Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Vegan Treats Wedding Cupcake Tasting Extravaganza of 2008


Alright. I'm sick - have a nasty sinus infection, mmm yummy. But I had already arranged for Vegan Treats to be bringing me a box of tasting cupcakes today. Seeing as they're in Pennsylvania and had baked special goods for me, what was I to do but trudge into the city with my sick-ass self and make it happen?

Ahh, but before the cupcakes, you need backstory.

In case you don't know about them, Vegan Treats is this amazing little bakery outside of Philadelphia (in a tiny town called Bethlehem, to be precise). They do very well in the New York market, supplying all sorts of delicious cakes (and donuts too!) to vegetarian restaurants and delis across Manhattan. Ages ago I'd figured out that they also do big fancy event cakes... like the cakes one tends to see at weddings. So when we decided it was time to start finding our baker, of course they sprung to mind. While several bakeries around the area will make a vegan wedding cake, our first choice would be to support an all-vegan business. But, of course, the cakes would have to be up to par.

So it was that one Friday not long ago, I sent off an email inquiring as to whether a tasting for wedding cakes could be done in the city, or if we would need to make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. (Sadly, their website has been new-site-coming-soon'd for approximately forever; otherwise I might have been able to glean this information from it.) A response came quickly - that Saturday, actually - from a nice guy who'll we'll call M. He sounded pretty together, and let me know several things: that their wedding cakes are the same recipes as the cakes they sell to the shops around the city; that they could send a set of tasting cupcakes to me with one of their normal Tuesday NYC shipments; that a standard tasting set would include vanilla, chocolate, lemon, coconut, and red velvet.

I wrote back to M that Sunday telling him it all sounded great, and asking the following: 1. if we could do cupcakes on Tuesday, the 30th; 2. if frosting flavors are intrinsically linked to cake flavors or if combinations are flexible; and 3. if there was an almond flavored cake we could try.

By Wednesday, I still hadn't heard back from him. Now, I don't think it's unreasonable of me to expect a response within one or two business days when we're talking about business transactions; I've got standards. Also, at that point I was still under some sort of delusion that I might be employed by this week, so I was a bit stressed about figuring out if we were doing the cupcake thing the following Tuesday, and if so at what time I might be able to meet up with the delivery truck. I sent a short, polite email saying that I just wanted to make sure M had gotten my Sunday email, and that as I was sure this is a busy time for them if they needed to do the cupcakes another week that was fine, just to let me know.

I heard back late the next night; M said that they needed my phone number to give to the delivery guy, but that otherwise it should be a go. Sadly, no answers to my questions about the cakes.

On the following Saturday, the 27th, I received an email from him saying that my cupcakes were already baked, so they'd definitely be on Tuesday's shipment. I can't say I was thrilled to hear that my cupcakes would be three days old when I got them, but so it goes. He further informed me that he had "no idea of time frames or anything to do with the deliveries", and that if I needed any more info about how to meet up with the driver I'd need to call the bakery. He was pretty sure that the driver would call me about an hour before he was ready to meet me. So, basically, I needed to just be in the city on Tuesday, at the ready.

So at this point I'm thinking, really? We're talking about me special ordering a cake from you people that will easily cost between $400 and $500, and this is all the professionalism you can muster? I want to believe that certainly for the actual delivery of a wedding cake, theoretically on the wedding day, they're a little more together - but who knows? While I sorely wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, a late or otherwise errant wedding cake delivery is not something I want to be dealing with on a day that will be stressful no matter what. I need any vendors that I'm shelling out for to be as on top of their shit as I would be if I was doing that job - a tall order, to be sure, but that's why they're getting paid.

OK. So. Tuesday rolls around, and of course my plans for the day are smashed because I'm sick in bed. I spend the morning trying to get my doc to call in some antibiotics for me, which eventually works but not without serious pains - my insurance won't cover a visit, and I can't swing the $250 out of pocket right now, especially when I know damn well that he'll spend three minutes talking to me and then tell me what I already know and hand me the prescription that he could have just called in anyway. But that's a whole other story, isn't it?

Point being that at 1:20 pm I was still in bed, and I got a call. And it was the Vegan Treats truck driver, saying that he'd be by Curly's Vegetarian Lunch (a place I'd mentioned as a possible rendezvous spot) in about an hour, and would that work for me? Why sure, why not. So I hauled my sick ass outta bed, and because the train gods were with me today I actually made it down there about 20 minutes before he did. He was on time, and very pleasant, and not the stoned dread-headed hippy I'd heard rumored to be their delivery guy.

Having successfully retrieved my cupcaketastings, I couldn't help myself from immediately looking in the box. After the lack of detail imparted from fractured emailing, I wasn't even sure that they'd be iced. Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the box and came face to face with these miniature sugary perfections:



Of course I wouldn't eat them until I got home to Jonathan, and what with my condition and all I hadn't actually eaten anything yet anyway, and cupcakes were probably not the right way to start. Transporting them home, I was desperately afraid the entire time of smooshing them - I'm so good at destroying pretty things. So I gingerly held the little box close to my chest from 14th street all the way back up to Astoria.

* * *

Fastforward six hours. I've had a nap. Jon has come home from work, and he's had a nap too. I have eaten a large bowl of spicy thai soup with noodles, and am feeling a good bit more human. Knowing that the cupcakes are already three days old (and trying not to be at all grossed out by that), we know we must eat them tonight.

* * *

First up: Red velvet. And while the presentation was beautiful, the cake was slightly lackluster. It sure was red, but where was the flavor? Jon claimed that it was slightly dry, which I didn't fully agree with but accredited to the three-day-old-ness. Anyway, we're both from the south, and I myself make a damn good vegan red velvet cupcake; it's going to be pretty hard to pull a red velvet over on either one of us.

* * *

Second in line: Coconut. The cake was significantly more flavorful, having a distinct coconuteyness all its own apart from the coconut frosting with coconut shreds. Again Jon cried dryness; he's one that likes to eat his cake separate from the icing, and claims that these cakes depend on the fat of the (extremely sugary) topping to carry them, which just doesn't work out with his eating scheme at all. I of course agree that the cake should be able to stand on its own, without frosty embellishment.

* * *

Number three: Vanilla with vanilla. This little golden cake was topped with an impressive frosting beehive that for some reason struck me as having an imperial air. Unfortunately, it fit more into the "bland, boring" sort of definition of vanilla rather than the "seed pod of an exotic orchid" variety - the cake was cake flavored, the frosting was frosting/butter flavored. Sweet and tasty, but nothing like the melt-in-your-mouth delectable that we're all dreaming of in a wedding cake.

* * *

Last but possibly most: Chocolate with chocolate mousse. By far the most impressive presentation, I took the most pictures of this bad boy. Chocolate cakelet with a scoop of chocolate mousse on top, that covered in chocolate ganache and topped with a pretty little chunk of gold flecked chocolate - a death by chocolate situation to be sure. Much like their "peanut butter bomb" cake, though, it's more like death by sugar: we all know I have a massive sweet tooth, but man, that mousse could put anyone over the edge.

* * *

So yeah, four cupcakes, despite the fact that I was originally told of five flavors and had requested a sixth. No lemon, no almond. Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

And so, what to make of our first vegan cake-tasting venture? Well. I truly appreciate the effort that went into the presentation of the cupcakes for us. They were absolutely stunningly beautiful. I do wish that the communication had been more clear and timely, and that the delivery had been better organized; the lassez-faire attitude just doesn't work for me when it comes to major wedding considerations. As for the cakes themselves, when I originally contacted Vegan Treats I knew what their restaurant cakes were like. I was hoping, though, that they had something maybe a bit more refined for their event cakes. Alas, it is not so.

