Italia

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I took the night-trip into Tijuana because I wanted the experience of crossing the border, soaking in the culture, eating the food, and hearing the language.  No, not really.  I went because I was twenty and I could legally drink in Mexico.  That was all.  That, and the bar was complete with girls who blew whistles and poured tequila down your throat as well as an outdoor volleyball court complete with sand.  One of my male companions that night would have his glasses stolen by a stripper when the amount of money he tried to give her wasn’t enough.  On a positive note the tacos were two for one dollar and did their job soaking up the cheap mescal. Not long after this trip I would get a hold of my Canadian friend’s resident alien card and drink for the remaining four months of my twentieth year on American soil.  So suffice it to say my first trip out of the States wasn’t very life changing nor eye-opening.  And all I brought back was a giant ceramic donkey and a hangover.   Thankfully, it would not be my last trip beyond the US border.  The next time I would venture out I would have a slightly more sophisticated modus operandi.

Fast-forward four years.  I’m sitting in my European Geography class as a senior at San Jose State University.  This was my favorite class because my professor was kind and smart and he let my put my feet up on the chair next to me, eat my breakfast, and drink my Coca-Cola.  And our mid-term assignment was to read a travel book and write a book report on it.  Yeah.  So, I loved this class.  I soon found I had very little to contribute to discussions as everyone in this class had been somewhere or everywhere and I had been nowhere.  When we would talk about European affairs, either political, social, or environmental, everyone else had a story about their time spent in Ireland, Greece, Norway, or Poland.  Should I pipe in with my story about Tijuana?  Best not to.  It was somewhere mid-term (perhaps while writing that taxing book report) that I made a vow to myself that I would travel that summer.  I just wasn’t sure where.  I was working at a French restaurant at the time, and had taken four years of French, so that thought crossed my mind.  Plus the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and fromage.  I was pretty set on France until I got home one day and was excited to see that month’s Bon Appetit magazine waiting for me in my mailbox.  The cover was very simply a picture of a pasta dish with the words Rome Florence and Venice, all in bold.  I obviously wasn’t very firm in my decision to travel to France because my mind changed right then.  Which pretty much sums up my love for food when my plans to travel across the world can change on a dime, or a picture of pasta.  My new goal was to travel not for the geography but for the cuisine. I had also, up to that point, taken four classes in art history and knew it would be thrilling to see some of the classics in person.

I got to work that day and in a matter of minutes made plans with a co-worker and friend to visit Italy that July.  Making such decisions today is a bit more difficult.  Plane tickets were purchased within the week.  I bought travel books, read up on places to visit, things to eat, and where to stay.  Little did I know that all my preparations would matter very little.  The minute I set foot in downtown Rome, tasted my first unplanned gelato and took a right instead of a left, I knew I cared not at all about what I supposed to see.

I had never been anywhere for such a long period of time where I didn’t speak the language.  But it was quickly evident that mattered very little.  I communicated with smiles, nods, points, and an overuse of the word “grazie”.  And of course the language of food.  The people were kind and the more we ventured off the beaten path, the kinder they were.  And the better the food got.  I knew I was headed in the right direction when pepperoni and spaghetti with meatballs was nowhere to be found on a menu.  In Rome, I ate the best gnocchi of my life.  Homemade and topped with a meaty tomato-cream sauce and served to me while sitting in a small restorante void of toursits.  Dried, cured meats hung from the ceiling and giant wedges of cheese sat out on the counter. Though we unintentionally walked in not long before closing, the owners insisted we come in and sit (lots of smiling and pointing, again), brought us our orders and then sat in the back and ate a late lunch, themselves.  Table wine and big platters of food shared between them.  I’m pretty sure I had never been that happy before that moment.

Pizza, cheese, wine, mixed with heat and the smell of old buildings filled the next three weeks.  After Rome, we took the train to Florence, then to Venice, then Naples.  In Florence, there was a caprese salad with buffalo’s milk mozzerella, and the deepest, most reddish-purple tomatoes I have ever seen.  They actually tasted more colorful.  The food in Venice was delicious, too, but unfortunately more saturated with tourist spots.  I had to try a bit harder to find the treasures. But they were there! Here in the States, every table is automatically set with salt and pepper.  In Italy, it was olive oil and sometimes balsamic vinegar.  Bread came with the meal, not before.  It was meant to soak up sauce, not fill up on before your meal arrived.  It was also here that my love affair with sparkling water, or acqua frizzante, began.

