Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to eat strawberries

Strawberries were on sale this week. Naturally, being the selective shopper that I am I picked up a pint (bushel, quart, peck, whatever it is) and slipped them into my cart. Getting home, being the intelligent refrigeration connoisseur I am I put them into the fridge.

And there they remained. Days went by and I did not touch the—even days when I had a craving for fruit, looked at my banana tree, saw no bananas and opened the fridge. I looked in the fridge saw no apples, no oranges, no peaches, and even the oft-ignored ruby red grapefruit was gone. I settled on a tiny glass of orange juice just to take the edge off.

And today I realized that after days of fruit hunting I had ignored the strawberries. Never mind that they were sitting right in front of my eyes the whole time. I mentally blocked them out. And I could not figure out why. More on this later.

About twenty minutes ago I realized that strange feeling I had in my stomach was the end result of a strawberry binge. The same strawberries I had previously ignored were now irresistible to me and I consumed the batch voraciously and without remorse.

The difference, of course, was location and convenience. This second set of strawberries were pre-washed, set on the counter pleasantly displayed in a sharp, black, trendy Ikea bowl. At the risk of sounding irreverent, they would be hard to resist on a hunger strike.

And in contemplating this dichotomy, I realized that the only reason I ignored them before was because deep down I did not want to go through the labor of washing the strawberries. Apparently I was prepared to let them rot in the fridge because I could not fathom washing them.

I don’t really have enough time here to delve into all the other considerations. Should I have proverbially pitted them of their green turnip-kin top? Would that have enhanced their sex appeal (answer: I hope not, because as it stands I cannot resist them). What is that top for? Can I eat them without any harm except for the bitterness? Is that the same stuff lettuce is made from? These are the things I spend my time wondering but not making the effort to answer.

So, I realized, that if I want to get my fill of fruits and I am out of the single serve variety (apples, peaches, pears, plums, mango, etc) or the pre-made bite size ones (raisins, dried apricots, etc) just wash something and set it on the counter. Pretty soon it will be irresistible.

In a way, my kitchen served to illustrate Malcom Gladwell’s tipping point theory (or the feigned principles of groupon . . . both of which I highly recommend). Only the only action required of me was to wash them and set them on the counter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bikes, fixies, and post-modernism

Oh, man. I bought a bike this week. Unlike my past purchases—a biannual parade of Huffys (yeah, I think that’s how you pluralize that . . . and I am referring to the every two years, not twice a year, form)—I got a real bike. Not a new bike, but a real bike.

I am the proud owner of a 1987 Trek 560 Pro Series. I have no idea what it means, but all I know is that the tires are skinnier than my ring finger, and I had no idea I could go that fast without my quadriceps going up in flames.

The guy I bought it from, of course, knew way more about bikes than me and was really talking it up. In fact, the only reason I knew it was a good bike was because my buddy (and proud owner of several quality road bikes) was on the lookout for good bikes on craigslist.

The seller wanted to know if I wanted to make it into a fixie. And as fate would have it, I learned the meaning of that word just in time to have an informed conversation about it. “Oh, a fixed gear?” I asked, feigning contemplation. “Naw I just wanted a retro bike. I will probably keep the derailleur.” Read: I need a bike that I can actually ride decent distances before I drop my car off to the collision shop for an indefinite period of time.

In order to appreciate the bike, I think you may need to take a glance at the craigslist ad. Just know that the handlebars you can barely make out actually reconnect at the top. They are like a pair of bike antlers, apparently made to impress other road bikes, or appear on the wall of a biker’s mountain lodge someday. They are ridiculous.

Another nuance I had not prepared for as well as my fixie and derailleur vocabulary were the petals. I don’t know how to describe them, except that instead of placing my feet on top of a pair of friendly black pads like most bikes I have known, I had to slide my feet inside these metal sort of U-cup things.

Needless to say, when I took the bike for a test drive, I could not fit my feet inside of these things. To make things worse, in order to put your feet in these things you need to be moving at the time the second foot enters. So, instead of riding the bike down the street, I Fred Flintstone-ed it until I got out of sight and just jammed the second foot in. Note to self: in order to ride I will need to be wearing aqua socks.

I am digressing from what I originally intended to write about, and that is the phenomenon of the “fixie.” For those of you who don’t know, there is a recent trend to convert a standard ten-speed bike into a bike where there is only one-speed. This is done by extracting the derailleur and shifters. The result is a bike that is a single gear and in order for the wheel to turn, the pedals must turn. This also allows for the rider to brake merely by pedaling backwards (yeah, my first huffy had that feature as well). Apparently this appeals to the PBR, skinny jean wearing, subculture known generally as hipsters.

If you are like me, your first reaction is why? I mean, I would conceivably argue that every bike is a fixed gear if one can resist the temptation to shift. I mean, I know this allows for coasting down hills without pedaling, but I am still not sure how there is a downside to that part. Nevertheless, I have heard some theories about their advantages: less maintenance, better feel for the road, and the like.