The end verdict? I'm happy that Vegan Treats does so well in the city. Their cakes are delicious and awesome, and a slice of one is just right after a breakfast burrito at Curly's. But in this case they just don't hit the mark. As much as I'd love to give them my business, it's important to me to have a truly gourmet wedding cake that will blow our guests away - not one that simply looks beautiful on the outside, but tastes like something we baked ourselves.

One possibility that did occur to me though: did you see how beautiful those cupcakes were? Perhaps, perhaps, instead of a groom's cake, beautiful mini cupcakes? Just a thought. A cakelet kind of thought. Cakelets, cakelets, everywhere... I think I'm delirious from sugar. Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

Face hurts.

Sinus infection. Bad. Can't see doctor; not covered by my "insurance", very expensive. Had a hell of a time getting through to him. But finally did. And he said he'll call in antibiotics for me. But when I went to the drug store they weren't there yet. Weird day. Time in the city exhausting. Tell about it later.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The economy done sploded.

OK. I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about economics. Or at least about "economic theory". Stock market? No clue. Interest rate accrual? Um... it gets bigger over time? High ones on credit cards and loans are bad, but on savings accounts are good. That's all I got. Bonds? Some kind of bank thing. Bull market vs. Bear market? There's this weird bronze bull statue down in the financial district. And when you're feeling fancy, the Bull and Bear at the Waldorf is a nice place to have a Dewars and soda.

But I know a few things about money, that evil stuff that seems to govern our lives. (By the by, it's the want of money that's the root of all evil; remember that.) I can remember worrying about money for as long as I can remember being alive. I've seen my parents make every mistake in the book: get into unbelievable credit card debt, buy cars they couldn't really afford, take out a second mortgage, go bankrupt. I also watched what happened to them financially over the healthcare costs of my mother's cancer. I've gotten myself into debt, and back out of it.

And I do know this: at the end of the day our country's economics are, at least in part, made up by the money issues and habits of individuals. So, despite all of the things I definitely do not understand (dow jones who?), here are some things I know for sure:

1. In a given household, there has to be more money coming in than going out. You'd think that this would be a basic tenement known since near birth, but somehow it evades many people.

2. Point number one can be extremely difficult given the ratio of cost of living vs. pay. Jobs are hard to find, and many of them (most of them?) don't pay nearly enough to live on. At this point it seems that few adult couples can get by on a single income, even without children; it's been as such for quite some time. If you're making, say, $8.00 an hour at 40 hours a week (which is far above the national minimum wage), you're making $1280 a month - minus taxes. Let's call that a take home pay of maybe a thousand dollars a month? So maybe you won't actually die in the street, but you'll most certainly be living paycheck to paycheck even in the cheapest of living situations, even only supporting yourself. Forget healthcare benefits, or being able to call out sick without losing a day's pay or sometimes even risking your job. So much for opening a new Wal*Mart to "create jobs". Jobs for teenagers who need pocket money maybe. Certainly not jobs for people trying to support themselves.

This is the biggest problem with unemployment statistics, by the way: they don't account for people who are technically employed but still can't afford basic necessities, now sometimes known as the "underemployed".

3. A townhouse should not cost half a million dollars anywhere ever, unless we're talking eight bedrooms and a walk-in sauna. But we're not; we're talking two to three bedrooms with nine foot ceilings and walls so thin that an errant foot will go right through them without a second thought. We're talking ugly pieces of crap with bedrooms measuring 8' x 10', and a living/dining combo with a kitchenette tacked on. We're talking a parking lot instead of a front lawn and a six lane highway out back. In the suburban areas of many cities, this is what these places now cost, or close to it. And compared to throwing $1000 and then $1200 and then $1500 and then $1800 a month in rent down a hole for a two or three bedroom apartment for years and years (and in just as awful a complex), this place seems like the American Dream come alive to many families.

Housing costs are out of control; this is not news. I live in a rent stabilized apartment, and as such it is still relatively affordable. Yes, I do live in New York - in Queens though, in a neighborhood that was built up over a hundred years ago in a building that's never been renovated. It's a fairly small one bedroom; there's a living room, a tiny bathroom, a small separate kitchen, and a hallway, the end. There are holes in the ceiling in the living room and in the bathroom due to plumbing and radiator issues that are so intrinsic to the old systems that they can't be fixed short of full on replacement. Jonathan and I live a cozy life here, but no way could I share this place with a roommate, and god forbid if we had a child. We'd have to move, no doubt. I've just received my renewal lease, and on it is listed the amount that they "should" be charging at market price. And according to my lease, at market value, next year I should be paying $1925 per month for all this luxury.

Perhaps you think that my idea of cost of living is skewed because I live in New York City, a place that everyone thinks is oh so expensive. But you're forgetting two things about New York. 1) When you can actually get a job here, it pays proportionally to the more expensive rent. 2) Instead of paying to lease, gas, insure, and park a car, I merely pay $81 a month to ride the subway, which takes me within blocks of absolutely everywhere I need to go. None of that, however, overrides the fact that charging $1900 for a one bedroom is ludicrous.

Also, let's not overlook the fact that for nine years before I lived here I lived in New Orleans, a city with a notoriously low cost of living. Trouble is, though, that most of the jobs are woefully low paying as well. And so you end up in the same conundrum. Pre-Katrina, I could rent a three bedroom house for $1100 a month. However, the best job I could get with a college degree paid $8.00 an hour, and that's after I was promoted to "supervisor".

4. People should not be taking out mortgages that they can't reasonably afford. But isn't there some shared responsibility here? Banks should not have allowed these people to take the mortgages in the first place. Before a bank gives you a loan, they pretty much find out everything there is to know about you. They know more about your financial standing than you do, and they sure as hell understand their rating structure better than we ever will. They no doubt have an idea of what your payments will be like once the "adjustable rate" increases. So, if that payment is going to be, say, more than 60% of a household's income, perhaps a mortgage should *not* be granted. Of course, this will lead to far fewer people being able to buy houses. But that's mainly because the houses are far too expensive in the first place.

Banks shouldn't be luring would-be homeowners with low initial rates that will then skyrocket to unmanageable levels - a tactic that is obviously meant to draw in lower income households who dream of not fighting with the landlord over the broken refrigerator anymore. There's a word for lending money and then charging outrageous interest rates on it: usury. People get all Regan-ish when you start talking about having laws to control the way that banks can operate; deregulation, keep government out of private affairs, bla bla bla. But trusting banks not to take advantage of people and their money? That's like saying, "Oh, I trust this fiendish bloodsucking vampire who hasn't fed in four days to behave himself at the junior prom." And hello: we're seeing what happens when we let them act as they will. It ain't pretty.

5. Speaking of usury, let's talk about credit cards. Yes, people do extraordinarily stupid things with credit cards. But some people are just using them to help buy enough food for three kids, or to pay the electric bill in winter, and they get punished by 22% interest rates all the same. Granted, the rate is somewhat based on your credit rating, and your credit rating is somewhat based on your personal actions. But there is a whole host of things far beyond personal control that can happen that will eff up your credit rating beyond belief. And anyway it's somewhat beyond my point. My point is that I don't think rates that high should really be legal. Sure, they're a business, and that's how they make money, et cetera. But even if they lower the max rate to, say, 15%, they'll still make plenty of money off of idiots who "really needed" that new flatscreen TV, and it'll be a little easier on people who use them to get through that week or two of unpaid leave they had to take when they had the flu.

6. Capitalist enterprises depend on perpetual growth. Every year, and beyond that even every quarter, a business must see an increase in sales and/or in profits. Stagnant profits are unacceptable, and any decrease is seen as catastrophe. This system... defies everything we know about people and nature and systems. (And sorry, but nothing happens with money that isn't a direct result of a choice of a person. It doesn't have a life of its own.) Nothing, but nothing, works this way. Nothing functions in perpetual growth. Could it work based on another model? I don't know. It depends on what is meant by "work". But I do know that it can't go on as it is forever... and they know it too.

