a hot first day of summer leads to the re-evaluation of the insane.

I should not complain about the heat. I love summer, and I would rather be warm than cold. I should not complain about the heat because I am fortunate enough to spend my 8-hour work day on the comfortably air-conditioned 26th floor. I did not spend the afternoon weed-whacking, or delivering food, or checking people out of a mini-mart that keeps its doors and windows open rather than closed, because of the fruit stands outside which create a pleasant flow of space from the sidewalk to the register.

I took a brief reprieve from my chilled cubicle today to walk to the post office. On my short, five-block walk I passed a man (twice actually, once on my way out and a second time on my way back, but that is really neither here nor there).  He had no shirt and wore dirt-brown pants. I use the word dirt, because it was most likely dirt that made them look that way. He was extremely tall and tan with wild white-gray hair that circled his head like a glowing halo, the kind you see in old Catholic illustrations of the Virgin Mary. His limbs were long and lean, and his pants were held up by a belt too small, so that a section of his waist line kind of bunched up below the belt. I’m not sure what he wore on his feet, because I was distracted by what he was carrying in one hand. It was a small doll that he held close to his stomach. She was made completely of fabric and had round, black, bead eyes and black curly hair. She smiled out at the world, clutched by the long grimy fingers of a man who had lost himself.

He was screaming nonsense with an angry passion in his eyes. Really upset, you know? And she just stared. Her expression unchanged, of course, because she was a doll, and it made me wonder exactly when this tall, skinny, tan man crossed that delicate line that separates the sane from the insane (it also made me wonder where he got the doll, if he slept with it at night, how long he had been carrying it….) Exactly when do we classify someone as crazy? I began to look around me, and was astonished at the amount of not-crazy people there were! Why aren’t there more crazy people in this world? How does everyone have it so danged together??

That man could easily have been working in an office yesterday. But the work and life and routine and heat was too much for him, so instead of getting ready for the day as usual, he woke up and took off all of his clothes (then remembered he might get arrested for indecent exposure, so he grabbed pants and his wife’s belt on his way out the front door, telling himself, “Yes, pants. Good.”) Inspired by his outdoor cat who cools herself by bathing in the dirt, he decided to do the same. “Dirt, cool. Good.” Covered in filth from head to toe he still hadn’t found any relief from the blistering sun. Frustration turned to anger, anger to fury, and fury pushed him right past that limit of acceptable behavior (the dirt bath happened where no one could see, so crazy wasn’t the term used to describe him yet. Instead, the regular passerby would classify him as “homeless,” which tends to evoke feelings of compassion and sympathy, whereas “crazy” lends itself to fear and intimidation.) Insanity starts to sink in though, creeping through the blood in his veins, pulsing through his temples and the red, crooked vessels of his eyeballs. Explanation from this point out is unnecessary. The man is now unhinged, his actions beyond his control, and suddenly he finds himself barefoot and dirty trudging through Midtown East with a chip on his shoulder borne of the monotony that preceded today.

Why isn’t the check-out girl at the hot, fruit-fly infested market insane? Or the man that sells cigarettes and weeklies (he stands in a 6-by-4 box all day, for Pete’s sake). Or those guys who wash windows on buildings 50 stories high? Where do we find the strength to be normal? Or, I should be asking, what’s so wrong with being a little loopy? I wonder what that guy would’ve done had someone given him a hug, or offered him a shirt ….

It’s too hot not to: Embrace Crazy.

 

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A friendly culinary adventure

Exactly one week and a day ago a dear friend visited me at my apartment. We were finally able to schedule a date — a true miracle, considering both of our full, scribbled-on, highlighted, white-outed, re-written-upon calendars (at least that’s how I organize my calendar. I’m sure hers is much tidier). So excited was I to see this dear friend, that I cleaned my apartment and agreed to cook a meal with her, rather than order-in, which is always my favorite way to dine. We borrowed a delicious recipe from Lauren’s Latest, a blog full of fancy, feasible feasts. And so, I am out of my element, both in the kitchen, and in the realm of food-blogging, but here goes. Please don’t compare too closely. Our recipe practically mimics Lauren’s, with the exception of salt and pepper, which we didn’t realize we’d forgotten until we’d made it halfway through our dishes. Bon Appetit!