I had no intention, originally, of visiting Naples but did so upon the instance of a friend who had spent a year in Italy during college.  She said it may not be the obvious choice but that the food would be the best.  My friend and I left Venice and boarded the train to Naples.  It was a long, beautiful journey down the length of the boot. But, eight hours later, we arrived after many games of cards and snack cart panini.  Naples was immediately not as striking as the other cities we had visited.  Many streets were lined with dumpsters and the air had a trash smell.  But I mean this in the most respectful way possible.  To this day, when I smell an outside garbage bin I become nostalgic.  It was, however, easier to find the good food.  The best food.  Naples is famous for being the birthplace of pizza and it’s everywhere.  And it’s the best anywhere.  Yes, even better then New York.  It has ruined me completely for pizza in the States.  The crust has a way of being crunchy and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, which is quite a feat being that it is only a millimeter thick.

Our second day in Naples brought us to a restaurant that sat along the ocean.  Modest in

appearance and reasonable in price, I wasn’t expecting to have the best meal of my life there.  I ordered a seafood dish because, well, we had a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea and it seemed fitting.  Seafood pasta seemed a good bet.  The pasta in Italy is some of the best in the world, dry or fresh.  The charming waiter delivered the dish in a giant bowl.  The noodles swirled around generous amounts of mussels, clams, prawns, and chunks of fish filet.  The seafood was all cooked perfectly and the pasta was al dente.  But the sauce!  It was the sauce I will remember forever.  Mostly because there really wasn’t one.  It couldn’t have been more than seafood stock and olive oil with a touch of salt and pepper but the flavor was unmatched and it was the ideal viscosity, coating every noodle.  To this day I haven’t been able to reproduce it.  Maybe it’s better that way.

I was ready to return home after the long trip but I was also sorry to leave.  I think that’s the mark of a perfect getaway.   Being that my funds were limited and I didn’t have much room in my suitcase, I didn’t buy many souveniers.  But I took home a world of memories.  Worth far more than a ceramic donkey.  And I have since purchased the Bon Appetit again.  That one stays in plastic on my bookshelf. Grazie, Italy.

 

 

Dear Facebook Comment Section

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Dear Facebook comment section,

Thank you for reaffirming my fears about this great country I live in.  Before reading you I was only afraid that the majority of people I share my homeland with were angry, ignorant, and unnecessarily judgemental, but then y’all opened up your mouth and removed all doubt.  I even made a point to avoid all (mostly) un-biased political pages.  NPR, Time, Newsweek.  Instead I will follow only nature pages, and pet-lovers pages, and pages about food.  Here, I will be safe, in my cocoon of denial and like-thought.

Ah, here’s a post about National Parks.  I love National Parks.  That’s a pretty tree.  And it’s snowing, so serene. Oh no, here comes Ron from Milwaukee.  Ron’s profile picture is a bald eagle so he can’t be all bad, right?  Ron says, “Gee, looks pretty cold in that park, so much for the libtards and there* global warming”.  Oh no.  They say don’t feed the trolls, but it’s really difficult.  I’d like to provide Ron with links to scientific journals and discussions about global warming and it’s impact on the earth, along with links to a few community colleges in his area.  Or reprimand him on his use of the word libtard and point out it’s irony. Let it go, Em, it’s a battle in futility.

