Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am not a big fan of clothing.

I am not a big fan of clothing. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of nakedness either, its just that I’m not a huge fan. I’m a fan alright. I’d take being clothed over necked nine times out of ten (the tenth being when I am sleeping and then I think sheets count as clothes by proxy). But I just normally don’t get excited about a specific article of clothing.

However, for my birthday, my sister got me a sweatshirt. And this wasn’t your standard sweatshirt. This was a swanky, fleece lined number that felt like I was slipping inside the freshly sheared coat of a lamb.

There was one problem: sometime in the last ten years all the trendy stores switched to emo sizing. What I mean is that no longer is a large the baggy, oversized large of the nineties, a large is now a emo-sized large that doesn’t quite reach my wrists and fits snugly around my stomach.

This was a remediable situation, however, and I remedied it. I entered the trendy store that features the commercials with happy people singing in scarves and attempted to perform a simple exchange. And the exchange attempt fiasco is the reason that I hate malls.

By a fortuitous coincidence, I parked the mall at the entrance closest to the store I wanted to enter. This occurred completely by chance because my general tactic upon turning into the mall parking lot complex/circle-of-death is to find the first aisle I can to turn down and park as quickly as possible so as to avoid the general craziness of mall-bound/departing drivers. And so it just so happened that this entrance was adjacent to the store at which I was to return said sherpa sweatshirt.

Yet, I should have known that modern shopping would not be so simple. The cashier informed me that while I could surely exchange the sweatshirt for a larger size to accommodate by non-Jimmy Eat World style preferences, I could also return it and use the credit for a sweater during the current buy-one-get-one sale. In a moment of weakness I almost acquiesced, but I held fast after looking at the fleece lined hood of the sweatshirt.

The cashier proceeded to radio another clerk upon which I embarked on the experience I hope to be the closest experience to having a personal shopper as I ever have. The clerk guided me to the rack of sweatshirts, and despite the fact that I found a size up (albeit a slightly difference color) she proceeded to gather three or so shirts and hold them up for me.

This one might work. She was not fazed. Actually I think this one right here is the right size. She acted like she did not hear me as she flew through the rack of sweatshirts. Here, I’ll just try this one on and see if it’ll work. I think I’ll like it. In perhaps her most impressive instance of unwavering fortitude, she saw my point and countered with: Well I think that is all we have on this rack let me go check and see if there are more out front.

By the time she returned I had decided (five minutes ago) that the sweatshirt was a go. She however, would not go down so easily and asked me to go look at yourself in the mirror out front. I thought it was okay and attempted to brush her off when she implored me to go check in the front mirror. Worried that I looked a fool in the sweatshirt, I finally obliged and found my appearance superbly normal.

At this point I was done playing games and told her I was going to exchange it for this one and promptly moved the game forward by inquiring: Now do you need to scan this one out, or can I just leave the old one with you and take it. For I had worked at Kohl’s for years and the even exchange was possible without the use of modern technology. She smiled as if a four-year-old had just proposed something impossibly stupid in a genuine manner.

Finally she walked me down to the computer where I again, felt like an over pampered personal shopper as she took me to the front of the line to complete my transaction. Oh, she said, they must have gotten this on sale. My sister is a savvy shopper, I would not have been surprised. However, I did not see how this piece of information had any bearing on our current course of action. There is a difference of seventeen dollars. Again, I didn’t really care but it became apparent to me that the clerk expected me to care. I tell you what, I will just correct the difference.

I wasn’t sure if we were narrating the obvious right now, or if this was supposed to be perceived as a transcendent act of grace, but I finally acknowledged the “situation” and thanked her for doing that. She said it was not problem, which again made me wonder if we were narrating the obvious. I was tempted to say: Well thanks again for letting me exchange one item nearly identical to another with all of the tags and requisite documentation as required by said transaction. What a modern wonder of charity you are running here. I will tell all my friends about this great deal and maybe they will also find the dumb luck that I stumbled upon. But I refrained.

More importantly, I walked out of the store with the appropriately sized sweatshirt. And it was awesome. I wore the sweatshirt for the rest of the night. When I had to get slightly more gussied up for the holiday activities I would be partaking in, I layered the sweatshirt on again as a sort of coat. And it was awesome.

Like I said, I’m not a big fan of clothing, but I became a big fan of this sweatshirt. It was weighty enough that it reminded me of the comforting lead vest the dentist provides be with pre x-ray. The hood is spacious enough that with the neck just slightly unzipped, I can softly cover my head and feel like I’m swimming in a sort of peripheral pillow. The fleece lining, as described above, was so soft that I frequently gave into the continuous urge to rub my cheek against it sheep shorn softness.