However, I believe this microcosm phenomenon can serve to illustrate a greater rebellion against a post-modern world. Rather than be forced to take part in an ever changing series of speeds and resistances, why not just turn to one absolute and eliminate some choices. That way, when I pedal, I know how far one turn will take me (exactly the circumference of my rear wheel).

Rather than be subjected to some arbitrary reality where once pedal cycle is converted by a complex series of pulleys and levers—leave those simple machines behind and just ride. I may be extrapolating a bit too much here, but I do think there is something to the concept of limiting ones options.

I once came across an interesting book on the topic as well. The Paradox of Choice essentially argued that less is more when it comes to options and that by overwhelming ourselves with options we walk away less satisfied (I would go into more detail but by “came across” I mean, I took it home from the library for three weeks, read the jacket multiple times, and started the introduction).

All that to say, I am not converting my bike into a fixie. Mainly because I like having the options there, but also because that seems like an awful lot of work. And I'm still trying to figure out how to get my feet in the pedals.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Anything you can do I can do better . . .

I have a big problem. And I don’t think its an uncommon one. The trouble is, I see something well done, something even incredibly done and I think “man . . . I totally should be able to do that.” When generally, of course, I have no business doing that.

The easiest example to relate to in this realm is that of abstract art. Who hasn’t looked at a painting (or in the more avant-garde regions the unspecific ‘exhibit’) and thought, “Why is this here? I could do that.” The stock response from the classic art defender is generally “well you didn’t they did it first.” And I agree with that to an extent.

I have always thought that about Jackson Pollock’s work. And I have been largely ignorant of it, and still am. However, I did watch an interest documentary about him which made me consider momentarily the journey he took to becoming the painter that became famous.

The big realization for me, was not that he had to painstakingly extract genius from within. Rather, I realized that the guy probably went to work at painting everyday, like a regular person heads to work in the office. Apparently, I assumed that they sort of just spewed whatever they could out in the last few hours of the day before bed. Because that’s usually the way I spew out whatever creative instincts I have (usually in writing—in this blog or otherwise).

And I get frustrated sometimes that I haven’t been able to produce anything out of my efforts. That is, other than a short work (originally a blog post) I sold to a gardening magazine, I haven’t published anything or written anything worth publishing.

The catch is, I haven’t generally worked at producing anything. And while I’d like to think that is the only thing holding me back, reality forces me to that there are other issues involve (talent, work ethic, etc). However, I would like to give it a go at some juncture. I just came to the realization that producing anything of value (in life or creativity) generally takes a fair amount of labor and commitment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I have discovered a grocery store within five minutes of my house which I now frequent on a weekly basis. This is huge for me, because despite my affinity for all things that provide caloric energy, there are about eighteen imposter stores within a three-mile radius of my house.

I don’t like to think of myself as naïve or gullible, but initially on relocating to Detroit I was deceived by the apparent plethora of grocery stores around my house. It seemed as if nearly every store I drove/walked by had a sign reading “full line of groceries.”

I was deceived, that is, until one day I went on an earnest search for hamburger buns. A few friends were in from out of town and we decided rather than drive to a store, lets just stop in and check out the “full line of groceries” at the local liquor establishments.

And to my surprise they did have a full line. A full line that invariably included some permutation of the following: Vienna sausages, Marciano cherries, $8 boxes of cereal, Spaghetti-Os, olives, and most frustratingly: hot dog buns.

The real experience was the search. After my first encounter with the full line of perpetually fermenting items listed above, I thought I would get smart. I would ask the cashier as I walked in, “do you guys have hamburger buns.” Now, initially I thought the perceived stare I got was based on the general paucity of my skin color and my presence in the area. However, upon further review, I believe it was a stare to suggest, “didn’t you read our sign, it says we have a full line – jerk.”

Inevitably I would go to the isle constituting the grocery store portion of the liquor store where the friendly gentlemen told me to find the wheat-based hamburger outfits. And almost without fail, I would discover: moldy hot-dog buns. Of course, the gentlemen appeared shocked that hamburger buns were not found right next to them. “Must’ve sold-out” he would explain. Yeah, in 1942.

I could not imagine that hot dog buns and cherries were really in that great demand until I remembered the third item of the full-line trifecta: Vienna sausages. Because in case you are ever stranded in a liquor store, it would be nice to be able to recreate a hot-dog like dining option. Mystery solved.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Today, I am actually sitting down at my desk as I write this, not in my usual (and coincidentally adjacent to my food pantry) locale on the kitchen countertop. This is not by choice, unfortunately, as I must remain near enough my phone jack and modem that the telephone wire can reach my laptop.

Therein lies the problem. I am without wireless internet. Just as the way phone lines went from rotary landlines, to cordless, to the younger generation eschewing a landline for strictly cell access, I have not been hard-wired to the internet in years. And it is decidedly unsettling.

