Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Horror

This has already been recounted on other family blogs, but for the record herein I will explain my role in a, hmm how shall we say, a very memorable Thanksgiving. 

Something you need to know up top: I am very, very cavalier about eating raw eggs. I remember making cake with my mom as a little kid and she was like, "don't eat the batter! you'll get sick!" But...I'm a kid. I can't help but eat the batter. Though usually I'd sneak just a little bit, because when you're 6 or so you don't have a sense of how sickness happens and the logic "a little probably wont hurt" suffices. Then, when I was slightly older, I had a babysitter and we made a box cake and she was totally cool with me eating batter. She said when she made cake with her mom they'd eat like HALF the batter before it went into the oven. I recognize this now as exaggeration, but at the time I took it as carte blanche to eat all the raw egg I wanted. 

I guess you could say the babysitter left a lasting impression. Now I eat all the uncooked things - steak, fish, eggs. Life is too short not to eat everything. My friend told me about a restaurant in San Francisco that serves sashimi chicken, I might draw the line there. Maybe.

However, this is a deeply personal gastronomic choice and not a decision one should make on behalf of say a very large holiday dinner party. One that probably includes pretty much every stripe of person listed in the CDC's increased risk group

This Thanksgiving, I rolled those dice.

I made cesar salad, the way I always do, with a raw egg. I didn't even think twice about it. Really, I didn't think about it at all. Nor did I tell anyone. It was delicious, most everyone ate it, it ran out before the last couple folks could get through the buffet line. Lucky them.

About 24 hours later, my cousin Meghan was the first to go down. She mistakenly blamed barbecue oysters she'd had for lunch. We all felt bad for her and played Scrabble without her.

Sometime around 2 am Saturday morning I started to not feel so good myself. I knew I was on the verge of bad bodily things happening so I went to the bathroom. Regrettably, I was too tired to think strategically about what was maybe, probably about to happen. If I'd been thinking strategically, I might have sat down in the usual place and picked up the trash can. I did not sit down in the usual place. Instead, I hugged the toilet bowl. Big, big mistake.

I woke up the next morning and learned six other people were sick. Two more people got sick later Saturday. I took out 10 people, including myself, with a single egg. 

In consideration of the mass pain, inconvenience and holiday-weekend-ruining I wreaked on so many people, this is probably the worst thing I've ever done. Top five, at least.

Later in the weekend, when I was feeling somewhat better, I inspected the bathroom where I did not take appropriate strategic action. If you've ever watched a crime procedural, you've probably seen a detective, combing over the scene of the crime, looking for clues that the perpetrator left after a hasty clean up. In this fall's Gone Girl, there are the two drops of blood spatter over the kitchen range. And I'll end by saying I'm glad I gave the bathroom a second pass.

If you're reading this and I haven't apologized to you yet, I am sorry. Have I learned my lesson? Absolutely, I will never serve raw egg to unwitting dinner guests again. First thing I cooked when James and I made it back to New York? Carbonara. The kind where you put the raw egg into the cooked pasta. Because YOLO.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Pot Farming

In October I spent two weeks in Humboldt County and several nights camping on a marijuana farm. The story came out in California Sunday Magazine today. If you happened to be a California newspaper subscriber living in an affluent zip code, you might be able to read me in print today! All other riffraff, here's a link

Important detail not included in story: I had to wash my yoga pants five times to get the skunk out. 

Also, Humboldt is awesome. I got really lucky with a friend I met while hiking in Burma who hooked me up with his mom's empty beach house in Arcata while I was reporting. Most nights in Arcata I'd walk over to his place, 5 minutes from the beach house, and we'd have beers and talk about Humboldt. 

Marijuana really seems like beer there, people are casual about it, and in turn it seems less 'edgy,' it's just whatever if you smoke or not. Such a huge cultural divide from here in New York - where they only just approved medical marijuana, and only for a strict list of conditions. In Humboldt, the question isn't if but how you are connected to the industry. 

My friend in Arcata is into rapping. One night he brought another rapper over to jam, plus a French singer-clarinetist who was in town to trim showed up too. I told the group about harvesting pot at 1 a.m. on this farm (the growers were rushing to beat the rain) and was subsequently treated to a freestyle session about my harvest experience. That was cool. Naturally, there was a pipe going around.

Legalization is necessary for the environment, to reduce violent crime related to the black market, to relieve sick people, and because people should be free to get high. But the most pressing reason to legalize is to do away with the criminalization that disproportionately affects people of color. Black people are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for possession despite similar usage rates. That disparity exists even in states with small minority populations. Here in New York, black people are nine times more likely to be arrested for possession, according to the NYCLU

Thankfully, NYPD stopped arresting in favor of ticketing last month. Nevertheless, we have a racist justice system. Fact. Not opinion. This is one small, easy and obvious way to make it better.