I’ll spare you the recipe itself, which you can find at Lauren’s Latest, and provide for you the unscripted version. It’s a little less refined, but just as tasty:

Chopping the onions, mincing the garlic

“How do you chop an onion?”

“I don’t know, but flip it over.”

How I got out of chopping and mincing is beyond me, but my guest took on the task with a fervor never before seen at my kitchen counter.

*Note: no baby carrots were harmed during the documentation of this blog.

Covering the peppers

Next came the covering of the peppers, once out of the oven. I’m not entirely sure why this was necessary, but the scent of in-house roasted red peppers was like a gentle blanket of sweetness warming the entire apartment.

The Magestic Roasted Reds

And you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to do this yourself. I’m a huge fan of roasted red peppers… and thrilled am I to know how to make them myself now! Just remember to shut off your oven when you’re done (Roasted Red Peppers Roast at 500º F).

*Note: Peeling the skin off these suckers is like man-handling a squid.

Is your mouth watering yet?

While you or your kitchen buddy — by now, we are co-sous chefs — peels the peppers, the other must begin to brown the onions and garlic via the sautéing method. 

Pre-Mixer

Next we combine everything into one pan, cooking it to perfection, then blend all of our ingredients to a pulp. (Actually, Lauren uses an immersion blender, but considering this is my first time pureeing anything fancier than margarita mix, ice, and tequila, we settle for our stand-up blender, and watch as our concoction turns a pleasant shade of pink, similar to vodka sauce.

Oh, yea, at some point you need to cook pasta. Thank goodness for my guest’s vast knowledge of Italian cooking, otherwise, it would be me and the pasta, as per usual, duking it out over a pot of too-little water, and forgetfulness.

Finally, our meal is ready for consumption, and approximately 1 hour later (a feat for me. Any homemade meal whose prep time surpasses 15 minutes is usually scoffed at and abandoned immediately) we sit down to enjoy a well-deserved dish that is ONLY lacking a side of greasy garlic bread (and salt/pepper).

Well done, dear friend. — Until next time, folks!

yum

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thoughts on the little things re: Office Supplies

I may be the only person who’s ever experienced this (so contradictory, considering my last post), but I work at a desk — that’s not the unique part, just wait, I’m getting there. So all day long I deal with the things on my desk. I have a computer, a keyboard, and then various shaped containers that hold little things. These little things also vary. I have a little thing holder for paperclips, another one for pens/pencils/highlighters, another for pennies (and nickels, if I’m lucky). I also have one for push pins — that’s the dangerous one and I have to stop and warn myself: “Be careful Meghan, you remember what happened last time….”

I have a love-hate relationship with paperclips. They’re annoying to refill, and they run out the second-quickest after staples. Staples are more fun to refill because they go into a neat gun-like object, that I get to test before putting to use. Paperclips just kind of sit there, and sometimes they get tangled, which is never fun if you’re in a hurry, yet they are incredibly functional.
I end up giving a lot of my paperclips away. When you work with lots of paper, it is necessary to gather this paper into organized piles, which then need to be bound somehow. More often than not, I end up handing off these organized paper-clipped paper piles, which, in the deep recesses of my mind is upsetting, because I know I’ll never get that paperclip back. I deplete my paperclip stash daily, bringing me closer to the day I’ll need to go to the office supplies drawer and yank another paperclip box from its clingy plastic wrapper to be dispensed into the appropriate little things holder.
Subconsciously I have also, in a sense, rated the importance of said little things. For example, the staple suggests permanence. The staple pierces paper requiring the assistance of another object, the staple-remover, to…um…remove it. Paperclips require no such object. Therefore, there is a certain amount of judgement that goes down at that little desk of mine. I have the final say: Staple! Paperclip! These decisions are made without much thought, really, but they are made. All decisions are.
Yes, I am writing about office supplies. I can’t help it. I deal with them every day, handle them on the hour, and, honestly, could not live without them. Some people might say the same about their favorite accessory or lipgloss, and those people will understand where I’m coming from.
I would like to think that we all have a quirky, relatively unacknowledged relationship with the inanimate objects of our lives. If you don’t, that’s OK, I’m sure you do.
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five o’clock