For the last few weeks I have woken up each morning, and as part of my routine, attempted to check my e-mail, facebook, fantasy baseball roster, and local news headlines only to be rebuffed. My immediate reaction is disbelief: if I just wait another minute it will load. And when it dawns on me (literally after ten minutes) that I may not be able to connect, I have a panic attack.

Nevermind that I can connect to the internet by walking over to the modem, plugging it in, and going through the process of restarting my laptop (which perhaps is the only “process” I can complete with the press of the power button). I freak out anyways. What? How will I know what Ashton Kutcher is twittering about today? How many facebook friends will compose eloquent status updates that I will NEVER read. Oh the humanity.

Honestly, I don’t completely attribute my daily breakdown to an addiction to modern technology (spoken just like an addict), but rather a break in my delicately constructed routine. E-mail comes before sipping coffee, but not before brushing my teeth and perhaps putting some oatmeal in the microwave.

Nonetheless, I found my desperate attempts to connect to wireless internet unnerving. Why was knowing how many doubles my fantasy baseball team essential to my daily existence? I am not sure, but I became acutely aware that it clearly was. In fact, I am sure I have showed up late to work on multiple occasions because I was checking some local headline that I found interesting (and coincidentally finishing my bowl of cereal because I get downright fierce in the morning if I lack sustenance).

The opposite, however, has occurred now that I have completely given up on my spotty wireless router and plugged directly in to the internet. When I leave this desk area, I am free of all the mindless facebook/e-mail/twitter checks that I do without even realizing it (a recent NY Times article stated: “Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour,”. Yeah, maybe if they haven’t become enraptured with spider solitaire for the morning. That same article also discussed the brain’s addiction to dopamine. An interesting read:

I discovered that it was nice to be able to focus on one thing at a time. And not just the seemingly obvious things like accomplishing more reading while not sitting next to a computer. Last night I watched The Big Lebowski straight through for the first time ever and it vaulted up the list of my favorite movies. I never would have caught the subtle dialogue which makes the movie if I was half invested in reading a New York Times article online (maybe not the greatest point, but you catch my drift).

I am not sure if I have actually been more productive with my time, but I have surely spent less time with a computer in front of my face. Which also makes the time when I sit down to my computer all the more focused (hence the recent spike in blog posts. Also coinciding with the end of the academic year, but still). Anyhow, in the span of a few weeks I went from being absolutely panicked about not being able to use Wikipedia in every room of my house, to being absolutely comforted by the confinement of my computer to the corner. The beast is in its cage. Until I get a new router, at least.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I love Ike

My left arm is about three shades darker than my right these days. That of course, is and indirect consequence of my automobile lacking air conditioning and my penchant for allowing my forearm to enjoy the sunlight and rushing air.

I have been fortunate enough to take road trips each of these last two weekends and I am always amazed by the experience. By a simple change of location, and especially in the sort of purgatory between locations (the Eisenhower interstate system) my preferences seem to change.

For example, while normally I abhor Rascal Flats and their minions of poppishly-horrible cowboy crooning, while I am driving through the open fields of Ohio, I absolutely crave some Josh Turner or Deirks Bentley (note: if you don’t know who those two are, I commend you, and I am a little surprised I can tell them apart now).

I also partake in the recent phenomenon of massive cans of re-branded soft drinks known as “energy drinks.” Whoever the marketing whiz is that took Mountain Dew and said “we can make a worse tasting, worse looking, incredibly more expensive beverage only we will sell it in large cans so you can’t see what you are drinking” is a genius (although not as smart as the 5-hour energy guy who decided to make commercials that look like infomercials and go the exact opposite route: sell their energy drink in tiny bottles).

Nonetheless, when on the road and stopping for gas, I remember I felt a little fatigued and the desire to pound 24-ounces of high fructose, carbonated B-vitamin goodness is unquenchable. And thus, I quench it. This past weekend, I set a new personal best by consuming 3 drinks in two days while each time justifying the increased cost by neglecting to eat a complementary meal (thus, much like ethanol, enhancing whatever beneficial and unfortunate effects the beverage would have on me).

From the sounds of the above, it would seem as if I did not enjoy these road trips. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I absolutely love them. I discovered in high school that I could take a day off academics, fill-up on gas and a guilty pleasure (I believe peachie-Os were my high school decadence of choice), and head out to some random college for an interview, tour, and maybe, if I was lucky to have some football coach who did not know my name blow smoke up my rear for twenty minutes. I have been addicted road trips since.

