Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dylan McKay is back!

In primetime on the new NBC series, Windfall. The show's about a group of 20 people who win the lottery and how they all respond differently to their new lives with money.

Whatever. I'll be tuning in, that's for sure. It's Dylan McKay, looking very middle aged, but still as smoldering as ever (can he do anything but smolder (even without a weathered leather jacket)?) He has the same receding hairline and a few more facial lines, but just one question: Where the heck are Brenda Walsh and Kelly Taylor?

Things I don't understand

Or maybe I do.

I can remember lying in bed with L, about six years ago now, and thinking to myself, "I could just leave. I could just get up and get dressed and walk out of the room and never see him again." I didn't even really like him. He was selfish and controlling and arrogant and borderline emotionally abusive. He wasn't even good in bed.

But I didn't leave. I stayed and was miserable.

I left L eventually, but only after I had let my self-esteem take a royal ass-whooping. So I guess I do understand on some level. But sitting at this vantage point, from my Happily-Single-in-the-City throne (or so the story goes) I cannot fathom what makes a woman (okay, a person) stay in a relationship where she (or even he) is self-proclaimed miserable. Where she has articulated more than once that the partner probably doesn't even love her, that it feels like a waste of time, that it's been this way from day one, that things will never change (do they ever?), that she cannot imagine a future like this, that she hates herself for taking it again and again.

I don't think it can be as simple as insecurity or fear of being alone. Sure these things are wrapped up in it, but in a world where we can proclaim our self worth (and where bookstores are crammed with books celebrating singlehood and independent living) what makes us turn so quickly into accepting a life of misery?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Book Snobbery

I am a total book snob. On so many levels. I read my share of trash, sure (the Shopaholic series brought me great pleasure, but I also take great pleasure in the irony of this fact) but my snobbery stems more from not wanting to read what "they" (aka: the masses) are reading. It's an intellectual (and artistic) rejection of things popular, and it's been something I've rejoiced in ever since I first started writing seriously fifteen years ago.

Case in point: The Da Vinci Code. I will not read it. Or perhaps I should say: I have not read it. I don't even need to read it to know it's a poorly-written, overrated book; my sources who have read it (aka: my equally-snobbish, though perhaps more curious colleagues) confirm this. But when I was out traipsing around Spain, a friend left me an article from SFWeekly. In it, Karen Zuercher discusses the snobbery of certain readers and what made her "lower" herself to finally read the book and what made her realize that she actually enjoyed it:
...I admit I felt kind of dirty for having read The Da Vinci Code, even though I'd joined about a zillion other people in doing so. With all the fabulously written books in the world, why waste time and lower your literary values with that one? It's entertaining, yes. It's easy on the brain, definitely...Mostly, though, it was just nice to read something lots of other people were reading.

It makes me think of one of the reasons people do read, to feel a member of a community, to feel, as Zuercher says, "connected" to their community through story. Ordinarily (and perhaps ironically) I shun that community (at least on literary terms) because I tend to perceive myself -- as a writer, as an instructor of Literature, as a lover of words -- as above that community. When perhaps I should just admit that I am a part of it.

So, should I? Dare I?

Weekend highlight

Flirting with a 20-something cutie for 9+ hours.

This 30-somthing gal's still got it!

Weekly Confession

This weekend, I became a "gadget gal." That's right, folks. The gal without a cell phone, digital camera, personal organizer, etc. etc. finally bought: An iPod!

That's not the confession part. Here it is. One of the first songs I downloaded was...."Oops! I did it again!"

(Lookie that photo; even Britney's shocked!)

And I've listened to it about twelve times. And furthermore have enjoyed it every time.

(Mind you, the real confession here is that I also downloaded two Spice Girls songs, but that's beyond tragic; too tragic to report.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

It's official! The stork lands in Africa

Baby Brangelina (aka: Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt) is born on May 27, 2006. Now little Suri has a rival (or perhaps, more likely, a co-star for The Simple Life 27).

Friday, May 26, 2006


I cancelled my subscription to The New Yorker.

I said to the woman who assisted me on the phone:

It's just so pathetic. I mean, I'm an English professor! I'm a writer! But when I get home in the evening, I say, "Whoopie! The New Yorker! Yippie! Vogue!" And then The (sad) New Yorker goes straight into the recycling bin.

She laughed and said, "I'm with you. I don't think anyone actually reads The New Yorker."