Today as I left work, shuffling alongside the worked-out crowd of commuters, passing the same homeless, toothless men with their plastic bags, the same suited men and women, the same mothers and fathers anxious to get home to their children, today as I pushed the grimy metal turnstile again, I rewound my life exactly eight years.

On this day, eight years ago, at five o’clock. Would I have been home already? Probably not. I was involved in sports or theater or some extra curricular or other which keeps high schoolers out until dinner time. I guess track season is about right. We would have run outside today. Fifteen years old, and just starting to feel those pre-teen reigns slacken a little bit. Fifteen years old, and insanely uncomfortable in my body — incredibly unsure of most things involving myself, but man, how perfectly perfect.

There’s something special about that combination of adolescence and springtime. If I could bottle it up and give it a flavor, I would call it mojito: minty freshness with a squashed lime half at the bottom. I guess it’s all one big metaphor, but it makes me think of running. Makes me think of my first true love. Makes me think about the start of young adulthood and everything there still was to learn. About the method in which I was taught.

If we’re lucky, we are taught gradually. The big picture reveals itself slowly and steadily until we reach that age when we realize we don’t want the big picture anymore. We don’t want to commute with the masses. We want to run around the high school and come home to a warm house full of family.  We want that tunnel vision: homework assignments, and finish lines, and butterflies that accompany first kisses.

That is my favorite kind of five o’clock. What’s yours?

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A love story, a story of love

a love story, a story of love

My cousin is getting married in three days. While she is not the first of my extended family to do so, she is the first girl, the first of our lady comrades to truly say goodbye to childhood and adolescence. Now that I’m old enough to understand this I have found myself in an inescapable state of nostalgia.

Our cousin-hood (made up of seventeen) is a very special one. I will let you in, I will give you a glimpse, but I promise you the magic will be lost here.

I remember distinctly the way we used to dress up in costume. Anything left over from years worth of recitals and summer productions was pulled from musty plastic bins and strewn across the basement floor. Only after we found costumes would we spend hours on the perfect script, which was scribbled in slanted penmanship on white copy paper. By the end of the day we had a full-fledged dance, play, skit, movie, and put on performance after performance for our parents who were endlessly entertained. Here our imaginations developed: an environment in which all of our parents endeavored to raise us. Encouraged by one another we would each eventually embrace this shared creativity in our own ways.

As we got older and more adventurous, family parties (the best chance for us to all be together) turned into vastly imaginative war-zones. It was here where I learned that light-up sneakers were unacceptable in a game of manhunt. My team and I expertly crafted makeshift coverings for my lights out of leaves. If we could we would have painted our faces black. As soon as it was dark enough we slithered through the varied terrain of our grandparents’ property and that of their neighbors, quiet as mice, swift as deer, having memorized every tree or dip in the land. The moon was our light source. The moon and the warm lights of the house we all know so well. When at last a team admitted defeat, both troops returned to the party red-cheeked, noses running and covered in dirt.

Summer. Summer. Summer was heaven on earth. Eight weeks felt like a year, and nothing could top that feeling of pure exhaustion after a sun-drenched day of jumping waves and building castles. Fortunate we are to have a boat-owner in the family. Also a golf pro, beach town residents, and our very own island. Summer excursions provided solace from winter’s gloom and relaxation for our parents and grandparents. But they were adventure lands for all of us. What better place to experience your childhood than aboard a ship, or on rolling greens, or sandy shores? Wherever it was, the shrill of laughter was sure to be ours.