Of course, amazingly, whenever arriving at the destination, or back at home at the end of the trip, there is an amazing sense of fatigue and accomplishment (only one of which can be attributed to the aforementioned Taurine-enhanced beverages). And after a few hours of literally sitting on my tail, I feel as if I need a day and half to recover.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Confession: I am devotedly following the World Cup

Go ahead, call me a Euro-lover: I have become a soccer-watching fiend (quick aside: that sentence was spontaneous but reminds me of my favorite palindrome: "go hang a salami: I am a lasagna hog." Try not double-checking that by reading it backwards. Ten bucks you can't. Second note: long asides like these make me really wish blogger allowed footnotes. That is all. Back to the blog) So much so, that on this day, essentially my second day of vacation (I have to take one more test in a few hours), I find myself waking up by seven-thirty so I can catch the first World Cup match of the day. Which is between Serbia and Germany. Which, given a map of Europe, I think that I would fail miserably at identifying one of those two (because U.S. Americans tend to struggle with geography. And complete sentences).

I am not going to give credit solely to a newfound appeal of the game, but a perfect alignment of the stars between a loosening of my schedule and a plethora of soccer to watch. Just four years ago, I tried to get into the Cup but found the incessant dives and whining players intolerable.

Now, however, I am able to look past those marked flaws in soccer (I think the biggest barrier for most male sports fans to commit to the game). I now recognize that an NBA game provides nearly as much complaining and diving (which I could note is corresponding to an influx of European players, but Rasheed Wallace provides enough of a counterpoint to that argument).

I don’t plan on feigning an interest in the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew after this experience, but I will probably commit to catching as many World Cup matches as I can in four years as well (which is quite a commitment because in order to watch a full soccer match one must prepare to pay attention for 90-plus minutes for three seconds of excitement). Much like the Olympics, I love the continuous nature of the event and am partial to events I can remain engaged in for extended time periods (this is also the reason I enjoy having four-day golf tournaments on in the background).

However, I will stop short of blind soccer passion. I will never submit to using the term football to mean anything else than the sport Barry Sanders played throughout my youth. I especially won’t say futball like a jack-ass and act indignant because “that’s what the rest of the world calls it.” Congratulations, you are in America. And I won’t tolerate the argument that “its what it should be called because its played with your foot.” I think we all should be beyond Piaget’s concrete stage of reasoning by 11 years old (note: if I was having this argument with a second grader, then I could let it slide). By that logic you should have a panic attack every time you pull into a stop on a driveway or pull out onto a park-way. Not that I am bitter.

So therein lies the rub. As much as I am enjoying this years World Cup, I think the primary reason is because I am enjoying it with casual fans, not the hyper-defensive I-wish-I-was-a-European-so-then-I-wouldn’t-look-so-goofy-in-these-pointy-diesel-canvas-shoes type individuals. And as a casual fan, this years World Cup matches have been a joy to watch. All ninety minutes of them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No, I don't want no scrubs . . . pants at least.

I wore dress pants today. Normally, I wouldn’t really notice such as thing, but as I have been pretty much exclusively wearing scrubs for the workday the last five months, everything felt foreign. I originally thought I had incorrectly buttoned my top button before tying my tie because it felt so tight. And upon actually buttoning it, I began to get the claustrophobic hyperventilating feeling that I remember having as a six year-old forced to wear a clip-on.

However, the other new article of clothing proved to be surprisingly pleasant. I had forgotten that some varieties of dress pants are surprisingly comfortable. I may be exaggerating the effect since I have been used to wearing hospital scrub pants that I believe are made from burlap exported from the USSR in the cold war era.

These specific pants (someone please tell me why I have to pluralize this sentence) were extremely lightweight and (dare I say) felt flowing. Never have a I worn a pair of jeans and thought, man these jeans are so comfortable, I could forget I am wearing them. In fact, I think jeans may derive some of their comfort by making you always aware of their presence (whereas sweatpants derive their comfort by making you feel like you are wearing a pillow . . . also pleasant).

Part of the issue is that apparently dress pants can be made incredibly thin. It seems counter-intuitive, but they are not able to make jeans that thin. Unless, of course, they are the Old Navy variety, in which case those jeans have a shelf life for me of about 6 months. Month one is thin and comfortable. In month two they begin to feature holes so that they look as if I purchased them off the rack at Hollister or its partner in crime Abercrombie and Fitch. In month three, they begin to have a sort of thinning feeling so that I move slowly and gingerly as if to not expose the jeans to too much stretch. In month four I realize that anything I put in my pockets somehow travel down my pantleg and into my shoe. And inevitably I try not to wear them for month five and in month six I rediscover them and think “oh man, I forgot about these jeans.” Then I wear them, proceed to attempt to change a tire or something of the like and as my fruit loops boxer shorts are exposed to the world, I remember why I had put them in the back of the closet. Yet, I digress . . . rapidly.

The fact is that dress pants are paradoxically comfortable at times. Which almost makes it unfortunate that any sort of associated article of clothing is decidedly uncomfortable. Also unfortunate is that any comfortable article of clothing (tennis shoes, tee shirts, baseball caps, flip flops) look decidedly ridiculous in association with dress pants.

