I observed on Saturday afternoon, I'm like one of those Tibetan monks with 5 possessions.
Walking around, I noticed the following, none of which would have ever occurred to me to bring with me, well, anywhere: Multiple charcoal grills, a gas grill, several shopping carts filled with food, at least five full-scale infant play pens, tents, family sized coolers, three kitchen tables, and last, but in no way least, a sofa. Yes, that's write, a real living room sofa. Right there. On the beach. Because beach chairs? Just don't cut it any more, I suppose.
Now look, I'm all for comfort and convenience. I mean, as I currently type this I'm debating whether it's worth it to climb a total of two flights of stairs go get food (glorious food!) or to stay in this comfortable spot, and I can honestly say I have no idea which impulse will win. But bringing your living room and kitchen with you for a trip to the ocean? That's just crazy.
They did look comfortable, though. Maybe if I got a pick up truck? With some reggeton blasting and some bumperstickers on the back, I might fit right in!
And, finally, after much back and forth and several tearful ice-cream eating sessions with my cats, I can present you call with a conversation between myself, struggle extraordinaire, and my friend Ben, of E. Plurbus Moron, gentleman, statesman, lover, documentor of our insanely strugglesome nation. I can only hope that you enjoy our little cross-blog pollination attempt as much as we did. Who am I kidding, of course you will, because YOU, like both of us, continue to embrace the struggle!
Ben: Well Leah it is hot as Satan’s taint in D.C. now and we all know what that means: The Real Housewives of New Jersey are back! What’s fun is that most of the women in that show are filing bankruptcy. Now Leah, pretend for a second you’re a normal 22 year old and watch something other than 1980s British crime dramas on PBS, and tell us your thoughts on the Real Housewives. Do they deserve to be punished for their capitalist ways? Power to the reality TV proliteriate!
Leah: First of all, Benjamin, D.C. doesn’t corner the market on hot humid summers, Philly is the mid-Atlantic too, remember? As I write this my shirt is sticking to my skin so deeply that I’m concerned the two might fuse into some kind of shirt-skin hybrid, and isn’t THAT just the crappiest superpower ever? Second of all, I’ll have you know that I also watch the Disney channel, ABC Family, AND Law and Order reruns on USA, so how is that for hip? (Hep? How are the kids saying it these days?). But about this “Real” housewives business, honestly, can’t these ladies just defy convention and get a job? I just want to go hit them in the face with the Feminist Mystique. Of course, knowing them, they might think that was a feminine hygiene product….
Ben: Haha do you mean the “Feminine Mystique” or “Feminist Mystique”, Countess Luann De Lesseps line of erotic body jewelry?
Leah: What makes body jewelry erotic? Oh, god, please don’t answer that.
Ben: Speaking of famous ghouls with really bad debt problems, this past weekend was the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Where were you when this news broke, Leah?
Leah: Jesus, I don’t even remember, I think I blocked that out in a shame spiral of whiskey and one-woman reenactment’s of Bad. But then, who didn’t?
Ben: Certainly not me! But now that we have a little perspective on his death I have to say that the whole idea that his death was shocking is kind of ridiculous, no? I mean when Elvis died it was the first time people realized that a Rock music icons were mortal enough to die on the toilet and not in just in a freak accident/overdose. But Michael Jackson? People were weeping over the death of a man who weighed like 40 pounds and didn’t have a face. Was it sad? Yes. Was it the most shocking thing MJ’s every done? God no.
Leah: I know! What about the baby on the balcony? The Surgeries? The marriage to a (wait for it) POSSIBLE female! Honestly, in this case death is probably one of the most vanilla things he could have done. Ben: That’s not to say Michael Jackson didn’t change lives. Leah his music taught you how to dance and be yourself. And he taught me a little game he ~sob~ used to like to call ~sob~ “Naked tickle fun time” ~sobs hysterically as Leah slowly finishes her coffee ignoring Ben’s weeping~
Leah: Yeaaaahhhhh, can we not wander down the memory lane that was your time at Neverland Ranch? It gets awkward for everyone else when you talk about the toys and the outfits and the totally consensual non-sexual acts that totally didn’t happen not even one time.
