The new man bag

I rarely date, but when the mood strikes, I’ll give it a whirl when the guy sounds nice. Or brilliant. Like this guy I talked to recently on the phone who shared my foodie obsessions.

“So what’s your favorite pizza on the North Shore?” he asked.

“There is no edible pizza on the North Shore,” I said. And yes, I heard the food snob in me. “I go to Regina’s in the North End when I need a fix. What about you?”

“The best pizza place is twenty minutes away,” he said. “It’s rough.”

I sympathized. Ferrying that pizza home would not end well. We have standards.

“So that’s when I discovered a pizza delivery bag on eBay. It’s really increased my pizza radius,” he said. “Wait, does that make me sound weird?”

No, I thought. No, no, no, no no no! That makes you sound like a genius. Here was a man who cared deeply for optimal pizza temperature; this was a man worth getting to know.

“I love it,” I said, emphasizing the it so he wouldn’t misread my enthusiasm as We’re getting married tomorrow. “We should meet for pizza.”

“Oh, God. I’m too nervous to eat on dates,” he said.

That should have been a sign. He suggested we see a movie instead, which always strikes me as lame. To be fair, we both talked about our love of film, but if there’s no possibility of conversation, what’s the point? Still, I wanted to see Argo, so we made a plan. We weren’t a match, but the movie was gripping. I was, no exaggeration, on the edge of my seat chanting, Go, go, go go go! in one scene (if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean), while at the same time thinking if my date thought I was yelling at him, I would be OK with that. In the end, the promise of a man and his pizza delivery bag lost out to a movie about the Iran hostage crisis. And that, my friends, is the story of my life.


Brooksby Farm and an opportunity missed…but not really

Brooksby Farm in Peabody with its barnyard bevy, autumnal offerings, and quiet orchard is a treat to wander now that the apple picking vultures have disappeared. Wedding guests spilled out of the barn, a spot some people might think of as odd for a wedding, but that I find charming. Rest assured the shindig was taking place in a renovated barn—not the one where the sheep hunker down for the night.

So I’m watching the bucktoothed llama and the irresistible, angelic-faced goat when a tuxedo-clad gentleman wanders over to the fence where I’m standing. It’s true that most men look good in a tuxedo, but this man looked especially good. And then he opened his mouth.

“Do you know what kind of animal this is?” he asked, pointing to the ostrich. The ostrich. Not a wooly mammoth or a zebu cattle that might be hard to identify on a little farm in Peabody, but a run-of-the-mill ostrich. Who doesn’t know what an ostrich looks like?

Before I could answer, he was out of the running despite the aforementioned very nicely tailored tuxedo.

“It’s an emu,” I said.

Please. Like you can tell the difference.

He snapped some photos with his iPhone.

“Fleeing the wedding?” I asked.

“Looking for a date, actually,” he said.

Now, this is where one might come up with a clever retort (“Might I apply for that job?” or “Give me two minutes; I have a dress in the car.”) before an adventure ensues. Others might insert the phrase “opportunity missed,” but I would like to reiterate that the man could not identify an ostrich. Also, his boutonniere suggested he was part of the wedding party, and what kind of friend wanders off and leaves his buddy at the reception?

I glanced from him to the ostrich/emu.

“Looks like the emu is free,” I said.

Foggy mountain retreat

It’s been years since I’ve hiked the White Mountains, the last time being with a boyfriend who I had just broken up with. Despite the break-up, we decided to go on our planned vacation, hiking hours uphill to the Mizpah Spring Hut. In silence.

Good times.

Suffice it to say my trip this weekend to AMC’s Highland Center in Crawford Notch with a friend for a long weekend yoga and hiking retreat was infinitely better. We bunked together, gossiped like girls, did 42 downward dogs, hiked Mt. Avalon, and chowed like boys after football practice.

Crawford Depot in the fog

Crawford Notch in the fog

We arrived in the dark, unable to see the hulking mountains but aware of them pressing in on us. In the morning, we awoke to a blanket of orange and red leaves cascading down the foggy mountainside. Nothing beats fog in my book. It’s dense and magical and can swallow a whole group of hikers, which it did when we reached the top of Mt. Avalon. Not a thing to see at the summit but the middle of a cloud. Aside from the chill, we might have been in the cloud forests of Costa Rica.


In mittens, we ate peanut butter sandwiches and slid down the mountain on rocks slick from the mist. Hiking poles, I’ve since learned, are not decorative appendages. They come in handy when you’re navigating slippery terrain or fording a stream that looks unfordable.