Okay, well here’s a post from one of my favorite pages, I Love Dogs.  It’s a woman holding a puppy and the caption reads, “Why We Consider Our Pets to be Our Children”.  Seems innocent enough.  I don’t have kids and I know I certainly think of Max as my baby.  I have found my people!  Oh no.  Here’s Melissa from Dayton, Ohio.  She says, “I think it’s so crazy when people who have dogs act like it’s the same thing as having an actual child.  It isn’t.  So get over yourself!!!”  Wow.  That seemed unnecessary Mel.  I mean, did you really think pet owners believe having a dog or cat to be the same thing as having an actual human?  I don’t want to speak for all pet owners but I’m aware that I needn’t be concerned with Max’s grades, his being bullied, or overhearing me use the F word and repeating it at the dog park.  And when the phone rings after ten at night, I’m not afraid that something has happened to him.  I’m also not worried about saving up for his college nor braces.  But he is my boy and I love him and, yes, pet owners will treat our pets like children, especially when they’re the only children we have.  I wanted to respond to Melissa and tell her what a horrible person she was, but I didn’t have to.  50+ pet owners took care of that for me.

Food pages!  My favorite.  What could possibly go wrong when folks are swapping recipes, taking pics of yummy things they’ve had for lunch, and waxing poetic on the beauty of a sandwich.  For example: here’s a post that starts off with a picture of a juicy burger topped with Cambozola cheese and a sweet tomato chutney.  Mmmm.  That looks so good.  If  I weren’t on a diet, I could eat five of those.  Jill from Boston says, “Yummy!”.   Zack from Pittsburgh tags a friend and says, “We are so coming here this weekend!”.  Uh oh.  Here comes Beverly from Miami to ruin my high.  “This is the reason why 70% of Americans are overweight”, she says.  As if America’s obesity epidemic can be pinned on a sandwich, this particular sandwich at that, and as if this were the proper forum to discuss it.  Next time Beverly is giving a talk on health and diet at Berkeley, I’ll check it out.  This comment is easy for me to ignore as it’s more of a silly statement than an accusation.  But then here comes Natalie from Arcata. Natalie is a vegan.  She also wants everyone else to be one, too.  She tells Jill, Zack, and me all about the cattle industry and the treatment of animals and about how  we take a bite of that burger, we are eating fear.  Really?  Can’t I just enjoy my burger porn?  Then people try and defend themselves by stating that they eat humanely-raised livestock, and this and that. To no avail.  She even compares eating bovine meat to eating all meat at one point.  “If you’ll eat cows, what stops you from eating your dog, then??” she asks when provoked by another commentator.  Most likely because his dog is starting UCLA in the fall.

*the use of “there” was intentional 😉

 

 

Mother’s Day

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When my mom was young she looked like a young Cher or Debra Winger circa “Terms of Endearment”.  She was single and young and I was her world.  We did everything together.  We took the camper to Yosemite, we went on dates with her boyfriends, we celebrated when she passed the CPA exam.  She took me the movies late at night with her best friend.  Afterwards we would go to the old Bob’s Big Boy and she would order me a root beer float.  I would drink until I passed out from exhaustion, sleeping on the big red pleather booth cushions.  I can remember her singing “You Are My Sunshine” to me.  She would tell me later that she left out most of the verses, they were too sad.  My mom worked long hours on the week days, but she made it up to me on the weekends.  We went to Monterrey so I could eat crab and play in the ocean.  We went to Castroville so we could share a serving of friend artichokes.  One year, our school put on a haunted house at Halloween.  They were looking for volunteers to help with the crafts.  My mom sat for hours meticulously cutting 3 inch pumpkins out of orange construction paper.  The pumpkins would eventually end up on the ground that night. I felt really bad about that.  If there was a bake sale, she baked.  If there was a kite day, she flew a kite.  If there was a school project, she made sure mine was the best.  I had the most books, the coolest bike, a Barbie corvette, and a Lite Brite.  But most of all, I had the best mom in the world.  Thank you for everything.

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lovecompYears ago, being in the restaurant business was the best.  For a number of reasons.  First, the hours coordinated perfectly with my college schedule.  Academia by day, money-maker by night.  Second, I learned an incredible amount about food and wine.  Carpaccio, capon, baked chevre, old world wines, new world wines, and torchons of foie gras.  But third of all, and very best of all, the restaurant business was a buffet of young, fun, beautiful people, many of whom were smart, talented, and still unfettered by the hardships of life.  We laughed a lot and drank even more. I’d like to say that I was strict and highly selective in my dalliances but I’d be lying. And the turn-over in the biz was fairly high, so the beautiful people, like buses, came every 15 minutes.  To all recent graduates of high  school, I highly recommend you become a server or bartender immediately.  To all my friends with kids- I highly recommend that you never let your kids anywhere near the restaurant business.