I said, "Seriously. When I see people reading it on the subway, I feel like saying to them, 'Oh please. I know you have Us Weekly hidden behind that showy cover."

Accomplishment #1 for Friday afternoon.

Blogger's Book Club, Month Two

Thanks to Vanessa for getting this all organized while I was out of the country! The second selection for the BBC will be Bone. Let me know if you're interested in reading it!

From Library Journal:

In sharp contrast to the overdramatized lives of Chinese Americans in Amy Tan's work, Ng's simply written first novel is totally without sensationalism. Yet because her characters are depicted so realistically, the reader cannot but be moved by the hopes, grief, and quarrels of two generations of Chinese Americans in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

One Thing About Coming Home

After being gone for about two months (well, I did pop home for a few days in the middle, but that doesn't count) is that you run the risk of all of your friends forgetting who you are when you come back home!

Strangely enough, though, I'm feeling pretty good after about 18 hours of travel yesterday (really about 21 from the time I left the hotel until the time I arrived here at my apartment). Here's hoping I don't have delayed jetlag!

Letting myself be the first to welcome myself back!

Monday, May 22, 2006

In the toilet

Literally, that's where this vacation has landed. Or at least my amazing $4.80 sunglasses did anyway. I was, you know, peeing in the very-modern Zaragoza Estación Delicias while waiting for my train to Madrid at around 12:03 today, and when I turned aroud to, you know, flush, and as I was getting ready to exit....SPLASH!!!! In they went.

What's a gal to do? I mean, these $4.80 sunglasses have seen me through two international voyages; they've been dropped countelss times and stuffed into dark corners of backpacks and suitcases; and it goes without saying that they make me look fabulous.

But I just couldn't keep them. I couldn't very well flush them either, so I grabbed a plastic baggie, wrapped it around my hand, fished my $4.80 sunglasses out by the stem (which, luckily, was sticking out from the water) and immediately tossed them.

Never before have I washed my hands more thoroughly.

Tomorrow it's adios to Spain and hello to the U.S.A.!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My fellow Zapato Afficianados

This is the strangest shoe experience of my life.

No, it is not the great Manolo Blahnik Distaster of 2006 (which was resolved through the slow understanding of Spanish holidays, though some of us feel an International Shoe Day-Off would be more appropriate, though that is a different story entirely).

Nor is it the experience of being yelled at by a shall-remain-nameless shoe-saleswoman in San Sebastian who reprimanded me for merely touching a shoe that was on display (as if I were playing football with one of Grandma's Fabergé eggs).

It is this:

Today, after five minutes of looking at the Cathedral in Huesca and another five minutes of looking at religious art in the Museo Provincial (with all due respect to my Catholic friends and readers, but five minutes is all I can handle) I decided to explore my own religion at the Church of Zapato. I eyeballed a fabulous looking pair of Spanish shoes, and decided to try them on (were I to come back from a trip to Spain shoeless, I'd lose my Zapato-Afficianado title, for certain). Well, imagine my...errrrrr, shock? horror?...when the kind saleswoman opened a drawer and handed me two plastic bags.

I looked at her with raised eyebrows. What did she want me to do with them? They were about the size of fruit bags, you know, what you might put four or even five apples in at the supermarket, but I wasn't in the market for fruit. Did she think my worn flip flops were too dirty? Too shameful to sit on the floor of her shop? Did she want me to store them in there while trying on the shoes?

I started to put my flip flops into the bags.

No, she said. The bags were for my feet! Too many people try on the shoes, so I needed to put them on. Yes, I was to wear them while trying on the shoes!

Totally baffled as to why she didn't just hand me one of those grose pair of cut-off stockings I've seen hundreds of times, I put the bags on my feet and tried on the shoes. Needless to say, I did not but the shoes. I simply could not see my feet, and without seeing my feet, I couldn't fathom the happiness of my feet in the shoes. (My feet were actually screaming: We can't breathe!!! Save us from this travesty!!!)

Perhaps it is simply my destiny to not find a pair of shoes here in Spain, though I have my eye on a pair I spotted in the window before lunch. Now if that darn store would just open up!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

More to tempt your tastebuds

(Can I talk about anything but food these days???)

The setting: Bianco restaurant in Sitges, overlooking the sunny Mediterranean Sea.

The Meal:
For starters, Mom had an avocado and smoked salmon salad; I had greens with duck ham and shaved fois gras with a mango dressing, garnished with a single tomato (yes, folks, it did taste like sex on a salad plate; a truly orgasmic food experience).