And so, I suppose the lesson for me today is that when I am breathing into a paper bag because my necktie decided to adhere to my adam’s apple, I can take solace in the fact that “hey, these pants are so comfortable I could forget I am even wearing them.” Let’s just hope I don’t pull an “emperor’s new clothes” and actually forget anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yuppies and Unami -- Discovering Thai (food)

Besides pizza, I have also been on a recent kick with Thai food. And when I say recent kick, I mean I hadn’t tried Thai food until the summer of 2008 and I have been loving it ever since. I had been trying to fight the yuppie food craze and found myself accepting an invitation to eat out because I was spending the summer in a new city and wanted to be social.

I got more than I bargained for that night. First, I experienced a delicious Pad Thai entrée. Then I found out the Gin Blossoms were playing a free concert in a local casino (which turned out to be a massive pull-barn with a ridiculous amount of Slot Machines . . . I guess the Gin Blossoms weren’t kidding when they said they’d follow you down). Besides enjoying a throwback to some fine 1990s rock, I also spent the entire night as if I had just discovered a new taste bud.

Flash forward to my first year of medical school and I realized that there is actually a new taste bud. Beyond the traditional bitter, sweet, salty, and sour, scientists had recently discovered a fifth taste known as unami. Unami has been roughly translated to mean savoriness or deliciousness and is trigged by amino acids such as glutamate (the base amino acid for MSG). According to our friends at wikipedia “Savoriness is considered a fundamental taste in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean cooking,” (that was the first time I quoted wikipedia in my writing, and I feel dirty . . . I think I need to shower).

Apparently, the Chinese restaurant I grew up frequenting wasn’t hitting the MSG-spot like Thai food did. Because I was surely utilizing my unami receptor to its full extent while eating Thai food. Apparently, I occasionally lit up the unami light with dishes with parmesan and even beef can light it up. Salt, of course, increases the sensation of the unami which sort of explains why salt on steak (containing glutamate) enhances its deliciousness. And how.

Scientific research aside, I felt as if I had been cheated out of 24 years of eating Thai food. Now, I find myself making up for lost time and getting in line behind all the other yuppies to consume the deliciousness.

Oh, and by the way, you could pretty much say the same thing about my experience with sushi except that I have been able to resist it just a tad more thanks to its enhanced yuppiness. However, I do have to hand it to the yuppies, they sure have great unami sensors.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How to eat out and not end up with egg on your face

A few weeks ago, I went to Supino’s pizzeria, a sort of carry-out pizza place with a small dining room barely capable of accommodating double digit numbers of diners. The quaint institution is nestled into a strip of multi-colored storefronts in the southeast corner of Eastern Market. After the Detroit News listed it as their best pizza in Detroit, I made it the destination for one of my traditional pre-test pizzas with my buddy.

Over the next year I made a habit of frequenting the pizzeria as much as my budget and metabolism would allow (both of which I sort of over-extended myself, literally and figuratively). However, it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I strayed from the traditional Red Pizza into the White Pizza domain. Despite appearances to the contrary, the red pizza was in no way associated with a hammer and sickle and the white was not associated with any sort of racial propaganda. The Red was not a nod to Moa Tse-Tung, but rather merely distinguished itself from the White by containing sauce (which I incorrectly called marina sauce, much to the owner’s chagrin on one occasion).

Before experiencing the White Pizza, I thought it was merely a clever ploy by the proprietor to snooker paying customers into ordering pizzas which would allow the cache of tomatoes to last longer. However, after eating one of the white variety, I realized that the absence of sauce allowed for more of the crust, cheese, and toppings flavor to exert themselves.

A month or so after my first experience with the White I returned to Eastern Market’s finest pizzeria and again wanted to experience something special. I attempted to try the Bismark, mainly because it featured an egg, which is always a huge selling point for me (I frequently find myself ordering the gimmicky burger because it has an egg on top, even though I have been repeatedly disappointed by this combination. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. . . or just a glutton). Soon, the restaurants crack wait staff (read: the cashier who will bring you your pizza if it seems he likes you) informed me that the owner forgot to buy eggs and so I would have to change my order.

I chose not to point out the irony that we were eating in the location of the city’s fine farmer’s market (and essentially the only convenient place for me to buy groceries), and merely returned my eyes to the menu. I was reminded of the rich deliciousness of the White Pizza variety and decided to indulge my mushroom craving. I ordered a Vedure I Funghi pizza despite the unfortunate apparent Italian word for mushroom (not that mushroom is a particularly appetizing name, I just don’t enjoy being reminded that my pizza topping is in the same family as my athletes foot).

At this point, I must digress and inform you of the other internal battle I face whenever ordering health foods such as pizza and a burger: the build-your-own option. I can’t deny the fact that every time I get the chance to craft my own toppings, the idea of combining barbecue sauce, onion rings, and a slice of ham on top of my burger almost proves too much to resist. However, much like the egg fiasco I find myself in, the burgers/pizzas I craft, are never as good as the ones that I stumble upon by sticking with the menu.