But seriously, think about this for a second, Michael Jackson is dead, Madonnna may secretly be the Incredible Hulk if her arms are any indication, everyone else is reduced to making fun of themselves on VH1, what happened to that generation of music? And they wonder why we like this indie-rock business so much, unwashed and pretentious it might be, but at least the artists don’t seem quite so mentally unstable. I say that, of course, but then you have GaGa….
Ben: Leah…please….you’re overloading me on pop culture references. I’m not strong enough. Can we please discuss politics?!?
Ben: I guess I was wondering if you had heard that Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona who totally isn’t a racist who hates Hispanics, said that “Most immigrants from Mexico come over as drug mules.” As a Mexican, how do you feel about this Leah?
Leah: Wow, Ben, I’m just going to breeze straight past your racist ignorance of geography and just remind you that Puerto Rico is actually not a part of Mexico. ANYway, I couldn’t agree with her more! It’s just like how most Chinese immigrants strolled in all “please, for the love of god, let us build your railroads and, eventually, populate your universities!”
Ben: Right. It’s like saying that Jewish immigrants came to this country to run our banks/media and add vigor to our meat sandwich culture.
Leah: Wait, isn’t that true, though? I mean, my ancestors, the non-drug mule ones, obviously, escaped a pogrom and crawled into Ellis Island with a copy of Adam Smith in one hand and an entire pastrami in the other. Didn’t yours?
Ben: This country was founded on the idea of freedom from drug mules and fatty beef sandwiches! And I will be damned ~sob~ if these Socialists ~sob~ try to stop Jan Brewer from ~sob~ keeping America White, er, constitutionally grounded. Wow if I’m turning into Glenn Beck I think it might be time to shut this conversation down.
Leah: Yes, I’m feeling a little dirty right now just from listening to you. Well, there you have it folks, reality television, 80′s pop stars, blatant racism, Ben crying twice. Happy 4th of July. This is just how the founding fathers must have spent it!
First of all, I want to apologize for the lateness of this post. And then I want to do what I was taught to do as a proud US Citizen and completely pass the blame over to someone else. In this case, that would be my friend Ben. You see, Benny-boy had this grand idea that we should do a joint post, rather like a conversation piece. Fine, I said, because in theory it seemed like a fun thing to do, and besides, I was still waiting on my next Netflix. Our email conversation started off really well, we had a solid back and forth, worthy of a few laughs at the very least. But what began as a steady stream of struggle ended up a tiny trickle that dried away into nothing, leaving my last response cold and alone out in cyberspace, waiting for Godot, and an email back. Lost, confused, a little betrayed, I wondered, was it me? Was it Ben? Was it the struggle? Sure, it's definitely that last one. But it's also something more. Because the more I looked around me at my peers, the more I could see a trend. I saw energy, excitement, a fresh approach to everything (even to pants. But tights? Not pants. You aren't an innovator, you are an idiot. Subject closed). But what you don't see is completion. So much build up, so little finale. There is a "that's what she said" joke in there, but I'm in no mood to make it. Because here is my grand revelation about most people in their early twenties: Excellent start, no follow through.
As I sat, fuming at Ben, and, of course, the mailman who had neglected to bring me my Netflix, I considered this strange phenomenon. After all, it's not just Ben, who couldn't follow up on an email, but it's all of us! It's all around us! We can figure out how to have sex, but we can't figure out how to use condoms! We can avoid an actual call by texting in abbreviations! And if I cared at all about the World Cup, I might bring that up too! I mean, is it any surprise that our generation is the one that has brought back leggings AND rompers, the two most half-assed garments you can possible find? I don't think so, people!
But me? I'm not going halfway down that road and stopping! No, my friends, the struggle isn't something you embrace just a little bit, with one arm, or maybe giving it a subtle graze on the buttocks! You have to get all the way in there, hug it out, throw both arms around the thing and just squeeze! So I am, from now on, all about the follow through, and you should be too! After all, they do say in for a penny, in for a pound, and while we may have thrown off the shackles of our funny-talking dry-witted former landlords in other respects, that little aphorism about their strange monetary system remains. So to inspire you to, as my father says, "finish the job", the following is a list of some current young people who I consider all talk and no action:
1. Amanda Bynes. Girl is retiring from her "acting" "career" at the age of 24. I call foul on this one. Faye Dunnaway has an acting career. Isabella Rossini. Helen Miren. Hell, I'll even give Cathrine Zeta Jones more credit then Ms. Bynes. Because Zeta Jones isn't best remembered for humiliating Colin Firth and Saturday night on Nickelodeon. Yet. You need to HAVE a career in order to retire from one, right? Because if that's not the case, I'm telling everyone I'm a retired Navy SEAL.
2. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Not only are they making horrible Mormon-propaganda films about sparkly vampires and the bad actresses who love them, but they NEVER WASH THEIR HAIR. I know that hundreds of thousands of people are standing in line to throw money at films that would make Sergei Eisenstein weep, are you telling me you really can't afford shampoo?
3. Gossip Girl. This show started out all sexy and fun but now it's gotten awkward and weird. That's usually the way it works when you go to college, but, you know, in REVERSE.
Don't get me wrong, I know there are plenty more out there. But I'm going to solider on, and preserve the thin slice of hope I have that for all the Gossip Girls and Bynes' out there there is a Carey Mulligan or a Regina Spektor whose clean hair and actual talents and jobs prove that my generation really can get something done. Otherwise, what's all the struggle for, then?
I can't condemn Ben completely, by the way. He did finally get back to me, and our experiment in joint-blogging will be up soon. So maybe follow through is something that can be learned and developed with proper encouragement and care. Still, I'm not holding out any hope for the Twilight cast.
I pride myself in the fact that I avoided most of the common pitfalls of college. Oh, sure, I had my fair share of less-then-collegiate moments at not-Yale, most of which involved a bottle of Cuervo and a sudden obsession with a capella , and, on one occasion, the loss of a friend on a midnight falafel run (hi, Ned!), but by and large I missed the classics, the hospital visit for alcohol poisoning, the waking up in a frat house, Econ, Psych, dread-locks, starting a band, writing poetry, sleeping with a professor, and, of course, this being not-Yale, the joining of the GOP. But I did make one fatal mistake by cliche standards, and that was my enrollment in a little thing they call philosophy.
If you want certainty in your life, if you want absolutes and rules for how to live, do yourself a favor and don't take philosophy. If, on the other hand, you want doubt, you want uncertainty, you want, in fact, to question the very fabric of the universe to the point when your brain feels on the point of explosion, filled to the brim with Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Kant and Aristotle (that's a dinner party worth attending...) to the point when you snap and, obviously, reach for the Cuervo, then sure, by all means, go nuts. Take a philosophy class. Be my guest.
No, that's not entirely fair. The truth is that I had amazing philosophy professors and learned a great deal in their classes. But most of what I learned concerned how impossible the act of learning really is. I think. I'm not sure. Hang on, I have to go check that with Nietzsche.
If I had to guess, I would say that what concerned me the most about my philosophy classes was how subjective morality became for me. And why am I even thinking about this now, at least 4 years since I last put down a copy of the Republic and decided it was all Greek to me? Well, as part of maintaining my real estate licence (which I got before I was legally able to drink....true story), I recently found myself sitting in an office building on Delaware Avenue with a gorgeous view of Camden on a Wednesday morning well before 9am being instructed on ethics. Specifically ethics pertaining to Real Estate. Which, frankly, is a subject I didn't know warranted an hour, let alone seven! Ah, ZING, I'll be here all night! Tip ya bartender!
The sad thing is, most people just assume that real estate agents are unethical sharks who are trying to steal your money and deceive you into buying houses made of cardboard. The even sadder thing is that a lot of real estate agents really ARE unethical sharks who are trying to steal your money and deceive you into buying homes made of cardboard. And apparently, all of them were teaching me on Wednesday morning. Seriously, that had to be the group of least ethical, slimiest, sketchiest purveyors of houses I have ever met, and I have been doing this for a solid four years. Forging your client's names, deception, cash only deals, blockbusting, undisclosed dual agency, private interest, you name it, it was represented. Here's a hint, dude, if you want to teach a room full of people how to be ethical it's not a great idea to ply them with stories about how you committed, and got away with!, fraud. It's bound to be more of an inspiration then a castigation, if you know what I mean.