* * *

Overall I guess my point is this: cost of living seems to have gone up beyond what current payrates can actually handle, even for the so-called middle class. The people who feel this the most are of course the people who can least afford to. Owning a home (at least, one anywhere near any actual city {read: near any quantifiable number of salaried jobs}) is quickly becoming a dream beyond the scope of what the middle class can hope for, even with two incomes and a willingness to take on an enormous debt that will last for most of their adult lives. There is something very wrong with this picture.

So what do I think should happen? Basically, I think the huge ridiculous multi-billion-dollar multinational corporations should make less money. And not fire people, or cut the benefits or pay of their employees. (Except maybe for the pay of employees making over a million or so a year.) The should just have less profit. Yep. You heard me. I said it. I think that enormous businesses should make less money, and individual people should get to keep more of their money. I know, I'm some kind of crazy hippie commie weirdo anarchist. I should probably be jailed.

Really, when it comes to basic necessities like food, shelter, and medical care, I become remarkably socialist. That flat screen TV that no one could possibly ever need for a healthy life? Charge whatever the hell you want for it. You'll never hear me complain about the price of caviar. But a safe place to live that's a reasonable distance from gainful employment and other life-sustaining amenities such as grocery stores? That's a different story.

I'll conclude my rant with someone else's: Jello Biafra's, to be precise. It's from his spoken word bits with the "no to the WTO combo" shindig during the protests in Seattle. He says a lot of great stuff between fairly mediocre musical interludes, and this segment seems particularly apt at the moment.
"This isn't barons and lords in the high castles with little peasants, terrified peasants on the other side of the moat tilling the land anymore; New Feudalism means that we know who the barons in the high castles are, and every time we buy anything from {insert major corporate name here: Jello rattles off a whole list}, we are their serfs... The wealth addicts have gotten carried away, and in the end, we're gonna win."
Well Jello, I certainly hope so.

Love Knot? Not!

Alright. It seems that the temporary insanity has passed. I am no longer in love with the Vera Wang Love Knot line, largely because I saw it in person. Yesterday we took a trip into that bastion of all things overpriced - Macy's - and there they were, front and center and everywhere else. As with the pictures on the internet , in person I quite liked their overall form. But those bows? Ugh! the worst. Not metal, not fabric or twine - somewheres in between or on the edge, and not a good liminal space, no no. Plus, Jon hated them of course.

We saw a few things that were cute, and a lot of things that were ugly. And I mean like woah. We decided on a purchase, even - Vera Wang again, her Duchesse champagne flutes. But alas, every one they had was on the floor, and do you ever really want to buy the floor model? At full price, no less? We left frustrated. As I told Jon on the train later, I knew that Macy's wouldn't really have anything for us. But if they don't, who does? Where does the "alternative" couple go when they decide they do want just a little bit of crystal after all?

Why, the internet of course! We'd already been poking around to get an idea of shapes and designs that we might like. And since the design we found at Macy's that we would have purchased was Vera Wang for Wedgewood, for chrissake, I didn't think it would exactly be hard to find on the world wide intarwebdotnet. Right-o I was. But we didn't go with that one after all.

While at Macy's, we had stumbled upon a cluster of Lenox crystal, a big name of course but one that somehow hadn't come up in my searches. They have a line where the champagne flutes are teeny tiny - four ounces, to be precise. In the store, Jon picked one up and liked it so much that he took a picture with is i-phone, eventually referring to it as "pretty tight". (That looks stupid typed, but it's cute when he says it.) Well, he originally liked the Encore, and I originally liked the Firelight. When later that night I showed him pictures, he too liked the Firelight.

And so, harmoniously, miraculously, we actually found champagne flutes that we both really kind of love. Go figure.

We ended up getting them from a website called mytableware.com; it seems like a pretty good website, with a surprisingly wide array of crystal and stuff. Of course I haven't received the shipment yet, so if I receive two mismatched chipped glasses I'll let you know. But I've got high hopes based on website presentation, and the two confirmation emails I've received in the past 12 hours.

The cake knife and server were infinitely more easy - in a vast internetted sea of organdy ribbons and carved hearts and calla lilies and cut crystal, the Mikasa Wavelength set cut right through with its sleek lines and plain silverness. Plus, it was on sale on Amazon with free shipping. Done and done.

But who knows - perhaps one day I'll regret not going with the his and hers cowboy hats that we found on e-bay...

And so, yes, 18 months before the wedding, I've ordered both the champagne flutes and the cake knife and server. We've got this theory that whatever can be taken care of now should be. And this is a time when I don't actually mean "me" I when I say "we"; it's truly both of us. Jonathan knows all too well how I get when there's a lot to do with a deadline (effective but insane), plus we're into the idea of spreading out the spending. The next purchase will probably be our wedding bands, and I'm pretty psyched about that. It's actually his idea to buy them now, if you can believe it.

Tomorrow, I head into the city to intercept the Vegan Treats truck and retrieve my cake-taste-cupcakes... and of course that will be a blog post unto itself.

Right now I'm sick and it sucks and I'm getting in bed, because writing this post done wore me out.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Exactly.

Actually, mine just vibrates. But still.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh yes we did.

So the other week I'm on the Martha Stewart website downloading templates, right? (I know, I know. Shut up.) And Jon looks over my shoulder and he's all, "We should get matches. That would be cool. Matchboxes though. And not like that," referring to the pastel colored boxes on the screen with some loopy design printed on them. Well OK then. The boy wants a wedding favor, and that favor is matches. Matchboxes, to be specific.

Well then a week or so later I'm on TheKnot.com (look, we're just not going to have this discussion every time, OK? I've lost my mind, the internet is my enabler, end of story.), and I see personalized matchboxes on sale. So naturally I check it out. And they're reasonably priced, and the design options aren't too bad. So I just go on through the form and choose a silly little image, and put in our names (both won't fit with "and" in between, so I have to use an ampersand, which I think will be fine because he likes ampersands), and choose the serif font because we're not using a modern sans-serif anywhere, and the script is, well, script. I do everything but press "order", because I don't do that kind of thing without showing him first. He does give half a rat's ass about these things, and after all this was the thing he said he wanted.

So he gets home that evening, and I'm all, "Hey, we gotta talk about personalized matchboxes!" And he's all, "Why would we EVER need to talk about personalized matchboxes," laughing. And I'm like, "Because you wanted them, and I found them on sale." Magic words. So without coming over to me or looking at my computer, he says, ok, they should be silver with black writing. And my jaw drops a little, because of course that's exactly what I picked out. And then I make him come over and look, and he likes the font, and he likes the ampersand, and he can even live with the silly little image. (Aww, it's like we're meant to be or something.)

Anyway, they got ordered. And yesterday after my hellish employment-related adventure in midtown which I refuse to think about again until next Wednesday, I went to my studio and found that they had arrived. I'm voting cutest thing ever. And the best part is, you can use them to set stuff on fire. :)

Viva vs. Vinnie's: The Teese Cheese Question

Yes poppets, it's time for the faceoff of the century, the pizza-by-the-slice question we've all been asking ourselves for months now: where to go for a slice with that new vegan sensation, Teese? will it be Viva Herbal, longstanding vegetarian proprietor in the East Village? Or that edgy newcomer, Vinnie's pizza, a meat loving but vegan friendly hip spot in hipper than hip Williamsburg? Let's meet our contestants!

OK, really, I just can't keep the boxing match thing up.