Then we moved on to cod atop a sort of stewed tomato sauce, served with fresh basil and kalamatta olive tapenade. Unfrickinamazing. The cod was perfectly cooked, and the blend of fresh but simple ingredients was stupendous when they landed in our mouths.

We had fresh bread and a crisp white wine. We bypassed dessert and instead sipped café du leche afterwards, our tummies and hearts content after yet-another fabulous meal.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More from Foodie Paradise!

This time it was in Barcelona at Origen 99.9%. This is a restaurant that serves excellently-prepared foods, both creative and delicious, that features local ingredients -- with a menu (in many languages) that explains the ingredients and preparation of the dish. We randomly stumbled upon it on our way to the fabulous Museo Picasso after the restaurant I had originally picked (which shall remain nameless) turned out to be overpriced and cheesy.

The meal (all descriptions from the menu):

Toasted bread slice with tupi and figs confute. The tupi is a cheese that comes from the Pyrenees region that we have smoothened by adding figs prepared marmalade style, giving it a nourishing value. The cheese name ¨tupi¨is due to the container where it is preserved. The tupi cheese is elaborated from lamb and cows cheese mixed with spirit.

First Course Dishes:
Broad beans and peas with green spring garlic. A recipe with pork fat and black sausage botifarra base. This Catalonian dish can be classified with a guarantee of origin. The green broad beans and peas announce the spring season. Both ingredients are typical during Maresme. The Romans 2,000 years ago already cooked peas in their kitchens.

Montserrat tomatoes stuffed with cheese and anchovies. Montserrat tomatoes are pinkish in colour, with a fine skin and hollow inside. They are spring tomatoes and have become popular again in recent years. They come from the island of Montserrat. In our recipe they´re stuffed with fresh goat´s cheese, fennel, anchovies and black olives.

Second Course Dishes:
Veal stew with pears. A recipe from the kitchen of the traditional major festival from the Vallés. It is one of the many recipes of Catalonian cooking with fruitñ it can be cooked with large pieces or in the form of a stew. The least noble pieces of the calf are usually cooked because they are the tastiest. Golden pears were usually used, especially in winter, but white pears can also be used.

Cod with raisins and pine nuts. The cod is the fish that is most eaten in the interior regions of Catalonia since access to fresh fish was easy. Therefore, with the passing of time, its presence has been noted in all the recipe books of these regions as the favourite fish. The raisins and pine nuts go hand in hand and they are so present in these dishes that some of these recipes are known as ¨Catalonian style.¨The cod is desalted for 36 hours, changing the water every 6 to 8 hours, in the refrigerator and with its skin facing up. The water carries out three different functions: hydrate, desalting and sponging.

Chuchos from Girona. The chuchos are considereed the sweets par excellence of the city. Created in a pastry shop in Girona during the first decades of the 20th century, they quickly spread throughout all of the territory. They are pastries that are rolled and filled with cream. They are fried in oil and sprinkled with sugar on top.

The Wines:
Barbara Forés 2003 Red (something local, I don´t remember!)
A complimentary dessert wine brought to us by our very-cute Spanish waiter!!!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Slightly pissed (you know, drunk) in San Sebastian

I suppose that´s the best way to be, right? (In spite of the fact that the keyboards here don´t work well with drunken typing as they´re all out of order!) San Sebastian is much more mellow, though still fast-paced and energetic, than Madrid, and I´ve spent my first day here walking through the narrow streets of the Parte Vieja, stopping in tapas bars for pinxtos and far-too-much vino. Seafood, especially crab and shrimp (as well as jamon and queso), seems to be the central focus of the tapas here; rumor has it (as reported by the Lonely Planet) that the cuisine in Basque country is some of the (if not the) best in all of Spain; after this afternoon´s eating, I might just have to agree. The tapas are spread out across the bar counter, and (finally finding my bravery) the key seems to be to stride up to the counter and order your drink and tapas like the locals.

After my gastronomic delights of the day, I think it´s time to retire to my hostal for a nice siesta before heading out start all over again this evening!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A review of two museum icons

Museo Del Prado: When in Madrid, it seems obligatory to go to the Museo del Prado, right? Not seeing it would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or like going to New York without visiting Barneys. So, like the good little travelers that we are, we trekked over yesterday morning.