Eventually I met someone I really liked and we were together for a while.  A fairly long while. Long enough that the relationship lasted through the duration of my restaurant career and into my next venture.  Where I remain to this day. Single.  Working with my mom, selling dog food to married couples and being in a position where if I dated someone I worked with, they could sue me for sexual harrassment.  Not exactly the best conditions for meeting someone.  In fact, maybe the worst.

Okay, so not everyone meets their significant other at work.  True.  There’s bars?  Yes, but at my age the only people drinking in bars are young enough that when you tell them your favorite actor is Tommy Lee Jones, they say, “Isn’t that the old guy in Captain America?”.  Yikes.  Or worse yet, they’re forty-five and drunk in bar at 4pm on a Sunday… outlook not so good.  Maybe hobbies?  Yes, I love to cook so I will spend all my down time in Whole Foods.  I’ll reach for the lychees, he’ll reach for the lychees.  Our hands will touch, our eyes will meet- boom!  Love at first sight.  You love pre-peeled packaged oranges?  So do I!!  Or the butchers and fish-mongers.  Even better.  Something so sexy about a man covered in guts with multiple tattoos.  Seriously.  But they’re always married.  Obviously.  Any woman who knows what she’s doing doesn’t let fishgut guy get away.  Second date and you’re making him engagment chicken for sure.  So no deal.

After several (save for one live-in but short-lived relationship) single years, I decided to give online dating a chance at the age of thirty-three.  I had heard so many success stories.  Gay, straight, young, old, black, white, everyone has now met their significant other online.  In fact statistics show that 97% of people who inhabit the same space at any given time, met via the internet.  Sounds promising.  I’m in.  I filled out some basic information.  Posted some photos and waited.  What happened next was interesting.  I mean, sh*t got wierd.  I received lots of messages.  Since I was new to the site I was thrown into the spotlight and featured.  The messages were incredible.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  (To all the young guys in the bar, that’s a movie with Clint Eastwood, the old guy in Gran Torino).  Some boys tried their best to be debonair by telling my I was pretty and that they would like to get to know me better.  Some were less refined and told me I was pretty and that they would like to get to know me deeper.  And there were many in between.

Eventually, I decided to go out with one of the boys that sent me a message.  He was handsome.  He had a nice job.  His profile made him out to be quite normal.  I even Facebook “verified” him.  He had friends.  His profile pic wasn’t the clown from “It”.  I met him for a casual bite and a drink.  Seemed harmless.  Public place.  Seperate cars.  No addresses exchanged.  Small talk, small plates.  Yet I knew right away that it would likely go nowhere as the ground didn’t shake and the Earth didn’t shatter.  I drove home that night assuming that our interractions would end there.  Oh, how I wish that were true.  Turns out handsome boy had gone about drawing up his online profile all wrong.  He forgot to mention that the day after a date, he likes to surprise a girl by sending her a photo of his willy while she is watching television with her grandmother.  And he also forgot to mention that when said girl, frozen with horror, doesn’t respond, he likes to send her a follow up video of him engaging in a bit of self-gratification.  With commentary.  Yeah, that happened.

But I don’t give up!  My momma didn’t raise no quitter.  I backed off a little but kept the profile up for the six months I had paid for.  I dated a vegan twice (two dates, not two vegans).  I met a man who had lied about his age.  I’m sorry but forty-three is not the same as fifty to a thirty-three year old, although thank you for getting all my movie references.  There was the guy who was obsessed with his own sexual inadeqacy for some unknown reason, spending the (short) duration of dinner talking about how he “measured up”.  There was the guy who posted nothing but old photos of himself, and when I met him he was at least forty pounds heavier.  *note- I have dated big dudes, this I don’t mind at all, but to me it showed a lack of confidence and dishonesty right off the bat. Am I forgetting anyone?  Hopefully.  I wish I could forget most of those.

I’m sincerely happy that some people have online success stories.  I’m always happy with anyone’s success stories.  I am, however, even happier to stay away from dating sites for a while.  I think the only thing I’ll shop for online are books and vitamins and leave the dating to accidental in-the-flesh encounters.  I promise you all an invitation to my wedding, forty years from now.