The facts are as such: the man and I have had slices several times at both of these establishments, and each is now offering the soon-to-be-famous Teese cheese. We love both of these places, partly because both feel like typical New York pizza joints. But each parlor has a very different approach to pizza in general, and unsurprisingly each has quite a different take on how to use this new vegan wonder.

Let us first take Viva Herbal, located on Second Avenue between 11th and 12th streets. Viva is an all vegetarian restaurant, which is something I truly value. While they do have dairy items, you never have to worry about accidentally ending up with real sausage in your calzone, and that peace of mind makes for a more pleasant dining experience. I also quite like their food. It tends more toward hippie/healthy type ingredients like whole wheat, cornmeal, and spelt crusts topped with miso herbed tofu and hempseed and mushrooms. The Zen, the Magic Mushroom, and the Picante are probably my favorite pies there. Before Teese came along, we never really bothered with cheese on these; they don't need them, and I don't think the soy cheese they had was vegan - more on that later.

On somewhat the other end of the spectrum (and on the other side of the river) we find Vinnie's Pizzaria, a little place on Bedford that I've rambled about before. Not at all a vegetarian restaurant, it's really easy to walk past this place without realizing it has anything to offer to vegan patrons. But, lo and behold - each evening they have several "special" vegan pie varieties in addition to their normal stock of vegan options. Go figure, right? But that's Williamsburg for you. They also have this awesome little two-seater booth nestled in the front window, which is where I was sitting when I took this picture.

And so. As we all know, in the past months Teese has taken the vegan world by storm. Why? Because, well, cheese may be the single biggest "issue" in vegan cuisine. One of the most common responses to a declaration of veganism is, "oh, I could never give up cheese." Aggravatingly, most "dairy-free" cheeses on the market aren't vegan; they still contain caesin, that magical protein that makes cheese act like cheese. They're marked to the lactose intolerant crowd, not to us. And of the actual vegan cheeses on the market, most of them just suck. We have Follow Your Heart, and that stuff is awesome (both the cheeses and the vegenaise). But the cheese is difficult to shred, has to be taken up to near-volcanic temperatures to melt, and for reasons that I don't completely understand none of the pizza places were really using it.

Enter Teese and Chicago Soydairy's aggressive advertising campaign, and suddenly vegan pizza everywhere is popping up with cheese on it. We'd only just heard of Teese when we saw a sign declaring its orderability in Viva. Deciding to waste no time getting up on that, we ordered a piece of the vegan Picante with Teese, Please. The results:

Ta da! Big round dots-o-cheese. Not exactly melted in any way, despite the time in the oven. But tasty nonetheless.

As you can see, at Viva a "slice" is actually like a quarter of a pizza; our usual tactic for dinner there is to order to slices and have each cut in half, as we've done here. (On the right is the Zen, Teese-less.) Very economical.

After our first Teese experience, we were curious to find out what else was being done with the stuff. We'd heard through our Brooklyn grapevine that they were already using it over at Vinnie's, so we wasted little time in heading south.

Now, as I've expounded upon before, I'm ambivalent about patronizing meat-selling businesses. On the one hand, I don't want to support them in any way, which is why I'm vegan in the first place. On the other hand, when they do things like sell vegan pizza, I feel that I should encourage that. It's complicated, and often comes down to a business-by-business decision rather than a blanket one. Yes, they sell meat, but getting a slice there is not exactly the same as getting a veggie burger at McDonalds, know what I mean?

Anyway. For being a primarily meat-eating establishment, the variety of vegan stuffs at Vinnie's on any given evening can be positively stunning. The last time we were there we had chicken bacon cheddar bbq - at that point they were actually using follow your heart, though not very much of it. This visit we made two selections: Hawaiian (!) and some kinda crazy thing with macaroni on it - I don't remember what they called it. But I believe this is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words. Naturally, both had Teese. At any rate, here's the result:

Once again, not very much cheese. Tasty pizzas though.

* * *

So, what's the verdict in the Teese Pizza Faceoff of 2008? I think this one's gonna be a mixed judgment.

1) In the serving size category, the winner is Viva all the way. Both in size of slice and quantity of cheese, they absolutely blow Vinnie's out of the water.

2) In the areas of creativity and ingredient use, we're gonna have to go with Vinnie's. Macaroni on pizza? Vegan Hawaiian? Come on. Where else are you gonna find that stuff? Nowhere!

3) As far as presentation of Teese goes, I'm gonna have to call both places losers! I believe this to be a fine product, but if its sellers don't take the time to melt it proper(in the case of Viva), or won't give you enough of it to even really know it's there (Vinnie's), then they are not doing it justice. Step up guys! You're charging extra for it anyway.

Overall, both Teese experiences were good. But could have been so much better if the proprietors had tried a little harder. This is one cheese lovin' vegan girl who hopes they'll both work a little bit harder and get it right. The vegan community of NYC deserves a good slice once in a while, and sometimes we want it with cheese.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Man, is that some timing.

Apparently my uncanny ability to do everything at exactly the wrong time hasn't dulled a bit during my stint of unemployment. Am I surprised by this? No, not really.

I went to the ol' prison today. You know, to ask to be re-imprisoned. I went to them with my hat in my hand, as it were. Begging, essentially. And you know what they told me? That in the past two weeks they've hired like three people. Including one for the position (and the desk/window/view) that I was sort of dying to have there. Ummmyeah. Do I want to vomit? Why yes I do. And cry? Yes that also. I had to stop myself from crying in the elevator down because some dumb dolt got on one floor below me, and now I just can't work it up again. So it's sitting there, just beneath the surface.

I suppose it's not completely hopeless; they loved me there. Apparently tomorrow the partners are having a meeting about staffing - so in that my timing was dead on. At least two of the partners in my department still think I'm the best thing ever, so maybe... maybe... maybe what? They'll invent a job for me? I don't know. It seems like every single desk or space that could possibly hold a human being is occupied - that place is bursting at the seams. So yeah. I really don't know.

All I know is that I want to cry, and then vomit, and then cry some more, and then never get out of bed again. I just took a chance on the last bit of hope that I've been clinging to, and... well... now I'm sort of rifling through the shattered remains of that hope, trying to see if there are any shards big enough to make them worth keeping.

Stupid.

It's 4:30 in the morning. Am I in bed? No. Despite the fact that my eyeballs feel like they're about to fall out of my skull, I'm still sitting here in front of my computer. Why?

Why.

Well.

Probably, it's because I don't want to face tomorrow.

See, tomorrow, I'm going to swing by my former place of employment. To see, if, you know, they might want to, you know, employ me again.

I am scared of doing this. I have gone through many debates with myself as to whether or not it is the right choice, or even an acceptable choice. And I must remind myself that "choice" is really a conceit, seeing as in six months I've turned up no other viable offers.

So I'm doing it, despite the risk that they may simply say no.

I'll be doing it assuming, of course, that I ever make it to bed. Because if I don't go to bed, I can't go to sleep, and I can't wake up in the morning, and I can't go anywhere at all. See?

Jesus I'm an asshole. I need to go to bed like four hours ago. Anybody got a flux capacitor?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Welfare Island: a budding obsession.

Today, I had every intention of riding the F train. As such last night I was doing research on the line, and of course part of that research was on Roosevelt Island. I became so enthralled in its history, in fact, that I stayed up until 4am, didn't wake up until 1:15 this afternoon, and didn't have enough time left in the day to ride the train. So it goes.

Roosevelt Island seems to be destined to be part of my New York experience. I live in Astoria; have lived here since just two and a half months after coming to the city. And if I walk due west to the river along my street, I'm looking straight at the lighthouse (built by prison inmates from island-quarried stone in 1872 - *shiver*) that's on the northern tip of the island. The bus that stops on the main drag two blocks from my apartment is the Q102 - the bus that, incidentally, goes to and loops around Roosevelt Island. When I walk into the city over the Queensboro (59th Street) bridge, I walk right over the center of the island, where elevators used to bring people up to a trolley... but I'll get to that. There's just no way for me to avoid this little chunk of land that splits the East River in two for forty straight blocks.