Through eating the Vedure I Funghi, which was divine, I was reminded that the guy who owns the pizzeria might know what he is doing. That is, the flavor combination was so incredible, I forgot my former grudge against extending his vegetable supply. Furthermore, I did not even flinch at the fact that the one potentially healthy ingredient of the pizza was conspicuously absent (which may have in fact enhanced its deliciousness).

And so, while I am always amazed to find how good the pizza at Supinos is, I found myself more committed to letting the professionals handle their business. It reminded me of a classic scene in a Queen Latifah movie I saw on TNT while at my parents house one evening (Yeah, so I watched Last Holiday. Sue me. Also, Queen Latifah is one of my secret and weird celebrity crushes. Deal with it). In the movie, a series of snobs order at a fancy restaurant by listing their chosen entrée and then butchering it, much to the chefs dismay, with restrictions on ingredients to leave out. Then of course, QL orders up the special just the way the chef designed it.

Point being, I can pick which ingredients to put in my fajitas when I make them at home. But when I head out to any of the hundreds of independent Mi Pueblo restaurants, I should probably trust the chef to pick the ingredients. Besides, if the meal stinks, better being able to blame someone else than have to fork over a la carte fees for your own unfortunate experimental concoctions.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tradition . . . Tradition!

So lately I’ve developed the desire for more routine in my life. And, while I haven’t succeeded in accomplishing routine, I have set out some potential routines, which is just as good. For each week night, I have an essential food item (because food should be at the core of all scheduling decisions).

It started with a spur of the moment trip to Mexicantown in Detroit for Tacos Al Pastor at Los Altos (translation: delicious pork tacos at a legit Mexican restaurant). Thus, Taco Tuesdays were born. So far I am batting 50% for getting tacos on taco Tuesday (a pretty good ratio). I have been craving Thai food the last few weeks, so Wednesdays became Sala Thai Hump Day.

Today I drove by the famous Nemo’s bar next to the former site of Tiger Stadium and made a spur of the moment decision to make Thursdays “Old School Burger Thursdays.” And since I had the delicious, incredible, lightning-fast Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pepperoni pizza on Mondays, I think I’ll pencil “Cheap Pizza Manic Mondays” into my agenda.

Now, if I ate my entire schedule, each week, I’d probably balloon up to match my personal record for body weight in my senior year of high school (I weighed in at a cool 240 thanks to a sedentary lifestyle and a ridiculous affinity for S’mores. No really.) However, I now have the knowledge that if I want to eat Thai food on Wednedsay, I immediately have justification: you can’t not eat Pad Thai Chicken on Sala Thai Hump Day!

And also, if I want to eat out on a weeknight, no longer do I have to hem-and-haw about what would be the best option. It’s Thursday, and my fridge is empty? Shoot, time for a burger from Cutters. Don’t feel like Cutters? Well Anchor Bar has been around the block, they still count. Sorry Five Guys, I love your delicious peanut oil-saturated ground beef heaven . . . but you’re a bit too new school for old school Thursdays. Maybe I can pencil you in as a weekend alternate.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Style over Substance?

I watched Julie and Julia today. This was shocking to me, because I fully expected to exhaust my capacity to continue to watch and shut it off at the thirty minute mark. However, I found the storytelling engaging (a parallel tale spanning generations that reminded me of a different sort of parallel anachronistic telling in Steinbeck’s East of Eden) and the characters tolerable.

Somewhere between being surprised to find it tolerable and being shocked to find myself enjoying the flick, I realized I have developed a tendency to gravitate towards good storytelling. I now find myself immersed in an eight-hundred page book on basketball because I love the way the writer writes. He uses enough far-flung analogies and pop-culture references sprinkled into an insightful and enlightening account of basketball that I would likely read his account of the history of pants if he wrote one. And I’ve read more about hard rock culture than I ever would have thanks to Chuck Klosterman (author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) enjoyable pennings.

I’ve also heard the preacher/speaker/author Rob Bell talk about the craft of creating a sermon with similar sentiments. The content is important, vital, or course, but there is something to be said for style. And I think I resisted this point for many a year. Which is why I have put myself through countless documentaries on PBS (this should be interesting) and have an autobiography of Andrew Jackson written in the 1920s on my bedstand (though it does serve a potent sleep aid).

So now I am resolving to limit myself to fifteen minutes or fifteen pages, and if the narrative of the movie/book hasn’t drawn me in by then, chances are it never will. Sure, I will have instances of feeling like I enjoyed the ride, but never really got anywhere (as I feel after every Lost episode). Hopefully, however, I will also eliminate all the waiting for realized potential I have undertaken for books/movies. And, almost as promising is the new avenues for enjoyment in the seemingly mundane plotlines (i.e. cooking). I just hope I don't find myself sitting through many more chick flicks in the future.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Power of Socks

Today is laundry day. Unlike some, today is laundry day not because of routine (it’s Tuesday), convenience (the Laundromat is emptiest today), nostalgia (my favorite shirt is dirty) or any other reason than by necessity. Like many others, today is laundry day because of need.