A river that looks a lot more daunting in person

A river that looks a lot more daunting in person. Let's just say Mother Nature did not place the rocks strategically.

And, just because I like you, I’ll leave you with a little ground foliage:

Walking on color

Walking on color

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I watched a documentary about Donkey Kong this weekend. That’s right. I’m sure you’re having the same reaction my boyfriend had when I proposed it.

“Wait, you want us to watch a movie about people who play the video game Donkey Kong?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah, but I read all these reviews that say it’s really good,” I said. “Really.”

He gave me a look that said, Oh, you and your obscure movies. What I must tolerate.

Yeah, it was as weird as we expected, but was also, as the blurb promised, curiously compelling. Apparently, within the already, um, interesting subculture of video gamers is a group that’s hellbent on breaking records, so much so that they videotape themselves playing so that their scores can be verified by a referee. All gamers aim to achieve the highest score possible, I suppose, but these people mean business in a way that says, I will dedicate my life to conquering Kong, even if it means installing an arcade size game in my garage and playing for a billion hours straight till my eyes resemble Super Mario.

Anyway, the story focuses on a nice guy who’s trying to break a 20-year record held by a strange guy who wears skinny ties with American themes and hair straight out of the 70s—a style that prompted my boyfriend to ask four times, Hold on, when was this made?

Whether you’ve ever played Donkey Kong or not, you’ll feel the tension in this movie, evidenced by the fact that said boyfriend paused it when he got up to get some pie because he didn’t want to miss anything. I stifled an I told you so.

Donkey Kong screen

Summer lovin’ movies

Is it me or does every movie lately star Michael Cera or some other awkward cutie that teens—and maybe a few of us non-teens—love to watch struggling through high school or navigating first love? So, yeah, I kind of want to see Paper Hearts, a sweet-looking movie about a girl who doesn’t believe in love and the boy (Cera) who likes her. And then I saw the ad blitz for (500) Days of Summer, which, lo and behold, is also a movie about a girl who doesn’t believe in love and the boy (the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun) who likes her. Hello drive-in double feature.

High school flirting 101

I was at Panera last night working on a project near two college girls who were poring over textbooks and struggling to write a paper. While that little flashback was enough to remind me that college demanded such awful things as 20-page papers on the philosophy of toothpicks, the real highlight was watching a high school boy try to flirt with the girls. His genius: offering up cookies.  I thought it was brilliant. But their nonversation was awkward and the girls’ curt answers to his questions made it clear they weren’t having it. Still, I admired for hitting on mature girls. Or at least, older girls; they snickered as he left the cafe. Not cool. I noticed they had no problem scarfing down the chocolate chips.

“That wasn’t the same boy that gave us cookies last time, was it?” one asked.

What, now? Another boy had tried this move? 

I’ve got news for you girls. You might not want to be so dismissive of boys offering cookies. When you’re twenty, the cookies seem to flow like a champagne fountain at an AIG function. When you’re older, not so much.

If I didn’t have a boyfriend who keeps me plied with sweets, I might have followed the kid out of Panera batting my eyelashes in a shameless Mrs. Robinson kind of way.


My roommate is a wedding dress

I’m not engaged or a jilted bride, but I’ve been living with a wedding dress for a couple of months now. It’s low-key really—just hanging off my closet door, eager to perform the one task it’s been building to its entire satiny life since we plucked it from the mob scene that is the Running of the Brides. I’m safeguarding the dress for my roommate who’s getting married in the spring; her fiance will see it over my dead body—unless he asks really nicely and slips me a twenty. Until then, it’s in seclusion, kept safe from prying eyes. 

The dress, a looming presence in all its crinkly ivory glory, greets me every morning while I’m standing in front of my closet deciding what to wear. And on those laundry days when outfits are hard to come by, sure, I’ve thought Well, there’s something I could throw on and go. The temptation to try it on and parade around while doing the dishes or greeting the mailman, occasionally bustling the train for effect, is strong. I won’t, of course; I mean, wasn’t that an episode of Will & Grace? But it’s pretty and inviting, and with the cold weather coming on, the layers of material just might offer good insulation against the wind…

Stunted trees

In an ideal world, my friends’ boyfriends and husbands would be a good source of single men, their network of male acquaintances branching in every direction like a long-limbed tree—flowering, reaching for the sky, bountiful, fruit dripping from the boughs waiting to be plucked. They’d have brothers and friends, co-workers and buddies; odds are that some of them would be single.

Instead, these men we count on to produce male friends are stunted trees, lifeless stumps, charred trunks left after a forest fire. Dead ends.