Signing off.

This One Reads Like a College Essay

heartbrokenYesterday evening I watched a documentary on the sixties.  As I sat there, five decades later, it occurred to me how disappointed I was that I needn’t try too hard to imagine what it must have been like to live in such complicated and conflicted times. The sixties were a decade torn apart by civil rights struggles, political unrest, misunderstood youth, but most of all, marked by a common thread of separation.  Never before was it more apparent nor more important as to whom one was different than.  Black or white.  Rich or poor.  Liberal or conservative.  Pro or Anti-war.  The tensions and the anger swirled together and, then, feeding off one another, exploded. The conservative older generation fought tooth and nail to “protect” the laws and ways of the past.  Troubled, angry folks in the North and South protested change with banners and signs bearing Nazi symbols and things I can’t bring myself to type. But thanks to the tenacity and persistence of many of the decade’s greatest hearts and minds, things changed a little.  In 1961, JFK provided protection for “Freedom Riders”.  Michael Harrington publishes “The Other Americans” in 1962, an eye-opening expose on poverty which influenced even JKF and, later, Johnson, who in 1964 declares a war on poverty.  One of the greatest moments of the time came in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act of, well, 1964.  The law aimed to outlaw discrimination in public places (but I can still practice hate in my living room!) and to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or gender.  More changes took place as the decade unfolded such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Housing Discrimination Ban in 1968.

But it came at a cost.  Those men and women with the banners and the signs, symbols and words, became more violent as changes were imminent.  Most people know about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  But do you remember the four little girls killed in the tragic 16th Street Baptist Church bombing?  Just babies, they were unfortunate and accidental martyrs for a plight they were too young to even understand. If you’ve seen “Mississippi Burning” (and if not, that’s your homework assignment) you know about the civil rights activists killed in 1964, although it was merely based loosely on the case and left out important details.  There was police brutality, child arrests, and the infamous fire hoses.  All of it deplorable and indicative of a society that felt a strange need to keep those who were different in a separate space from themselves; be it financial or geographical.

The sixties began fifty-six years ago.  So many things have, indeed, changed.  Things that were once unimaginable are now possible. In the year 2008, this country elected its first back president.  Women hold positions higher than secretary in things other than sweater sets.  There are gays on television doing things other than appearing on Hollywood Squares (no disrespect, Paul).  Minimum wage is on its way to maybe being close to an actual living wage.  All is well.  Or so it seems.  Truth is, those people, those people who existed in the sixties?  They still exist today.  They still fear change and they still want to be separated.

In a recent poll, one in three women reported having been sexually harassed at work- 81% having been verbally assaulted.  And only recently have a large number of victims of rape and sexual assault on college campuses been given a proper voice, with so far to go. Another study done in 2015, showed that job applicants with “black names” were 50% less likely to receive call backs, regardless of job qualifications, than applicants with “white names”.  Black Lives Matter is a movement started as a reaction to the murder of Treyvon Martin.  In 2015, its estimated that one in three black men killed by police were unarmed.  And hot off the press is a new “bathroom law” in North Carolina which is really much more than it seems.  It directly interferes with the rights of many more than those who identify themselves as transgender, as if that weren’t bad enough. The law makes a bold statement at to what level the government can, and will, protect it’s citizens based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

I may have stronger opinions about what goes on today than I do about what happened fifteen years before I was born. Because I know how embarrassed I am for my race when Black Lives Matter is turned into All Lives Matter, in a matter of moments.  All Lives Matter?  That’s a given. I know how I felt the morning of November 9th, 2008, when I woke up early to see the results of Prop 8 in my home state of California, only to find out it had passed.  I was in tears.  Never before had I been ashamed to be a Californian. I know first hand how it feels to have your manager reach into your apron and grope you in the middle of a restaurant because he was “looking for a pen”.  And when you say something, you’re labeled uptight, a “femnazi” or a “dike”.  All attempts to remind a group of people different from another that they are not created equal.