I can't really decide which I found more troubling, my year of philosophy classes or my seminar on Real Estate ethics. I left my philosophy class confused and concerned about the state of the universe. I left my Real Estate ethics class needing a silkwood shower. So I guess Real Estate class wins on the scale of more mind blowing life experiences, and not really in a good way. Worst thing of all? They served us terrible pizza. There has to be something morally wrong with that.
It's been very clearly established that I feel fairly negative about most people most of the time, and it's true, I do. However, I feel very positively about most FOOD all of the time. And while I'm perfectly capable of eating large amounts of food all by my lonesome, I tend to try and get someone involved in the process with me, in order to, you know, fulfill social protocols, avoid drinking alone, and dispel all those nasty rumors that I'm building bombs in my basement. So when my friend Jacob (hi, Jacob!) announced that he would be coming into Struggledelphia for a brief interlude I saw no reason not to kill two birds with one stone and have a dinner party, giving me an opportunity to make an enormous meal, invite over tons of people, and, and this is the genius part, avoid actually having to deal with any of the guests.
You see, I'm a little controlling when it comes to cooking. Maybe it was the five years I spent working at a chef right here in Struggledelphia (and as a result if anyone needs a new acid dealer they should let me know, I know at least three!), or maybe it's my secret belief that if I put a knife in the hands of a stranger it gives them a tactical advantage over me should something go down, but I have spent at least 65% of every dinner party I have ever thrown sweating my make up off in the kitchen cooking and cleaning as outside on my patio youthful revelers carouse and quaff. And, to be perfectly honest, part of me really enjoys just that, the act of preparing and creating and watching other people enjoy the product of that process. And another part of me enjoys the fact that whenever I disappear for too long, my friend Mariel (hi, Mariel!) starts to call for me like a baby bird, and then everyone else notices I've been gone and drags me back out to ply me with wine and, (horror of horrors!) socialize. Well, if you can't avoid people, at least surround yourself with the least dreadful of the bunch. And make sure they bring the wine.
So to help out all those who are in search of dinner party guidelines, I've included a few helpful tips, along with photographic illustrations. After all, if I can manage to make it through a night with other people, open flames, food, knives and a gin-based Sangria (don't ask), YOU should be just fine.
1. Be an excellent cook. Or hire one.
2. It's not the 1950's and 60's anymore, please avoid making Jello-based desserts. I love Mad Men as much as the next sane human being, but come on, people, there's love and then there's crazy. You wouldn't just go around stalking the object of your affection, would you? Walk that same line with pastry, and you should be fine.
3. I know there is a recession on, but serving your pet as the main course is tacky. At least have the class to capture and kill someone else's. It can be a group activity, and thus solves the problem of bored guests should that come up.
4. I don't care how bad you are in social settings, resist the urge to try and escape by any means necessary.
5. Finally, give your friends some love. Especially if they are the ones keeping your wine glass full, and not making fun of your apron.
Some days I don't know why I even bother getting out of bed. And I don't mean that in a depressive, sad, the state of the world is so bad kind of a way, but more in an angry yet laughing to avoid slapping someone in the face kind of a way. Though, if I really think about it, a lot of the frustration I feel may be entirely my own fault. Here is the thing, I'm a planner. I love plans. Hand me a plan and watch me start to glow. Itineraries? I adore them. Building blueprints? I gush. Step by step instructions? That's my happy place. And while people may tout the glories and delights of the spontaneous, the random adventures, the unexpected pleasures, I would counter with the fact that those out of the blue moments are often accompanied by things like food poisoning, getting horribly lost, and prison. Sometimes all at once, in fact. Ask me how!
But sometimes, despite my membership in the church of plantology, I have to wonder if there is some kind of cosmic memo that goes around but passes me completely by. Something along the lines of: "Denizens of earth, please do your best to derail our favorite little documenter of the struggle today by any means necessary, use force if you must, the goals is a complete mental breakdown. Hugs and kisses, the universe". Are you guys all getting that? If you care, can someone please forward it to me next time? At least that way I will be slightly better prepared!