Laundry “need” is defined differently from person to person, but I essentially make laundry day the last day possible for me to put on a semblance of articles of clothing and (1) not smell putrid and (2) not be naked. As Mark Twain once said “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Laundry day approaches as quietly as a freight train. About a week in advance I realize that I am starting to resort to the undershirts with pit stains that glow in the dark (and coincidentally make the armpit of the shirt so inflexible I cannot fully put my arms by my side. I have no idea how old sweat coalesces into the shirt to make stainless steel, but it does, I promise).

A few days before laundry day I start wearing tennis shoes with argyle socks and/or dress shoes with socks that show the Nike swoosh when I sit. Depending on the week, such as this week, I can extend laundry day a few more days. I occasionally even pay homage to a Michael Scott like parody of Tom Petty’s most well known hit with my “internal waredrobe” or lack thereof (that sentence had so many allusions David Copperfield got jealous). (and I know its allusion v. illusion smart guy)

However, I made the decision to make today laundry day after assessing my workout clothes wardrobe. Note: I clearly do not usually care what I workout in, but occasionally I cave. Today, I looked at the full length mirror in the fitness room in my building and realized while I thought I was getting into better shape, I suddenly looked like an awkward eighth grader trying out for the basketball team he has no business being on. I noticed that I didn’t grow in height or girth, and my shorts and shirt were appropriate for a grown man. My shoes looked a little funny, but I had been running in a version of them for years (I am devoted to a specific Asics model).

Then it hit me. I was wearing tube socks. Just the term reeks of middle-school-awkwardness. They are the dreaded “no man’s land” socks. That is, they aren’t the cool ones that look like you’re not wearing socks or the short ones that I wore growing up. Yet, they aren’t like the super annoying full length socks that excessively exuberant basketball players wear. They are somewhere in between in “no man’s land.” That is no man should never be allowed to wear these socks.

The socks are not solely responsible for the appearance as much as the people I normally notices wearing them. They are, by rule, skinny, skinny but obviously slightly uncoordinated males (I am sure they are worn by overweight guys as well, but in that case I like to imagine they are the high basketball type and they just got swallowed by the giant calves).

In an instant, I was transformed from a somewhat athletic individual into a skinny, awkward guy who should not be anywhere near the weight room. It’s amazing how one seemingly innocuous article of clothing can transform someone. I finished my workout (sheepishly) and immediately conceded that it was in fact laundry day.

As much as I am prepared that laundry day is coming (by the uncomfortability of my T-shirts as indicated above), I am always shocked when it actually arrives. I always imagine that I will discover one more pair of boxers hidden in the drawer. Like Zeno, in his dichotomy paradox of motion, I can acknowledge that I am closer than I was yesterday, but it always seems like I should never actually get there. That is, until I turn into junior high jimmy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kind of green

I have found myself going kind of green in the last few years. I'm not sure if its a knee-jerk reaction to the urban wasteland/concrete jungle in which I reside or not. However, I suppose it has more to do with slightly prioritizing quality over quantity with regards to edible sustenance (a sacrilege to my former self as friends would attest to) as well as wanting to see more businesses do well in Detroit.
The biggest adjustment for me is sticker shock. I just have to remember I am comparing organic apples to apples now (just for the record, I haven't yet swallowed all the organic junk, I'm just focused on buying local for now . . . let it simmer). I just got back from this lovely bakery just on the outskirts of hipsterville Detroit, MI where I spent ten bucks on two loaves of bread and a cinnamon roll. And the cinnamon roll sucked (stupid impulse buys).
But the bread is fantastic. I mean, I had been pretty much exclusively devoted to Aunt Millie's Hearth Honey and Crunchy Oat for the past seven years of my life. To be unfaithful was hard, but when the girl next door is pumping out loaves of Red Ale beer bread, Poletown Rye, and the new standard Motown Multigrain I'm pretty much hopeless to resist. The bread is delicious and hearty a quality which Aunt Millie's only possessed more of the latter with just enough of the former to make it tolerable.
I also find myself plunking down an absurd amount of money for a half-gallon of udderly (sorry I tried to keep myself from putting that in there like three times) delicious milk from a local dairy farm. And honestly, if there was a news story that Calder dairy was pawning off heavy cream as skim milk, I would not even be that shocked. But for now, I'll live in the bliss of savoring creamy skim milk from a glass jar every morning. I just have to recognize that a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk are no longer fixed at $2 in my mind.
Some changes haven't even required a financial re-equilibration. I am discovering new products that have changed my world. I mean, I have seen the piddly cartons of Greek Yogurt that Meijer's has tried to pawn off on me for years. But as I ventured into the ever confusing, half carnival, half whole-foods snobbery Trader Joe's, I realized that I could sample a decent quantity of Greek Yogurt for a few bucks. And the protein to dollar ratio in that stuff is out of this world. Not too mention its delicious with just a dab of honey drizzle on top.
Other changes are more a matter of necessity and convenience. For example, if I want to buy fresh fruit without a trek to the suburbs or a paltry selection at jacked prices, I have to hit up Detroit's Eastern Market on Saturday mornings. And I am still waiting for the Saturday morning when I am not impressed by their selection. Here I usually am the guy strolling back to his car struggling with several bags of fresh fruit, vegetables, maple syrup, and/or a house cactus depending on the mood.
And the other day it hit me that I am sort of doing all that hippie stuff I sort of secretly despise. Some of it makes sense and some of it is just easy to do. Don't get me wrong, I still think NBC's one week tie ins involving Law & Order suddenly tracking down hydrocarbon killers is ridiculous and a lot of the organic movement is pretty far from reality. Yet, the whole buying local thing has started to resonate a little bit simply because I want Detroit to succeed. Oh yeah, and it hasn't hurt that I am finally acting on the economic reality that a little more spent on quality food now will probably pay big dividends in quality of life and health bill costs later.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Night Moves