On the island, previously known by many other names including Welfare Island due to its utterly bizarre history, the F train is sort of a big deal. Why? Because it is the only subway that stops there, and in fact it only stops in one place as it jets beneath the East River from midtown to Long Island City. The stop was to have opened in 1976, but didn't actually become functional until 1989 - 13 years late(r).

These days, there are other ways to get on and off the island of course: one bridge into Queens, and the ever so famous and neat-o East River Tram! The tram is tons of fun for sightseeing, but I certainly wouldn't want to depend on it for getting home after a long day at work. Or a short day at work. Or a short stroll in the park on a lovely afternoon. Basically I wouldn't want to depend on it at all. It doesn't come very frequently, and whenever it does come it's full up with jerks like me who are using it for sightseeing.

The tramway was built, actually, because construction on the F train stop was so obviously behind. (The station is apparently very deep - the second deepest station in the system, actually - and there seems to have been a lot of trouble getting this tunnel built at all.) Roosevelt's was the first commuter tram in the country, and was the only one until 2006 when dumb old Portland built one.

Before the Queens bridge (that is, the bridge that goes from the island directly into Long Island City) was built in the 50's, there were these crazy elevators that would carry people and cars up to the Queensboro Bridge where it passed overhead, near the middle of the island. For pedestrians, there was a trolley (!) that ran from midtown to that spot on the bridge and over to Queens, back and forth all day long. Cars and trucks would drive out of the elevator and into the traffic on the bridge. Can you imagine? Well you don't have to, because Eleanor Schetlin talks all about it in this here interview.

Now, about the non-transportation-related history of this little strip of land. Before it was Roosevelt it was Welfare, and before that Blackwell, before that Manning, and before the damn white people came and killed all the Indians it was Minnahononck. From the Not For Tourists website:
...in 1828 the city bought the island and built a prison on it. To this prison was added a much-maligned asylum (muckraked both by Charles Dickens and Nellie Bly, who spent ten days undercover as a “patient”) and a small-pox hospital, and in 1921 the island was renamed yet again—Welfare Island. By this point the insane had been relocated to Ward’s Island slightly upstream. In 1935 Riker’s Island prison opened, and the last of Welfare Island’s criminal’s were transported there. This left a population of the merely sick, which grew in number as
two more hospitals, both chronic care and nursing facilities, were built in 1939 and 1952.

I guess that gives some clue as to what the island is about. But as for being there... it's just weird. Despite its history, it is now overrun with extremely expensive condos. I once wondered why the island never popped up in the apartment searches that I conduct every now and then, and I quickly found out: nothing on the island (that isn't owned by the city housing authority, that is) rents for under about $2200 a month. But it still has invalid hospitals on it, and they seem to cater especially to those patients who are missing limbs - veterans and such. So it's this completely unnerving combination of yuppies pretending to live on the upper east side (the island is, technically, part of Manhattan) but who are mainly on the west side of the island, project dwellers on the east side, and paraplegics scattered throughout. Very odd.

To the north is the infamous lunatic asylum. I've seen it, and anyway these days they're turning the building into apartments. Condos, actually. Um, hauntings, anyone? I don't care how pretty the Octagon is; I don't think I can live anywhere that was once described by Charles freakin' Dickens like so. And if that isn't bad enough, the Octagon itself is built of stone from the island that was quarried by inmates at the penitentiary. There's like twenty-seven different levels of bad karma in that place. Apparently when they began renovations, the ruin was overrun with feral cats - what did they do with all the hundreds of cats, for the love of god? For it to be any worse it would have to be on top of an old Indian burial ground - but oh, wait, it's probably that too.

It's odd - for a person that's basically agnostic and fairly despises all new-agey type mumbo jumbo, I tend to be very in tune with the psychic energy of places. It's why I hate new cities (dead as a doornail), and why some old apartments and buildings just wig me out. Merely walking past that site chilled me and I hardly knew the history of it; I could never live there. I dunno. Maybe it's a chi thing. Oddly enough though, people that can afford "Upper East Side" condos (as they're advertised) are rarely in tune with psychic vibrations, so maybe it will work out.

I've visited here once, almost a year ago now, and walked around the top two thirds of the island... not realizing that the RUINS OF THE ABANDONED SMALLPOX HOSPITAL (yeah, you heard me) are on the southern tip of the island. So, naturally, when I stop through on the F train I fully plan to head south. Also south is the site of the former penitentiary, where anarchist Emma Goldman served a seven month term in 1893. Mae West also seems to have served a ten day sentence on the island, though I suspect it was at the workhouse rather than the actual penitentiary - the penitentiary not being a ten day kind of place. The Goldwater Hospital now stands at the penitentiary site, though if Robert Moses had got his way it would have been a(nother) park. Man, New York history is weird. Near the smallpox hospital, known as the Renwick Ruins as named for the architect, there is also the ruin of what one source claims is the first bacteriological and pathological research laboratory in the country - the Strecker Laboratory. Apparently the NYC Transit is now building a powerstation within the ruin, with the tradeoff of restoring the facade.

There has been a memorial to FDR planned for the southern tip of the island for the past 34-35 years; there's a billboard down there about it now, actually. Some seem to be strongly pro, others strongly anti. Alls I know is that it's supposed to abut the smallpox hospital, so if it encourages them to make that a place to visit, I'm pro. If they even hint at tearing it down - which I don't think they can do since it's registered as a historic landmark - well, I'll kill 'em. Or at least, I'll sign petitions.

These days, the island has a new face, and if you hadn't done your homework, didn't venture too far south, didn't look to closely at the people or places you passed, and weren't paying attention to the flow of chi, you'd have no idea of its sordid history. It really is quite pretty, if all very new and planned and overly groomed. There's a Starbucks. It's confusing. I don't know though... if you pay attention to detail (like, say, all the people without arms), it's not hard to know that it's an unusual place. But not every one does.

One fun thing that we found on our visit last year: Otterness sculptures! In the water, no less. Very strange, very pleasing. A little bit scary.








For now, I'll leave off with this thought: I wonder what kind of security force they put out by the Smallpox hospital on Halloween night?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baking Mania Part Two: The Verdict

Alright. I know you've all been clinging to the edge of your seats since last night, but you can relax now. I'm here to tell you how it all came out. (Collective deep breath, anticipatory giggles and waves of excitement roll through the crowd.)

Project one: The gingerbread. It is gingerbready goodness. Dense and moist and chewy and spicy. Basically just what I was looking for. I cut it in a sort of pinwheel formation - cut the square in quarters, and then each quarter on the diagonal - so that if we eat it in the right order it will just get more and more cute. Man, am I lonely.

Project two: The snack bars. Initial indicators are good. I tried cutting them when they were too cold, and... well, it's sort of like trying to cut hard candy. It more just shatters. But the chunks I sampled were mighty tasty. So once it warms up a little bit I should be able to render the remaining portions in bar form. Tasty tasty bar form.

Project three: The fudge. Here is the recipe, as stolen directly from Yeah, that "Vegan" Shit. Looks like the original recipe is modified from a blog called "Have cake, will travel".

INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 T. rum
  • 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips (melt them and cool them down after measuring the amount)
  • 1 c. cashews (chop them after measuring the amount)
DIRECTIONS
  • prepare an 8×8 baking pan with some parchment paper for minimal cleanup.
  • whisk your rum together with the sugar. throw in cashews. add chocolate, stir well.
  • pour in your prepared baking pan, grab an extra piece of parchment paper and press down with a spatula [or your not-too-warm hands] on top of the extra parchment to level the fudge.
  • place in fridge for at least a couple of hours.
  • remove from pan, remove parchment paper and cut your fudge the way it’s never been cut before. the size of the pieces is up to you!
Now, I made my fudge. And my fudge is gooood. But boy is it alcoholic. My fudge needs rehab; AlAnon is not gonna do it. And I'm looking at the recipe, and I'm wondering. I saw "6 T. rum", and I remembered my home ec. class in the eighth grade, and I said to myself "big T means Tablespoon!" So in went six tablespoons of rum - over half a cup. Looking at the lifted recipe, for whiskey peanut fudge, it too has a big T. But I just have to be skeptical. Changing to teaspoons would effectively reduce the liquid content by two thirds, and I can't help but think that that would have an effect on the consistency. I'm just not sure. I'm too green with fudge to know! I guess I'll just get drunk and sugar-high on my rummy cashew cocoa goodness and wonder about it all.

Oh, and about that parchment paper? Yeah, highly suggested.

* * *

In other news, it's 12:30 and Jonathan still isn't home yet. Last night was the first night I've spent without him in, oh, forever. Not a surprise though; we knew he'd be on site all night. It just sucks. Have I mentioned that I hate the busy season?

Baking Maniac!

Well it's happened. It's the first day of fall, and I've gone into domestic hysterics. This evening Jonathan is at work (again), and I have a need to to create comforting treats that is so great as to supersede all other needs entirely. Except for maybe, like, breathing.

{A note on Jonathan's absence: I know what you're thinking. But no, he is neither an internationally famous neurosurgeon nor a Russian spy. He simply works in the event industry. "The Season", as it were, begins the day after Labor Day (no white = big parties, et cetera), so right now we're in the thick of it. Fashion week, Google doing some kind of damn roll out in Grand Central the same week the president is in town, the mayor speaking at some schmancy shindig at the Gugenheim - all manner of stupidity. This is what takes my Jon from me. But enough about that. Let's talk about baked goods.}

Project one: Gingerbread! Yes. Absolutely nothing better than a big amazing pan of fluffy wonderful gingerbread. I'm doing my 9x9, the recipe I developed during last year's gingerbread bakeoff. It's really quite wonderful... assuming it comes out like it did last time. It's in the oven now, and I can smell it.

Project two: Yes, simultaneously I am making something else. I'm making those cereal snack bars again that I made on Thursday. Except this time I'm making them with (sort of) the right ingredients. They're cooling in the fridge now and they look quite pretty, composed of chex, some kind of generic chex party mix, broken up pretzels, and peanuts. As for sugars, dark corn syrup again and turbinado sugar, since it has to be melted in a pot anyway. I find it's too large grain to use in oil or butter based recipes like cookies, but when there's enough water involved or if you boil, turbinado all the way.

Project three: I really want to make the rum cashew fudge that I found on Yeah, that "Vegan" Shit - my new favorite blog. Doesn't it just sound amazing? Just contemplate it. Rum Cashew Fudge. But I don't have parchment paper, and my 9x9 pan is in use right now creating me some fluffy gingery heaven. So... I'm thinking that I'll go ahead and make the fudge, and pour it instead into my amazing, beautiful, nonstick round springform pan! Crazy? Maybe. But that's how I roll! Updates on progress shortly...

* * *

Alright. The cereal bars are cooling. The gingerbread is cooling. The fudge is cooling. Basically, my kitchen has been overtaken by cooling sweetgoods. As for the fudge, I've never made fudge before so I have absolutely no idea whether or not it came out in the right consistency or whatever. But I can tell you that that shit is gooood when licked off of a spatula. The fresh rum burns a little - in a good way. Since it's one in the morning right now you're gonna have to wait until tomorrow to find out whether or not it actually sets.

Actually, you're gonna have to wait till tomorrow to find out how any of them turned out. See, I'm a grazer - as I bake / assemble / boil, I munch on whatever's around. And right now, I'm stuffed. So no gingerbread for me at the moment. It'll be breakfast, and I think I can live with that.

And so, tomorrow. Talk about a cliffhanger!

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Electric! The E Train.

Ok. I know what you're thinking. It's been over a month! Where the hell are the subway shenanigans? But rest assured, the project is not abandoned. The E train has been ridden, and I'm here to tell you all about it.

Sadly, the E train was ridden approximately four billion years ago and it's taken me a while to get down to the blog writing. So once again, I will let my photographs be my guide.



I set out with the foolish notion that I'd take the W train down to Cordalant Street, making it just a short few-block jaunt to the World Trade Center terminus of the E where I planned to begin my E-training. Now, you'd think the name of my actual destination station would have tipped me off, but I'm a little dense. Take the W I did, but it rolled right on through Cordalant without stopping. Good thing too, because if it had stopped it would have let passengers out into a construction site. See, that particular station is basically underneath the site of the former twin towers, so it was hit pretty heavily during the collapse. And being not that big a deal as far as commuting traffic is concerned, it's taking them a minute to bring it back up to speed. Rolling through it is weird / cool / spooky. Anyway, I had to go to the next station and walk back up. No biggie, just a few blocks.




Upon arriving finally at my station, the first thing I noticed is that it's littered with the same watchful eye mosaics that we saw on the C train. And this makes sense, actually, since the WTC station connects with the Chambers Street station where we first witnessed said eyeballs.



One thing you should know about the E is that it's pretty much always crowded. If you live here, you already know it. If you don't live here but plan to visit, remember this: take another train if at all possible. Trust me when I say that it'll be better for you and your fellow commuters both. During off hours, it looks like this, and during "peak times" sometimes you can't even squeeze your way on.



Above all, the E is a working man's train. And after a long shift, that working man is f-ing tired.







There's not a lot of art along the E line. It's neglected that way. But there's always the Otterness installations at the 14th and 8th stop. Maybe you're tired of me showing you these creations, but if this little guy doesn't make you happy then your heart is as dead as stone in your cold, black chest. Just sayin'.



At Lexington Avenue/53rd Street, there is art... of a sort. It's colorful, and extensive, and... well, pretty damn ugly. But it's certainly more interesting than your average dingy white station tiling. And the kiddies do seem to like it. This family just killed me.



Also at this station are the super steep crazy tunnel escalators that make me feel like I'm probably definitely going to die. This station is rather close to where I used to work in midtown, and sometimes I'd come here to hop under the river to my studio. Nothing like spending 8 or so hours in a soulless, windowless office and then cruising down one of these babies.



After popping under the East River and making a couple of cursory stops at 23rd/Ely and Queens Plaza (my hood, yo), the E switches very definitely into Express mode. Above, the crush at Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue - a major hub.



I had some unfinished business at the Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike stop, and upon exiting there came upon a pleasant surprise. When I served jury duty in that neck of the woods, I'd always gotten out on the other end of the train and therefore through an entrance/exit unconnected to this one. So I didn't know about the Cloud installation. I'm not sure if this is officially sanctioned MTA art; I think it makes me a little happier if it isn't.



This here is the courthouse where the infamous Sean Bell hearings were held, and incidentally also where I was called to serve jury duty. Well, at least I tried to serve. Ironically enough, I was called about two weeks after I finally quit my job at the law firm. Anyway, I hung out for three days, but they didn't want me. It doesn't matter though; I'm good for six years. Woot. At any rate, my little jaunt out to Kew tipped me off on this bad boy, the real reason for dismounting the E and taking a walk down the turnpike:



Yep, instead of dumping this old redbird car into the Atlantic as they seem to be doing with so many others, they turned it into a mini museum... which is never open, as far as I can tell. But I'm still happy it's there. And as to whether we should be dumping huge chunks of metal off the coast... well, that's another discussion entirely, during which my Environmental Geography claws just may have to come out.