I suppose I should more fully explain. You see, all I wanted to do yesterday was attend the Northern Liberties Music Festival. Call it the fatty-no-friends in me, but I just wanted to enjoy a pleasant afternoon of day drinking and kebab chewing while listening to truly horrible bands serenade myself, my friends, and Strugglemano, who has abandoned the West Coast for a brief respite in the balmy Struggledelphia humidity. But the struggle, my friends,what did it do? That's right, it abounded.
First of all, Strugglemano, who is like a 19th Century French Heroine in this respect, has once again twisted his ankle. Granted, he did so jumping a fence in a stadium parking lot rather then, say, trying to breathe in a corset, but still, his Madame Bovary like accident has left him more useless then Tiny Tim. Because he finds walking in crutches to be quite a work out (and who DOESN'T, those things are rough!) he is confined to a 1 mile radius or less for the time being, and you have to allot time for breaks.
Second of all, for some reason these pesky people keep wanting to see houses even though it's the weekend and I'm tired. Some people have no consideration for others. I found this to be especially true as I biked away from one showing and almost immediately found myself being clothes-lined across the neck by a rubber coated wire tied between two telephone polls. As I lay on the ground with my bike gently crushing my left leg I caught a hand-written sign out of the corner of my eye. "Road Closed". Illegal much?
Third of all, of the many people I invited to enjoy this hard won afternoon of fermented hops, bright sunlight and sticky little children dancing to metal bands, only two of them showed up, and one of them happens to be related to me. So, while Kelly (hi, Kelly!), Strugglemano and I risked skin cancer, heat stroke and the perils of experimental artisanal beer (lemon grass, ginger and wheat, it's not all it's cracked up to be) to enjoy a neighborhood festival, well, we did so alone. The few, the proud, the sun stroke victims.
It's moments like this, my clothing sticking to my body like flypaper, passersby asking me if I've recently showered or been caught in the rain, abandoned by all those who had sworn to stand by me (or rather, slump by me in the shade), when I wonder, is it me? Should I not be so excited by plans, if the plan is going to let me down, die before it comes to fruition, leaving me as a footstool for my brother's swollen joints? Do I expect too much of people, by assuming they will fulfill their promises and actually show up to things? Is expecting anything from anyone a fool's game? Maybe it's me, I think, maybe it's me.
But on second thought, I realize, that's just crazy talk. It's not me, it's everyone else. Step it up, people. Follow the plan.It's our only weapon against the struggle, take it from me. And at least now, thanks to Saturday's adventures, I'm struggling with a tan.
I'll be the first to admit that some things just pass me by. Take, for example, Justin Bieber. I have no idea who this person is. Seriously. No concept. Is he a type of toaster? One of Madoff's co-conspirators? A character in the popular comic strip Get Fuzzy? Is he the secret revealed in the final episode of Lost? More importantly, is he the secret to why people actually watch Lost? I really couldn't tell you. And, moreover, I'm perfectly comfortable not knowing. I like a mystery in my life. Though of course, there are instances when your ignorance can screw you...
Take, for example, major holidays. I sort of always forget that they, well, exist. Now, as a follower of the protocols of Zion, I think I can be forgiven for being occasionally caught off guard by infant birthdays, resurrection parties and hunger fasts. But the fact that I can't keep national holidays together means that at best I'm a space cadet and, at worst, I'm letting the terrorists win.
So, while other people are, I'm assuming, running around at backyard barbecues or auditioning for this season of The Jersey Shore, I myself had a fairly typical Monday, showing apartments, attending my pilates class, returning some emails, watch three guys try to steal a car...Oh, is that last one not typical where you live? The things you miss out on if you aren't existing in this beautiful city. You see, this morning when I went to show a property I was greeted by the most interesting sight. Three men were peering into the windows of a large car, leaning up against it like a sailor in a brothel, and generally putting the sketch in sketchtacular. As I locked up my bike and sat on the front steps of the building, one of the men approached me.
"Excuse me, Miss, do you have a hanger?", he said.
" A what?" quoth I, completely perturbed.
"A wire hanger. We need one", he said.
Resisting the urge to make the obvious Joan Crawford reference, I politely informed him that I don't typically bike around the city of Struggledelphia with hangers in my bag, but that I would start doing so in the future, just to be better prepared. To give to strange men. To help them steal cars. As one does.