And I don’t like clothing. But I liked this shirt. So much so that it was worth the above experience and actually, made it all strangely endearing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thoughts on Eating a Grapefruit

I can’t eat a grapefruit when I am hungry. Properly consuming such a fine piece of agricultural produce requires a concentration and patience that I do not have when I am hungry. Furthermore, in the hyperirritable state I find myself when hungry, I find the spray of wasted delicious pink juices extremely annoying. Usually I give in to the baser self and attempt to forego the requisite preparation for consummation and try to scoop the tiny triangles of fruit meatiness out with a traditional spoon. And I fail miserably.

And even more miserably, even if I successfully navigate myself through the entire grapefruit I end even hungrier than I began. Because we all know that the fruit and vegetable kingdom is not accepted as real food where the hungry man’s stomach is concerned (With of course the notable exception of the meat of the fruit world the banana and a few others).

Despite the given shortcomings of the grapefruit in said situation it remains one of my favorite ingestion experiences. First, there is the purely asthetic experience of the grapefruit. Externally its yellow-orange skin is graced with an artists kiss of rogue on one end like the suns rays especially shone on one small arc. And the perfect sphere is disrupted on the micro-level with the tiny dimples of texture. On the macro-level, the sphere is ever so slightly incomplete as one point features a slight infolding reminding the viewer that the grapefruit did in fact come from the earth. Most striking, however, is the natural size, not cartoonish like the watermelon or the slightly-to-big-for-one-hand cantelouope. The grapefruit pushes the limits of something held in one hand, providing a surprising size for potentially the world’s largest single serving fruit.

And the inside of the grapefruit only enhances its glowing exterior. The white spokes contrasting the pink meat separate each distinct triangular prism into bite size morsels o flavor. And, frustratingly at times, the bond between the pink and white is so strong as to force even the most impatient diner to wait as the knife slices the pink flesh away from its captor. The flavor is literally palpable before the first bite, because of the unavoidable spray of the acidic contents.

My preferred method is to divide the fruit into two acts. That is, after separating the two halves, I will prepare one with a steak knife, and then consume it before moving on to the second half. And so a moment’s worth of work sets the table for a even more fleeting moment’s consumption.

And afterwards, not completely unlike the famous giving tree, the grapefruit provides a post-meal cordial. Amazingly, after methodically slicing out the seeming entire pulpy goodness from the fruit, a perfect glass-worth of country-style-full-pulp juice remains.

So the grapefruit provides an eating experience, in my mind unparalleled by any of the tubers, fruits, and vegetables of the natural world. I just only have to remind myself that a grapefruit must be consumed in context. And that context is essentially reduced to whilst not edging on ravenous.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I live in Detroit.

I live in Detroit. Which is something that fewer and fewer people can say daily. And I have to admit it has been one of the strangest experiences of my life. A little more than two years when I was starting medical school and the real estate market had yet definitively plummeted I purchased a condo in downtown Detroit (with a little help of the financial backing of my parents; lets be honest, a lot of help). So, I don't claim to have any sort of perspective besides an upbringing of suburbia and a brief stint of living in an urban core.

I would be lying if I said there were never times when I wished I lived in a “normal city.” That is, occasionally I think it would be nice if I didn’t see cars on blocks missing all their tires not infrequently in front of my residence. Or that I could seriously deal with not having to pass by entire complexes of abandoned residences that remind me of some sort of post-war eastern European nation. But most of all, I wish I could take a jog outside after midnight and not think twice about my personal safety. After all, I am a fairly large male, and being intimidated by my surroundings is not something I am used to nor go out of my way to experience.

Yet, I am still being surprised by the joys that living in such a place brings. For the first two months of my taking up residence in Detroit I would sip my morning coffee and stare at the bright, dancing, letters of the FOX Theatre sign outside my window for a good half hour. And still when I look up and see it outside it brings me a sort of joy of which I still don’t understand the origins. And when there is a big event going on, I love being able to stumble onto the community patio outside my back door and witness the goings-on from above (before heading down and engaging in said events).

I catch myself forgetting that I live in Detroit, and imagining I am in Chicago at least once a week. I’ll catch a glimpse of Broadway street near Grand Circus Park where new restaurants line the streets and the post-theatre crowd strolls about. If I look at a certain angle at the row of townhouses adjacent to my building I can imagine that they are hip families living in the Lincoln Park district of Chicago or something akin. And in the dark of night, I can’t really tell which skyscrapers are completely vacant and which are merely shut down for the night. And I love those moments.

But I also love the fact that those moments wane and I remain in Detroit. Because Detroit’s juxtaposition of seeming old-world like glory, new age revitalization (its there, I promise), and general state of decay creates an incredibly beautiful blend of life. Bastions of resilience hold-on to entrenched customer bases amidst square blocks of abandoned houses.

In Detroit, its impossible to forget about the plight of those less fortunate. But if you look in the wrong direction its also entirely possible to miss the hope of renaissance that abound. And I guess that’s why I have found peace here despite the general appearance of chaos that surrounds my new home. Parts of the ubiquitous decay are reminders that today’s glory is fleeting, while the occasional landmark of persisting ancient (by Midwest American standards) glory is evidence that even in the most unlikely of circumstances occasionally great beauty endures.