But just as the sixties had its heroes, it’s voices of reason and resistance in the face of incredible adversity, so does today.  There will always be people fighting for what is right. Civil Rights advocates and feminists.  And then there will always be people stuck in their ways, fists clenched more tightly than their hearts, pushing for a simpler time.  When things were better.  When things were separate.

 

 

Roid Rage

saladeatsTwelve years ago I was a skinny, narrow-minded 23-year old brat.  I tied an apron around my size 6 waist everyday and served food to people of all sizes, forming judgments in my head as I went along.  To the slender lady who ordered a salad (no dressing, just a lemon wedge, please), I thought, what’s the point?  Why are you even here?  Who goes to a restaurant to diet?  I can’t even remember the last time I ate a salad and look at how tiny I am.  And to the heavier lady who ordered a burger… I can’t bring myself to admit what I thought.  But don’t worry.  Karma, like this girl, was a bitch.  And she had a plan.

I spent twenty-seven glorious years without a single thought as to what I ate or how much energy I expelled.  Double Whopper with cheese and bacon?  Sure.  OD on that pint of Ben and Jerry’s?  No guilt.  Couldn’t remember the last time I had a vegetable that wasn’t a garnish?  No problem.  I was thin and had the energy of a 1970’s Elton John.  Then something happened.  Genetics mostly, paired with a desk job.  The weight came on slowly but steady and in 18 months I’d gone from a size six to a size twelve.  My breaking point was standing in a Macy’s with my grandmother as I looked for nicer clothes to wear to the office.  The mediums were far from a good fit, but surely the large’s?  Too tight.  I left the dressing rooms with 12’s and XL tops in hand, and started bawling.  That was my first foray into dieting.  Gone went the Whoppers, replaced by a lot of those salad and vegetable things.  My boyfriend-at-the-time and I joined a gym.  I stuck to the elliptical, because it was easy and I didn’t feel embarrassed using it.  The weight melted off.  If there is one thing to be said about dieting in your twenties it’s that, well, you’re in your twenties.  Everything is on your side (or it was in my case).  Weight gone.  Problem solved.

Okay, fast forward six years.  I was able to keep the weight off that long.  Things were going well at work so I adorned my tiny butt with expensive jeans and Free People tops.  No big deal, I thought, this stuff lasts forever and so will my tiny butt.  Totally worth the money…  Then something began to happen.  To my mood.  And my appetite.  And my energy level.  Back from Peru, only months into the purchase of my first new home, and kind, caring new boyfriend in tow, things were perfect and I should have felt great. But I didn’t. I began to feel incredibly depressed. The depression lasted beyond a usual handful of days.  Days became weeks and weeks became months.  Getting out of bed required the strength of five Rockys and ten Tony Robbins.  I was miserable.  And my metabolism was failing me.  I ate to feel better and every ounce of food stuck to that tiny butt.  The tiny butt grew and out went the jeans.  And out went the boyfriend.  I was so moody and broke it off over something so ridiculous that I’m pretty sure I only did him a favor.  I actually kind of envied him; he got to escape. But back to the pants and the growing butt.  I didn’t have the heart to buy larger pants.  I didn’t want to.  I wore yoga pants everywhere.  And I can safely admit to having done absolutely no yoga in them.  I gained forty pounds in seven months.

Finally, seven months later, I went to the doctors.  I’m pretty sure a normal person would have gone months earlier but I blame my mother.  This is a woman whose water broke on the way home from work so she drove herself to the hospital, popped my sister out, and was back to work two days later.  This is my stock.  So I let it go too long.  But I made it.  Blood was drawn and results showed immediately a far-gone thyroid condition.  The nurse kindly asks me, “Have you been noticing a decrease in energy, more depression or rapid weight gain?”.  Yes, yes, and yes.  But like all issues, in Western medicine, there’s a pill for that.  “Okay, sweetie, take these every morning one hour before you eat.”  Will I have to take them forever?  Yes.  Seems easy enough.  I’ll swallow two pills every AM and my tiny butt will come back, along with all my energy, self-confidence, and crazy, silly mood.  Not quite, unfortunately.