It was just around this moment when the fact that today is a holiday crept back into my head. I sighed as I watched the three co-conspirators attempt to break open the car door as I waited for my prospective tenants to come see the place. I have to start keeping better track of time, I thought. That, or learn how to bike with a hanger handy. As I biked away, I couldn't help but wish those three men luck. After all, it is a holiday. Maybe they just wanted something to celebrate. As for me, now that I've finally remembered this day is special, I may just have to reward myself with a nice, strong, way-to-resist-the-urge-to-commit-a-felony drink. At the very least, it's a celebration of the fact that they didn't give up on the car and go for my bike. Celebrate the victories, right? Isn't that what this holiday is all about?
Happy Memorial day, my little struggles! And remember, if you want a car stolen, don't forget to bring all the appropriate tools. If my story proves anything, it's that you really can't depend on the kindness of strangers, at least when it comes to hangers. Consider that your free life lesson for the day.
If you can introduce me to someone who actually enjoys the act of writing a cover letter, I will in turn point out that that person is a serial killer waiting to happen.Seriously, there are probably people out there who get a perverse glow out of describing themselves on paper in a manner that is both arrogant and humble, but I personally hate writing cover letters for the same reason I hate Pretty Woman, because it's unrealistic, at the end of the day you still feel like a product to be sold, and I don't get the appeal of Julia Roberts. Okay, that last one may only apply to Pretty Woman. Still, I'm fairly certain you understand me.
However, it does seem scarily appropriate on this, the first anniversary of my graduation from not-Yale (which, my research says, is the paper anniversary, but one wonders if it mightn't have been better just to let this one go rather then giving it the lamest gift idea ever), that my current hateful obsession is the dreaded job application. After all, it was my tragic graduation from that institution that thrust me into the job market, and despite a year of ex-patriot existence, it seems that here I am all over again, seated in from of my computer, desperately trying to seem both interested and interesting on paper. Come to think of it, I take it back, in this situation it's perfectly acceptable that this is the paper anniversary, after all, I'm using so very much of lately.
The thing is that the more I search and apply for positions and internships and any opportunity to leave the world of Real Estate, the more farcical it all appears. I've seen the term "self starter", "highly motivated" and "attention to detail" so many times in print that they've actually lost all meaning for me. And while while some ad copy reads like the kind of thing that would make Peggy Olsen weep, some of it seems deliberately mysterious and opaque. For example, my friend Andrew, (hi Andrew!) was recently applying for a job whose advertisement asked applicants to name their salary price. I mean, what does that even mean? I want ALL the money, how about that? That's my salary price. All the money. I mean, let's be reasonable here, I'm a recent college graduate in an economy so in trouble that I find myself re-reading Grapes of Wrath for life tips, and there are, like, hundreds of thousands of other people out there who are just like me (though obviously lacking my sparkling personality and rapier-like wit, duh), I'm just thrilled you don't want me to pay you!
However, in the spirit of our great nation, I will persevere, and while I won't be fulfilling the promise of my forefathers by slaughtering indigenous peoples or eating my weight in fast food, I will indeed continue my struggle to find gainful employment in something at least a little closer to my chosen field. Though to be fair, getting through the day without smacking a prospective tenant directly in the face but instead pretending their questions are meaningful is in and of itself kind of a performance...
And for all of you struggling alone with me in this painful job application process, I present a few helpful hints to aid you in your construction of your cover letters. After all, if you are going to whore around, you might as well have a pimp to help you through it!
1. Remember, it's a job application, not a dive bar. Desperate is not in fact an asset in this case, and ending a letter with "please please pretty pretty please" is not as persuasive as you think it's going to be. A good rule of thumb is that if it worked in pre-school it's probably not going to work now. It's a shame, really, because that was my move...
2. While talking up your talents is acceptable and encouraged, straight up lying seems to be frowned upon for some silly reason. Something about hospital liability or some nonsense like that.
3. Do try to avoid mentioning how many followers you have on Twitter. It's not impressive, it's awkward. Unless you are actually applying to Twitter, in which case have at it, but believe me on this one, whoever is reading your letter? They've got more.
Good luck with your applications, gentle readers. And for anyone who themselves graduated this past weekend, or any weekend in May, congratulations, and welcome to the Dark Side.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.