What can I say? With all due respect to art lovers worldwide (and a bunch of dead artists) after about thirty (okay, three) seconds of seeing dark, depressing, religious, brutal images, I was ready to start drinking heavily. Hmmm. Goya was pretty cool, but you knew that already. There were a lot of naked women. And Christ images. But you probably knew that already, too. What you might not know is that the café con leche in the cafeteria is really tasty. I suppose it´s worth it just for that! Though traditional art lovers and those who love art history will most assuredly appreciate the experience.

El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: This was by far more on my level. The Reina Sofia (which I like to think affectionately of as the Sofia Loren) houses an outstanding collection of modern and contemporary (and predominantly Spanish) art. The building is an 18th-century hospital and is open and airy and bright. We didn´t make it past the first floor, but that´s just fine, as the oh-so famous works of Picasso, Dali, Joan Miró, Juan Gris, etc. etc. can keep one focused for hours. Most notable is Picasso´s famous Guernica, which depicts his protest to the German bombing of the Basque town, Guernica during the 1937 Spanish Civil War.

Tomorrow we´ll finish our Madrid museum tour with the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Just FYI for those heading to Spain: if you´re planning on seeing all three, you can buy a museum pass which saves you some money.

Madrid food, the good and (believe it or not) the very bad

The Good: Last night, my mother and I shared one of the most fantastic meals of my life at La Musa on Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 18 (the link is to the sister restaurant, La Musa de La Latina). It was recommended by the Lonely Planet - Spain, which always makes me hesitate a bit (LP suggestions tend to be crowded with tourists!) but I was beyond stunned by the fabulously creative and unique tapas and the funky, seemingly local crowd. We shared a tapas sampler plate (featuring fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes smothered with three sauces and the perfect medium rare tuna and brilliant salmon (to name but four dishes)) and enjoyed the tuna and salmon so much we had to order a second helping. The sauces and preparation are so special, I can´t think of how to describe it. Really, you have to come to Madrid to sample for yourselves! Then for dessert, we shared an enormous slice of chocolate cake. The whole thing was accompanied by Spanish Rioja. Oh, and a very foxy waiter brought it all to our table with a very foxy smile.

The Very Bad: After last night´s perfection, who´d want to follow up with one of the worst meals of my life? (Actually, I don´t think I´d ever want to follow up with one of the worst meals of my life!) Well, as bad luck would have it, Mom and I were stuck for good choices and near starving after leaving Reina Sophia this afternoon. So we dashed into one of the gazillion choices nearby. It seemed to be filled with locals, however when I was presented with an dripping-wet iceberg lettuce salad (adorned with bad tomatoes and supermarket coldcuts and cheese) that was drenched with a thick mayonaise-based dressing, I knew we had made a mistake. I tried to eat the salad, but it just wouldn´t make it down. So I waited for my second course, a jamon y queso sandwich. You´d think that would be easy, this being the jamon capital of the universe, right? Well, what should appear before my little eyes but a grilled sandwich with (I am not kidding) what appeared to be sliced Velveeta-style cheese. I thought that stuff was illegal in Europe!

But I survived by making a plan to go back to La Musa before I return home. Good plan!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Dear Manolo Blahnik

Dear Señor Blahnik,

With all due respect, I must admit I am filled with sorrow because of you. As reported earlier, it should have become clear to you that one of my main stops in Madrid (my first stop, actually, my Mecca) was to your outlet. So this morning, full of jetlag but still the excitement that only a well-crafted pair of zapatos can bring a gal like me, I headed out, on foot, in search of Serrano, 58. I got lost, twice in fact, and was almost reduced to tears when I couldn´t figure the way out of the complex Metro system.

And then I realized -- shockingly, horrifyingly -- that my shoe Mecca was not to be. You were closed. In fact, the entire city appeared to be closed. Yes, I realize that it´s not necessarily your fault, dear Señor Blahnik. I realize that you do not have control over the nation´s calendar, in spite of the profound and lasting impact you have on women´s feet worldwide.

Perhaps it was some national holiday that nobody seemed willing to inform me about. Perhaps the store clerks closed the doors when they saw me coming, when they realized that even heavily-discounted Manolos (I´m assuming they were heavily discounted, anyway) are probably too costly for this lowly teacher´s pocketbook. Or perhaps it was simply the fates of zapatos telling me that it will have to be another day before I can find the perfect pair of you.

Either way, you are still in my heart, Señor.

Until then, adios,

Senorita Theresa