Six months into taking the medication I noticed a few things.  My mood was better, I had a bit more energy, but I was still a size 14.  I hadn’t gained any weight, but I certainly hadn’t lost any either.  It was time to really do something.  So I did.  I started working with a personal trainer, three times a week.  I went back to eating all healthy foods which meant no fast food, nothing fried, and limited dairy and carbs. Oh, and no booze, but that’s another story. Pizza is a weakness so those dairy and carb restrictions/rules are the hardest (but don’t think I haven’t fallen off the pie wagon several times).  And, no, no, no fad diets. I don’t do Atkins because I adore brown rice and farro.  I also don’t do Paleo because I’m not following the diet of a people that experienced a mid-life crisis at 18.  Just a little of everything, and a lot of nothing.  Three months later, I’m thirty pounds down and can run a hill-heavy route that used to leave me out of breath when just walking it.

The pounds did not melt off the second time around.  It was harder.  It was a lot harder.  I was a lot sicker and I’m also much older.  But I learned a lot more the second time around, as well.  Roasted vegetable are amazing (and not at all a punishment), running is the best stress reliever on the planet (and is a lot more fun to Ludacris), and for f*cks sake, never judge anyone who orders a salad with a wedge of lemon.  You never know their story.

Signing off.

 

A Lion in Retail

249318_430938126955141_53035078_nI’m pretty sure I don’t have the personality for retail.  How did I end up in customer service for twenty years?  Based off of past goals, it was either this or marine biologist and that required far too much lab work and paying attention in school.  My grades in science really started to suffer with the discovery of creekside smoking and boys named Ben.  So here I am.  Being in pet supply retail allows me to be social, buy fun products, travel the country, and pet dogs ALL DAY.  So what’s the problem?  I was born on July 24th, which makes me a Leo.  I’m an arrogant know-it-all. I’m also quite BS-intolerant and relatively short-fused. But I’m also extremely loyal and caring which means that just as you’re running for the hills, offended once and for all by my abrasive personality, I’ll be right be your side with an offering of bottled water and snacks for your trip.  When you work in retail, usually a 5-10 minute encounter, people don’t get to meet the trail mix girl. It’s just a brief interraction between customer and the loving girl’s omniscient doppelgänger.  It may come in handy that I know so darn much except you know what they say… the customer is always right.  Which can be extremely hard to humor, when you know it isn’t always true.

Customers of the internet era seem to have a natural tendency to know more about your job than you do.  It’s really quite incredible.  I’m not sure how they do it.  Just as the doctors and the nurses must have love/hate relationships with WebMD, I, too, have similar feelings about sites like dogfoodadvisor.com.  Yes, I’m very happy you spent eleven minutes reading an article about canine allergies but, no, your dog is not allergic to lavender or Chilean Sea Bass.  How do I know?  Because I just do, trust me.  Charlie is also most likely not gluten sensitive.  Because the odds are 3 in 100 and he’s not that lucky.  Charlie is more likely to start talking than to develop doggie Celiac’s.

And, oh, buyers remorse.  I see right through this one, too.  -I’d like to return this $60 bag of organic, free-range chicken-based dog food. -Why? -Because Charlie doesn’t like it… That’s odd Charlie seemed pretty enthusiastic about the half of the bag that’s gone.  I’m going to need more proof.  Perhaps a photo of Charlie sitting at the table with his arms crossed or Charlie’s even more convincing “Meat is Murder” t-shirt.  Otherwise I’m pretty sure you just want your money back.  In fact, I’m sure that’s what it is because Charlie just told me.  He also told me he loves sea bass.

I’d also like to thank people for their endless knowledge about my competition and their prices.  Like, did you know that you can get a package of tennis balls on Amazon for negative dollars?  They’ll actually pay you!  If you’re an Amazon Prime member they send a sweatshop worker out to your house to play fetch with your dog.  Not long ago, a customer told me they could buy dog treats at Costco cheaper than I sold them.  So helpful.  Later that day, I lowered all my prices and hired someone off Amazon to stand outside my store with a highlighter.  Sales soared.

Oh, the things I wish I could say.  What I would love to get away with.  If only it worked that way.  Until then, I’ll just have to smile and nod and hope they’re all convinced I’m a Virgo.

Signing off.