End rant.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Horror Story

So last night James and I were laying in bed on our air mattress watching a horror movie. It's called Resolution and is about a guy who goes to a spooky cabin to try and get his buddy off drugs but  all these creepy things start happening.

Guess what else is creepy?

At a quiet part of the movie I hear a rustling noise ... coming from our room!

I tell James and he pauses the movie so we can both listen. He hears it too and gets up, because this is the part of our lives that follows the constructions of genre film: If there's a noise in the night, I'll be damned if I'm the one who's going to get up and check on it.

James peers over a stack of shopping bags holding my clothes and says something like, "you're right" and then tells me he has to take one of the bags outside. I hand him his sweatshirt and he departs.

If I were a better person, I would've followed him outside, but instead I stayed put on our slowly-deflating air mattress, clutched the comforter around my shoulders and listened for more intruders. Feeling a little bit like crying...

He went out on our stoop and started pulling my clutches and scarves out of this bag a piece at a time until the mouse realized, "oh shit, I gotta get out of here." and spun in a circle and jumped out.

"You're going to want to wash this stuff," he said when he returned.

Reader, I'm glad I didn't actually see this. It would have been too much for my tender constitution.

It doesn't look as if there's poo poo threaded through my accessories, but who knows, mice shit everywhere they go, so I'll wash it all anyways.

I was operating under the comforting delusion that our sublet only had one mouse and it resided primarily behind the stove. From now on we're going to keep the bedroom door closed. The scariest thing though is I only heard it because there was a plastic bag on top of the canvas bag he was in, and he was pushing up against it to make the noise. What if he'd been somewhere else, somewhere quieter?!

The movie was pretty good, if you're looking for a Halloween-time flick, at least as much of it as I saw, I fell asleep before the end, which would've never happened if I didn't have James around to take care of the mice. I guess now I can never leave him.
And now for a status update, because I can feel the curious family emails pouring in already: Yes, we're still subletting, but probably only for a few more weeks - we'll be in our own place by the beginning of December, latest. James will go from full-time freelancer to full-time employee Nov. 1 at his work (yay!). I'm still doing four things at once, I don't know if I can sustain this freelance thing in New York, but I do have a magazine article coming out soonish that I'm excited about. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Live in New York and I am 28

Either of those points would be newsworthy enough to have warranted its own post (at least in the world of Under Sundog!), but between the hubbub of moving, a full freelance load and other assorted life-business - making time is tough.

So 28. The twilight of my twenties! I've outlived a whole bunch of rock stars! I think I'm officially to old to ever be a Bond girl. Boo-hoo.

This year went by so fast it's almost scary, probably because so many things changed and I was never in one place too long.

Some things I did when I was 27:
Published a giant article on North Korean kidnappings
Took the Trans-Siberian
Visited Marfa and New Orleans
Moved to Austin
Wrote an essay on censorship, and a bunch of tech articles
Ate a lot of barbecue
Saw a lot of comedy
Took three improv classes
Finished a (very rough) draft of a novel
Spent two weeks on a sailboat in Southeast Alaska
Moved to New York (three days before turning 28!)

It wasn't easy transition into freelancing, but it's getting better and I'm leaps ahead of where I was 10 months ago. All told, it was sort of a strange year. Repatriating was kind of like being fresh out of school again. I felt young, or really I felt too old for the scrappy things I was/am doing. But I feel older too. I think I'm a more educated and empathetic person than when I graduated six (and a half!) years ago.

So New York. I really like it here. Not oh-my-gawd-I'm-gonna-live-here-forever like, but more this-will-be-really-fun-for-a-few-years like. I'd never though I'd live here, but I enjoy how life continues to surprise me. 

Why do I like it here? The diversity is incredible. We live in a Caribbean and Jewish neighborhood, we're not terribly far from Chinatown, we've had Asian food almost every other day since moving here. We finagled our way into a Lexus party during fashion week. I used to think LA was like a microcosm of the world, but New York is more so. And, and - I've had better Chinese food than anything I've had since leaving China. Thank you, God.

Book stuff: In our first week here, I dragged James to three literary events. I went to an online poetry class meet-up and I joined a fiction workshop. I've been in love with books since I learned how to read, and this is the first time I've been in a city that feels like it cares about writing as much as I do.

On my actual birthday (three weeks ago already, ack!): the Penske truck we split with another couple arrived. Amazingly, most of what James and I own fits in 1/6th of a Penske truck...and most of it is his! We helped the other couple put their stuff in storage, and then the four of us went to iHop (we were pretty, pretty far out in Brooklyn - the place even had a big parking lot) and we all ordered the eggs and hash combo. The waiters sang for me and I got a lollipop.