Soon enough I reached the end of the line, Jamaica Center. What with starting in Manhattan and then running express in Queens, it really is a short trip. Upon exiting the platform, one of the first things I saw was this:



My thoughts ran like so: 1) Maybe this isn't such a nice place to live? 2) And there's why I ride the trains during the day.

But then, upon exiting the station, the first thing I saw was this:


















And then this:











And then this:






(A historical mansion from colonial days, now run as a museum, in case you're wondering.) So it's hard to tell about a neighborhood. As best as I could discern in the twenty minutes that I spent there, it's a lot of working class people with their families and their kids, who are sometimes plagued by those who have gone hopeless and turned to darker activities. So it goes, I guess. Put enough people in one place and you'll usually find the same kind of underbelly.



I rode on home on the E - it does, after all, roll through Long Island City, just three blocks from my studio, and really what better way to culminate the day? It was still nowhere near rush hour. The train? Well, I couldn't get a seat.

Snack Bar Crazytimes!

Well, I said that I needed to do more cooking. Of course, sweet and crunchy snack bars wasn't *exactly* what I had in mind, but whatever. When it's midnight on a Thursday and your fiance's still stuck at work, and you're just dying to bake but don't want to go to the store, and you don't have any butter in the house or very much sugar, but you DO have four or five boxes of mostly eaten old cereal lying around that you'd like to do something with, what do you do?

Well here's what I do. I stumble upon this recipe in My Sweet Vegan, one of the gifts I received from aforementioned fiance this past Valentine's day. And then I make it with completely bastardized ingredients. Hilarity ensues!

Observe.



The recipe. I knew it was the right one, because it a) didn't call for (many) ingredients that weren't already in my kitchen, and b) allowed me to do something useful with all of those cereal remains languishing away in my cupboard.



I assembled said wheat and oat remnants in my pretty red bowl. Now, the original recipe calls for things like chex and rice crispies and pretzels and peanuts. And granted, that sounds delish. But I was working with what my kitchen had to offer: a shredded wheat type substance, a crispix-ey thing, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and broken up rice bran crackers. Also, while the recipe calls for light corn syrup I had (and generally only use) dark - light usually has high fructose corn syrup in there, which, like, ew.



After assembling my cereal frankenstein, then came the sugar step. I've never boiled sugar like this, and I gotta say it was kind of scary. I was afraid it would turn into caramel or glass, or at least burn the crap out of me. But it all turned out alright.



I had a spat of trouble folding the sugar mixture into the cereal - it may have been thicker than it was supposed to be on account of me using the dark syrup. Or I may just be lame. After I thought I had it pretty well mixed, I started spooning it (there was no pouring) into my pan - only to find that all of my tiny nuts were sitting in a dusty clump at the bottom. But soon enough they got caught up in the sticky mix.



The verdict? Well, they're tasty. A bit odd. Definitely sticky. Very sweet. I've taken to covering them in natural-type peanut butter - it adds a little bulk and cuts down on the syrupy-ness. Most likely, this recipe is infinitely better with ingredients like chex, and pretzels, and peanuts. Maybe next time I'll try something crazy like that.

Maybe.

We'll see.

So... have I lost my mind entirely?

Because I'm sort of in love with things designed by Vera Wang. Is it, like, some sort of chemical problem? Am I responding to subliminal messages on TheKnot.com? One really has to wonder. The problem goes like this:




I see these and instead of being all *barf* cough *gag* cough *what bourgeois bullshit*, I'm all, oh, yeah, totally, we could get a B etched in the flutes.

So really. I'm asking you. Up the meds? Or just give in to the fact that talented designers are at work and I have no power to resist? I take some solace in the fact that while I really love the overall clean line and form, the little bows irk me and I wish they weren't there.

Interestingly enough, price wise these really aren't bad. The champagne flutes are about half as much as, say, a set of Waterford crystal ones would be.

But then, like, who have I become that I spent two hours tonight looking at Waterford crystal champagne flutes? To my credit, I also looked at the ones at CB2, which are quite cute and top out at $4.99. I seriously doubt that we'll end up with Waterford or anything like it.

It's really, really, really easy to see how weddings even in cheap towns top $25k. So many little things. It's insanity.

There are other contenders in the champagne-flutes-and-cake-servers category, but I'll refrain from listing all of them here.

It's after 2am. My Jon still isn't home. I hate the busy season.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Planning, crises, heritage, et cetera.

*It's been happening like this. I want to talk about it. He doesn't want to talk about it. So I slip in comments here and there about this and that. The result? I feel like we never talk about it, he feels like we always talk about it. No good. So we came up with a seemingly perfect solution: once a week, a "wedding meeting". I'd save it up instead of doling it out in bite-sized portions, and he'd actually give his attention to it; thus he'd feel involved and not just carped at and I'd be placated by his attentiveness. Good right?

Well it work splendidly the first week. It lasted forever though, because it was the first week. So many things to discuss! So many things to show him! But I knew it wouldn't stay like that. And by the end of it the unthinkable had occurred: I no longer even wanted to talk about the wedding. So. Mission accomplished. But then. The following Sunday I was laid out - in no condition to have a meeting or do anything else, for that matter, other than lay in bed. No meeting, frustrated me. This week? Repeat. Not quite as bad, but bad nonetheless. I finally pulled myself together around 6pm, but seeing as he had to work tonight I wondered if it was too late. He said that it was fine, so we headed out to the coffee shop. Any illusion of having his time or attention quickly evaporated though; he was at best humoring me and at worst putting up with me - answering my questions with as few words as possible, barely looking at various bits of stationery and pictures of cakes, and so forth. The third time he tried to sneak a look at the list of things I wanted to talk about, I just gave up.

On the way home, after a bit of fighting of course, he admitted that he was trying to rush me. Said that he was afraid it would take hours and hours like last time. But no, we were actually about 20 minutes from being done, and all he had to do was not be a jerk. But oh well. Work has got him too stressed out. He's there now, which so sucks. I knew it was too late for us to talk about it all, but I just wanted to so badly. I hate it when my crippled days prevent me from doing things that I've planned to do all week. Talk about frustrating.

*I've just this evening realized that my wedding will be taking place during lent. Am I particularly Catholic? No. Is it even a religious ceremony? No. So... why do I care? Um. I can't really answer that. All I can really tell you is that it's officially bugging the crap out of me.

*Still no progress on where to have the rehearsal dinner. New York is so easy and so hard all at the same time. Of course we want to do it at a vegan place... but where can we take our families? So many restaurants here are simply too small to parade 12 or 16 people into. Take for instance Pukk, the vegetarian Thai place. We'd have to rent the entire restaurant just to fit the party into it, and even then half of their chairs (the neon green plastic ones) really aren't big enough for anyone over 90 pounds to sit on. I can't sit on those damn things, so I know my Aunt JoAnn can't. Know what I mean?

There's Lan Cafe, the vegan Vietnamese place. We ate there yesterday, and I'm sort of in love with the idea of doing it there actually. Again, we'd have to rent the entire place, but if we did we'd be perfectly comfortable. A few pretty cushions and candles would spruce up the place just fine. The main problem there is... well... a language barrier. The only people who work there are the proprietors. They're wonderful, extremely hardworking people. But honestly, they barely know enough English to respond to questions about menu items. Setting up a private party would require a translator. Which I'm considering, because their food is amazing, and I would love to give them the business. Anybody speak Vietnamese?

Again, a year and a half to figure this out.