For the past week now I have been working the night shift on the labor and delivery unit at Hutzel Women’s hospital. This means, besides the obvious fact that I am occasionally welcoming a small, slippery, life into the world with my bare (but gloved) hands, that I am sleeping during the day and awake at night.

I am not a complete stranger to all-nighters. I pulled a few “almosts” through the years at friends sleepovers and the like. I completed my first legitimate 24 hour stay with the waking world my last night in the college dorms at Michigan State. I knocked one out working on a tedious busy work project at Indiana Wesleyan. And for one horrendous month, I essentially pulled an all-nighter every sixth night while taking trauma surgery call as a med student (read: I fell asleep standing in the operating room on multiple occasions because someone once decided that would be a beneficial experience to put medical students through).

However, unlike those forays into the nocturnal universe, this past week has been a permanent stay. Even when I get a day (night) off, such as today, I still attempt to stay awake through the night (which really isn’t too difficult because I tend to wake up sometime around the dinnertime hour and as much as Garfield is my hero, I struggle to eat lasagna, then go back to perpetual napping).

The work nights are fairly predictable. That is, after the day shift time completes their cross-over time and I’ve settled into “the pit” (my term for where the labor and delivery doctors and nurses sit watching fetal heart monitor strips; not that unlike the wall street pit, I suppose), things become eerily quiet (as one would expect). Occasionally my attention is roused as I go running into room to say hello to a new soul or into the operating room to watch one be pulled from one world to another.

Other than those exciting moments, the night generally consists of trying to stay awake while reading, or attempting to dodge interns that want to set up suturing contests for the med students (which consist of locking medical students in a supply closet with a needle, thread, and washcloths and a set of ill-defined rules).

The off-nights are the ones where things get really interesting. Because, like a Pavlovian kanine, I awake, make coffee and read the online editions of the requisite local and national papers. Then I look at the clock and realize that it is 7 pm, I am eating frosted mini-wheats and every possible thing I planned to do today is impossible to accomplish (note: I live in Detroit, MI, which besides being famous for other things should be famous for any relevant store closing at 5 pm. Especially when the Tigers play a day game and the wings season is done).

I can usually think of few things to knock off before nine pm. Namely, I travel to the suburbs, do some grocery shopping, take a run, and catch the last of whatever interesting prime time TV is on (today, the Celtics-Cavs game 6. Faaaaantastic).

But inevitably, one am rolls around and I feel a panic like I should be getting tired, but am not. At this time, I force myself to close the blinds because its weird that the city is asleep (as it has been since five pm, but at least now, the sun also is shut down) and try and pretend it’s the day.

I answer all the e-mails I’ve waited to reply to. Answer a phone call or two to my west coast acquaintances, catch up on all of the serious and non-serious news I have been missing out on the last few days. Of course, now its 2 am, and I can’t in good conscience study at 2 am, so I wait for tiredness to set in.

And of course it does. Even earlier than my usual 9 am bedtime, by 4 am, my body is psychologically defeated and lets me drift off to slumber reading whichever piece of fiction is on loan from Detroit’s fine public library system. And while its not the sort of cognizant slumber that characterizes my naps, I am not quite fully asleep either.

Sleep is never quite as deep on the days off, and my state of awakeness is never quite as acute either. I find my self in a sort of perpetual half-sleep. Amazed constantly that I am either sleeping at such an hour, or awake at such an hour. And while I simply try and reverse the am/pm function of the clock in my mind, the outdoor lighting, television schedule, internal clock always remind me I am doing something unnatural.

Thank goodness I only have two more nights left before I can return to some sense of normalcy. Because even if the working days will be 14 hours long, at least I will know what to do with myself when I get a day off.