It’s not their fault. Some are brother-less; some live or work in the burbs where marriage is a pre-req; some are introverts, bearing no male friends. Some do have friends, but wisely wouldn’t set me or my other single friends up with them.

Lest this sound like a selfish pursuit, it’s also in their best interest to help a girl out; the lack of men in the inner circle can be tough for a guy. I’m thinking of my friend’s husband who endures Sunday football games with his wife and her girlfriends. All that estrogen can make a guy feel outnumbered.

So really guys, branch out. Don’t just flirt with the girl at the watercooler; chat some guy up and bring him home for introductions. Don’t be shy. So what if we go out with him once and discover he lives with his mother or practices polygamy? You did your best to overcome your stunted tree status—and that’s the first step toward re-growth after the flames have cooled and the forest is on the mend. Soon, the wildlife will return.


Stunted tree

Stunted tree

Suspicious brownies

I was at a yard sale recently with a theme: Kids for Obama, and while I felt certain the kids were induced to sell their toys to make some money unaware that their profits would be mailed to a political campaign, I felt compelled to buy a brownie 1) because I love brownies, and 2) because if eating brownies can help Obama win the election, I will devour a pan full of chocolate goodness. I will not shirk my civic duty. Of course, the $2 price tag for a minuscule brownie square was a bit steep, but it was a fundraiser so I paid up and ate my rich, chocolatey brownie, thinking they must have used some high quality chocolate in these brownie, Scharffen Berger perhaps? They kids were, after all, elitist Democrats.

Buying brownies from these unwitting political pawns reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who was appalled that I once bought food from kids at a lemonade stand—kids who charged a reasonable 50 cents for their brownies and looked at the shiny quarters as better than chocolate. You don’t know what’s in those brownies, my ex said. I suppose you are taking a leap when you buy food from a stranger, but the likelihood that the kids or their families would spend time organizing a yard sale only to spike the brownies with arsenic seemed low. Plus, it would be easy enough to trace the suspicious goods back to the address and have the evildoers arrested. That being said, I have cooked with kids and know that the real danger is that they’re slobbering little germs apt to lick their fingers and stick them back in the bowl.

He’s just not that into you

Remember that annoying book that spelled out for women how to know when a guy isn’t interested? I saw a preview this week of a movie inspired by that book and almost choked on my popcorn. How that book could inspire anything eludes me, but a whole lot of actors got sucked in to the project: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly…

I don’t know; I’m just not that into it.

A lid for every pot

I was talking with a group of friends at the beach recently about relationships (a combination of women who are married, dating, and single), and the two of us who are single were lamenting how hard it is to find the right person when my optimistic friend declared, “There’s a lid for every pot.” Such a satisfying phrase, I thought. So sensible and simple; it made me think, Of course we’ll find our lids. I’m not even looking for a shiny copper lid that matches perfectly, so it should be as easy as boiling water.

But then I got to thinking about my disorganized kitchen cabinet and how actually half of my pans don’t have lids, have maybe never had lids. Most of them are just sturdy pans doing a great job flying solo; in fact, my favorite go-to pan didn’t come with a cover and is not any less of a pan for being lidless. And you know when I think about it, I rarely even use the lids I have. What do you need a lid for? Really, are lids necessary?

lots of lidless pans

lots of lidless pans

Being single on Valentine’s Day ain’t so bad

Because this is an excerpt from my last date:

I’m at the cafe first, seated, and when he comes in, he’s cute in a quirky way and our phone conversations reveal that he’s smart, so I overlook the Cosby sweater and awkward greeting characteristic of most IT geniuses. He chooses to sit as far away as possible—in the chair across from me, so I have to lean forward, which has the unfortunate effect of making me appear more engaged than I actually am. We talk about our jobs, histories, habits. He tells me that he enjoys role playing games, and I perk up. I’m visualizing us picking out French maid costumes and think huh, I didn’t think he had it in him. Soon, I realize he’s talking about online games and virtual worlds. Super. That’s pretty much my idea of hell. But hey, no judging. I regroup.

We talk politics and he can articulate the reasons he supports John Edward (back when he was in the race), a good sign. But when the conversation wanders into music, he admits that he loves musicals. Deep breath. I cut him some slack; at least he goes to the theater. But no, he had to go and overshare; he tells me just loves the soundtrack of “The Little Mermaid” and in fact, it’s in the CD player in his car. Faced with a lifetime of listening to a crab sing “Under the Sea,” I politely wish him well and try not to run out the door.