*I've been trying to research Sicilian wedding traditions. Weddings are one of those occasions that make you really ache for some kind of solid culture or family heritage. Which I don't have, but I can pretend. My mother's father's lineage from Contessa Entellina is by far the most trackable portion of my blood, so I'll run with it. My coloring supports it at least, and I also have this funny two-ring eye color thing going on that's supposedly a Contessa trait. So. I found this amazing site that lists the lineage of families from Contessa and my grandpa is totally there, plus his five brothers and sisters, and they have him married to my grandma and all - it's really kind of cool.

Anyway, other than the lineage, the internet is telling me dick about Sicilian wedding traditions. And actually, there probably just weren't many. They weren't very affluent is the basic situation. A wedding was a feast day, your parents arranged it, you did it in a church, on a Sunday, the end. The one good piece of news? I'm totally vindicated in having Jordan Almonds (bomboniera). I was going with the whole "it was my grandma's favorite candy" thing, and now I've got this too: apparently in Sicily sometimes they were served instead of wedding cake. Ha. Of course, there will be no tulle.

*My Great Great Great Grandmother was named Viola. God help my first daughter.

*I've gotten in touch with Vegan Treats about their wedding cakes. With any luck, the cupcakes are a-comin...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fishy on Friday.

Me: Hello. I guess we're still waiting?

Her:
Yep but chad and park wants to meet with you. Can you meet on Monday. We should have an answer on Monday but its always good to cover bases..

Me:
Any idea why their decision keeps getting delayed? It was supposed to be last Friday, then last Monday, then yesterday... (So are you dicking me around or are they?) It's been three weeks now that I've been dealing with Dech. I'd really like to get an answer one way or the other before I do any more interviewing. (Little does she know that I'm not doing any more interviewing with her EVER.)

Her:
They are looking for three great candidates to meet with the corporate partner…They only found you….I’m telling them you close to something else and see if we can get you back in to meet with the partner. (She probably meant "you're", but then she probably would have written "your".)

You haven’t met with him yet have you. (There was likely supposed to be a question mark here; she's not huge on punctuation.)

Me: I thought I met with both partners - Ned D. and Nicole J. (Which I told you via voice mail and email immediately after it happened - LAST THURSDAY.)

Her: Oh…ok let me tell them your close to something. (Ah, there it is.) They both liked you. (So, you didn't think I met with both of them, but now you know that both of them liked me?) Let see what we can do to close this. (Oh! So you've finally figured out that that's what your job is? Yes indeed, let see.)

* * *

Seriously people. This is ludicrous. I've seen better organized high school students. I don't understand what she could possibly gain from operating like this; if she didn't have time for me, why respond to my inquiries in the first place? If, upon meeting with me, she didn't think she could get me anything, then why not cut it off at that? And if she does really think she can get me something, then why god why is she so disinterested in doing it?

Everything I needed to know about her I knew when I went in there for our first meeting. Before I even met her, even. She was 45 minutes late, despite the fact that she had chosen the time for the meeting which had only been arranged the day before. And what earthshattering thing had kept her away? Lunch. Yes, she's a true professional.

So, another weekend in employment purgatory. Nothing to be done about it. It's Friday, and it's past 6:30 now. There's nothing to do but sit back and pretend that this is just a weekend, and not simply an extension of what I've been doing for the past... fuck. I don't know. Really long time.

Perhaps I've just been in training to be the new C.M.



Damnit! This was a clip of Steven Colbert bitching out the Cookie Monster for selling out cookies, and therefore America. And somehow in the few hours between me posting this post and now, stupid ass Viacom has issued some sort of claim and it had to be removed from YouTube. To which I say, VIACOM YOU BASTARDS I HATE YOU. And I'm officially glad that my old lawfirm sues your asses for flagrant asbestos use. So ha.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reading.

When I was younger, or maybe more specifically when I was alone, it was always the darkness that got to me. Now, it's the sun.

During the day, I'm supposed to do something. Something productive. I'm meant to be out of bed at a "reasonable hour", to eat, to wash, to use time wisely and proactively with recognizable results. Says who? Says... the world, I guess. Says my head. Who knows. But it's out there.

But nighttime, oh glorious nighttime. All expectations are relinquished. I don't have to do anything that I don't want to do. And what I want to do is read. After all, who can be productive at midnight, 1am, 2am? No one. Or almost no one, at least. So why shouldn't I get in bed and read? After all, it's just a prelude to sleep.

Except that it isn't. Actually, it lets me avoid sleep altogether. I read, and I read, and I read some more. It keeps me up until 2, 3, 4 in the morning. This has the added benefit of making me feel like I should sleep later, lest I become sleep-deprived. We wouldn't want that, now, would we? Certainly no.

So I read late into the night and early into the morning. And when finally my eyes will simply no longer do the work, I surrender my day. The next day will come, with hours and hours of daylight stretching out ahead, but at least I haven't woken up until noon.

What do I read? A lot. About two books a week lately - I read quite slowly, actually, due to some mild dyslexic-type problems, so this is fairly extraordinary. The most recent titles include "Bait and Switch" by Barbara Ehrenreich, "The Swing Voter of Staten Island" by a male author whose last name starts with N, and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith, which is of course a nom de plume. This last - oh, what a book. It's one of those books that makes you a little bit angry that you've gone so long without it; that, when you finish it, you feel like a dear friend has just moved away. I read it last night until four in the morning, when I finally relinquished it with its final sentences.

Before that, I read the Nanny Diaries. Yup, I really did.

Now, I'm back on to Great Expectations, a title through which I have been attempting to trudge for at least a decade. This time, though, I'm finding it rather good. Apparently it's just a matter of getting past the language, which I always found quite annoying.

* * *

The longest hours are those approaching and shortly following Jonathan's appointed time of departure from work. 4pm is anxious, 5pm is unbearable. If 6pm comes without having brought some word from him, I feel that I'll simply die. I'm the picture of a 50's do-wop song. He is my bright spot in a universe of unending, uncertain gray.

Unfortunately, my bright spot is real freakin busy. Saturday, he did work all day long. Last Saturday too. Sunday he was worried sick about how things would go on Monday. And things went fine on Monday, but didn't allow him to come home until 9pm or so. Tonight is the same story; last night he was having panic attackes, and today all's well but he'll be on site until 10pm at least. He says we'll have time this weekend... but we'll see. He has some enormous gig sarting Monday for which he will be on site over night. I can't say I'm pleased. It's also not the first time. You'd think I was married to a surgeon, the way he stresses so much about the minutae of each event and is gone for these long hours.

I feel a bit selfish, complaining about it. But then, lately when I'm asking for his attention, I'm not waving - I'm drowning. Sometimes it's hard for him to know the difference. I wave a lot.

The moral of this ramble is that I'm now officially, severely depressed. Free time is no longer exultant; it is merely indicative of my unemployed state. If there was an end, a light in the distance, this would be like vacation. As it is, it's merely unending freefall. I had myself so completely convinced that an agency was my big "out". That really, the second I plunked myself down into one, I'd have a job. Ok, maybe not the second, but at the very longest the fortnight. Well, it's been two solid months, and still only one possiblility. And what a long, drawn out, overly complicated possibility it is. At this point I'd rather just have a "no" right now than do any more waiting. Sad but true.

I feel like I must not be doing anything, because no results are yielded. But really, what more could I be doing? My employed friends all have my resume in Word format. I send said document, along with carefully crafted cover letters, to Craigslist and Idealist listings; I go where the agency tells me and dance like a good little monkey. It is beyond draining, beyond exhausting, to exist this way. I feel like I don't know how much longer I'll last. But what's the alternative? Stop breathing? Become a drunk? Sell my body down at Queensboro Plaza? I'll keep doing it for as long as it lasts, because there is nothing else to do.

Now would be a good time to write, really write. If only I could find it in myself.