One summer’s perfection was punctuated, however, by the loss of the one matriarch we all knew. And so we convened again — every single one of us — to say goodbye to her. Guiltily, I relished the idea of being together again, and for the first time I learned that with death comes the celebration of life. It was okay to play, to laugh, to eat. So we did. All of us. Together.

And now as our lives come full circle, as we grow and build our own families, we will continue to gather. To play and laugh and eat as if we’ve never spent a day apart. We will recount the memories we’ve been lucky enough to make with one another, and aim for the same for our own children.

I am very excited for this wedding. I am very excited to see my beautiful, beautiful family.

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But I Still Look Good in Purple

When I was younger I would visit the city with my parents. Usually my sister and I wore matching oversized “dress” jackets for this special occasion… a purple one with a faux fur-lined hood comes to mind. Mom and Dad looked their best, and baby brother tagged along, white-blond hair combed to one side. We were the suburban family traipsing in (by car! gasp!) to the big city for a show, or museum, and dinner. The idea was to fit it. Look your snazziest, because in here, the people are gorgeous, near-flawless, and role models of a different kind.

Going into the city was a treat — something to look forward to, and, for our youthful imaginations, an adventure out of which dreams were made. And forget Broadway. Broadway was just about as much as my little heart could handle. Oh, how I wanted to be on that stage! And if there was a kid my age singing and dancing, what I felt was admiration mixed with pain: I can do that!
I remember reaching the age when I didn’t have to hold my dad’s hand to cross a city street. THAT was a day. I kind of peeked over my shoulder, double checking that they knew I was flying solo. Me and my sister, two doe-eyed, curly-haired (Not natural curls. Remember, this is a special occasion.) blonds leading the family past a yielded pack of yellow taxis, delivery trucks, and black suburbans.
So now, here I am. Same City. Same girl. New sense of belonging. I still see those people. The ones who never seem to have an ugly day. The ones whose make up is so smooth I actually gawk at them as they walk in the opposite direction. The ones whose legs run miles long, with the perfect outfits, naturally. Every day is a fashion show, and so I am never bored walking to work. Outfit after outfit strolls by, and for each one I take note: must get those boots; remember to look for that jacket; love her scarf!!
How sad, really, now that I think about it. I have completely lost my childhood fascination with things actually worth looking at. I’m surrounded by some of the most interesting architecture in the country and all I can see is clothing worn by my co-inhabitants.
Anyway. Today I realized that I am living a Broadway show. I am living Thoroughly Modern Millie. What I like about that show, aside from the clever tap number in the first act, is that it’s not a story about a girl who wants to make it big on stage. Millie gives some validity to the often scoffed-at desk job. After all, not everyone can end up an actor. Thoroughly Modern Millie is a show about a girl who moves from her “one light town” to Manhattan, “The Eighth World Wonder.”
Okay, where I come from there are about 15 stop lights that I can think of, however, moved into the city I have, and embracing it I am. I am no longer a guest. I am a working part of this bustling community. And while I am surrounded by sophisticated fashion sense and blemish-free beauties, every so often I see a man in a suit, tie, and…backpack? A woman wearing a blouse, skirt, and… running sneakers??
Yes, people actually have to function here. From now on I’m wearing my kicks to work, because that’s how to really fit in in New York.
Photo: Meghan Cavanaugh
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At last.

At last it feels like Fall is here. I know this because yesterday I had my first hot drink from Starbucks. Then later, I had my second hot drink from Starbucks, wearing my tan trench coat and a light-weight black turtleneck.
Air conditioners are off, windows are open to let that cool, crisp breeze flow through the apartment, and a delicious new cinnamon scented candle will coat the months of October and November in a sweetness redolent of Autumns passed.
Fall is almost as intoxicating as Spring, when we thrill at the thought of budding blossoms, and when all that lay dormant over the Winter comes back to life. Similarly now, we look at the exhausted plant life and understand that the time has come for all of the trees and flowers to take a rest. After all, we are tired too. The summer has been long. The sun has been hot.
Welcome chill weather.
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