That was also the night of the Lexus party. So to celebrate 28, I also had 3 classy and free cocktails and felt incredibly provincial surrounded by models and fashion people. I could literally see the event photographers circling, taking a look at James and I, then moving on, like "Nah, not worth it." Ha ha!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Austin to Brooklyn

Our car went through 11 states in four days. We live in Crown Heights, which is in Brooklyn, now. I'm at the Brooklyn Public Library now because nobody has air conditioning in the city and it's too hot right now. I've been a New Yorker (lols) for almost 24 hours.

I have a plate full of freelance work at the moment, but I need to blog now before I start forgetting the trip. I'm probably already forgetting parts of it.

Moving out of our apartment was horrible for all the usual reasons. Heat. Packing. Stress. Then we spent a strange few days in limbo, sleeping in a friend's living room, before we left Austin Friday morning.

On the way out of Austin, James took an enthusiastic selfie, showing me in the driver's seat giving him dead eyes. It got a lot of Facebook likes. I told him he's always casting me as 'the shrew' in his social media, and he said it's cuz I always make those kind of faces. That's about right.

We drove in and out of accents: Austin, standard American English. Gas stations and fast foods between there and Memphis, southern accent. Memphis and Nashville, neutral. Arkansas was the boring-est state we drove through. That's not necessarily a reflection on the state of Arkansas, just the Interstate.

Outside Nashville, we stayed with one of my best friends from junior high. It was fun to meet her two children since I haven't even seen her since before she was married. I appreciate how Facebook and Instagram lets us stay loosely in touch with old friends. I've been following photos of her kids for years now, and when we started plotting our journey it was easy to remind myself that she lives outside Nashville. Her 2-year-old cried when we came up to breakfast Saturday morning. Debbie brushed it off and told me she'd give me some bacon to chum her with. It's cool when your friend's sense of humor and temperament hasn't changed in 13 years.

We stopped in a record shop in Nashville and ate lunch near Vanderbilt at a place with fried artichoke hearts. Our Saturday drive had the worst weather. The rain got so bad at one point we pulled off the highway.

Saturday night we stayed in Gainesville, near my brother's boarding school, which looks like a castle-fortress. He took us on a grand tour and we took him to a movie (ninja turtles). I slept for some of it. Had to be rested for all that driving.

James' dad sent us a very nice Austin-sendoff email (thanks, Mike!). He encouraged us to think about our 10-year plan on the drive. At first all we could come up with was "be back on the West Coast before we are 38." Then James declared he would grow a great big bushy beard. I decided to be a Nobel Laureate. And we are thinking about investing in a fleet of jet skis. In fact, if we make it to Seattle we will probably just commute on jet skis through the Ballard locks.

The rest of the south was a blur, so many billboards for steak and Chinese buffet and giant porn warehouses with big parking spaces (for truckers). We spent our third night in Roanoke. Virginia doesn't appear to allow all the big, horrible billboards. The drive was more scenic. Tennessee was the state we'd most like to explore more.

How else did we entertain ourselves? We listened to music loosely tied to region - bluegrass and folk rock in the south, there is a plentitude of songs about Tennessee so we listened to those. We listened to Rip Torn read some Kurt Vonnegut essays. I read James the entire company history of Cracker Barrel in a southern accent (we were trying to figure out how it got its name. Unrelated - but maybe related?? -- Cracker Barrel has a looong history of discrimination lawsuits).

In Pennsylvania, I'm pretty sure I saw one Amish girl in a long pink dress walking through a yard with laundry on a line. New Jersey was greener than I expected (probably everyone says that). When we made it to the Holland Tunnel, I played that Sinatra song (you know, that one), but I didn't get too much further into New York songs. It was still about an hour to our place, but the driving was stressful enough to curtail music.

It was exciting to get that first glimpse of the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline, I'm  excited to start exploring. There is a lot of the trash on the ground, like, everywhere. And the first thing we smelled when we found a parking spot was hot garbage.

We're subletting a room in a second-floor walkup. It's newly remodeled with high ceilings, but we're looking forward to getting our own place again soon. The heat is awful. When the wind changed last night, I could smell different strains of garbage-smell.

Today I did work and then we wandered around trying to find something to eat. It's exhausting being new to a place, not having your go-to spots or any food in the pantry. After lunch I cut off all my hair. Like, pretty much all of it. New city, new 'do.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm moving?

Our lease ends next week. James doesn't have a full-time offer yet, but there are way more jobs in New York and that's where all his contacts are, so the logical next steps appear to be: pack stuff, head east. 

I was all sad to leave Austin and then I went to make coffee and watched a cockroach scuttle into the water reservoir, and now I'm like, "Okay Texas, that's a wrap."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Story Out

Another one for The Daily Dot. Check it out here