a (moderately failed) attempt to make up for all of those terrible instagrams in the last post
July 5, 2012

Dave and I went to Smorgasburg, the all-food outpost of the Brooklyn Flea market, last weekend.

It was a bit of a spontaneous Saturday for us – not just because we jumped on the ferry to Dumbo on the fly – but also because, for the first time in, oh, forever, I brought my camera around on one of our little NYC escapades.

I’ve been kind of avoiding my camera like the plague since we moved here, which is a shame considering I spent so much money, so much time, so much effort on learning to use that big hulking dslr. I can’t be totally certain now, but I think I remember being giddily excited about picking it out at B&H, lovingly and only half jokingly referring to it as Dave and my first child, and feeling genuinely positive about the prospect of photography as a theory and/or practice. I remember snapping that shutter all across India, Ecuador, Philadelphia, Connecticut. And then I just…stopped?

This might sound silly, but have you ever felt like you’re actually getting worse at something, the longer you stick at it, the harder you try? You look back on the stuff you did when you were first starting out – that first blog post about your boyfriend’s brother’s perfect girlfriend, that first shot you got of a child batting around a giant yellow balloon in a garden in Delhi – and you think, man, that was actually decent. What happened to me? You search for proof your skills haven’t totally degraded and come up empty-handed. True or not, you start to psych yourself out.

That’s how I started feeling about photography. I got frustrated. I kind of gave up.

Looking at these photos, my first thought is, um, maybe you feel this way for good reason, Rach. The pictures kind of suck. They don’t  have the right composition, the right use of light, the right focus. They don’t pull me in, don’t make me recall how hot it actually was or how happy we were to be together in the city after so long or how good that pulled pork sandwich (and the DuMont slider and the bahn-mi style hot dog and the Blue Marble cones, not pictured because, um, we ate them too fast) actually tasted. They don’t capture how the long slats of the pier in North Williamsburg felt endless if you looked at them from a certain angle or the repetitive symmetry of the benches that line Brooklyn Bridge park or how cool the perspective shift of seeing the island of Manhattan for a ferry is.

My first thought is, this is not what photography is supposed to be. Give it up, girlfriend.

My second thought is, keep going. You always put yourself down for the count far too fast.

I left my heart in San Francisco
January 25, 2011

And by heart, I mean 60-degree weather, college sparring partner and the best shrimp dumplings I’ve ever eaten. Because apparently that’s all it takes to win my undying love and affection.

Dave and I jetted off to the West Coast last weekend for an extended MLK Day celebration in the Bay Area, and were greeted with sun, fun and the opportunity to make snarky, smart-alecky comments to our former college newspaper officemate, in person! (Ok, just me on that last one.)

It must be said, before we get into all the details, that January is the best time ever for East Coasters to travel. Everyone else is nursing a massive post-holiday hangover, attempting to recover from all that booze and mini hotdogs and forced family encounters, while simultaneously slowly starting to realize that we’re in for three more months of this whole winter thing, huh?, and you’re like, peace out bitches! I’m off to India!

Um, or NorCal. Because the international adventure was last year.

Not gonna lie – it was a little strange and confusing to board a domestic flight this year, after three straight destinations that involved me getting off the plane on another continent. I almost missed the whole “constantly bracing for a massive catastrophe” part of traveling alone, to a third-world country, in questionable weather, and I definitely missed the Keralan sunset and the Indian Ocean and the three types of bananas at breakfast.

Until we showed up at a multi-storied dim sum mecca – Chinatown’s answer to the Taj Mahal, perhaps – and saw the umpteen types of dumplings. I mean, I love me some tropical fruit, but fried shrimp balls and turnip cakes and unidentifiable yet still oh-so-delicious Chinese vegetables will still win every time. The food was divine, the atmosphere legit, and the company, a combination of both.

Our table was in a prime location, the carts constantly bombarding us with Asian delicacies, and we ended up racking up a bill of nearly $9 per person – which gets you a hell of a lot of food at dim sum. From there on out, I can solemnly testify that I never actually experienced that vaguely familiar sensation – hunger – during our stay in California.

If we’re being honest, the problem had actually started the day before, on our Jet Blue flight. Those snacks are seriously delicious! And they really do let you have as many bags of Terra chips as you want! Then it was off to a Castro seafood joint with the most perfect salmon ever, plus enough appetizers to leave me down for the count when faced with a shot of tequila. (Totally out of character.) Sunday brought a post-dim sum stroll through Chinatown (a giant bag of reject fortune cookies was a must after being led back to view the fortune cookie machine), to North Beach (where we resisted Italian, thank god) to the Marina (where we invested in a sourdough roll, ripping chunks off as we walked), to Ghirardelli Square (where I legit had to unbuckle my belt in order to accommodate a hot fudge sundae.) The horror.

But the belt-loosening maneuver seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, as did the box of See’s candies we had to sample in order to ensure the gifts we were bringing back East were suitable, and the whole roast chicken we had to order at Zuni Cafethat night, because lord knows I will never get around to making that recipe at home. And then, I felt the need need to finish a burrito the size of my arm at lunch on Monday, at a place where they call your number in Spanish (ochenta y dos! ochenta y tres!) It seemed the only way I could prove my love of Mexican food was stronger than my native New England handicap.

I would have stopped there, really, I would have, if the news of my parents’ golden retriever’s death didn’t subsequently echo from the Atlantic to the Pacific, right after lunch, leaving me with no choice but to partake in a cone of Bi-Rite banana ice-cream in his honor. As the dog who once ate several pounds of gravel for dessert, it’s what he would have wanted. No pain, no gain, right?

Actually, there was gain too – several pounds of it, when I finally took stock of the situation in Philly this week. But on Monday, that seemed so far away. There were still San Francisco streets to wander and ride, a game of football to be played by the Golden Gate Bridge, childhood TV landmarks to visit and take dorky photos in front of, and childhood photographs to visit and dorkily poke fun at.

The trip wasn’t epic in the same way that visiting an Indian hospital for stitches or biking past waterfalls was, but it was lovely and important for its normalcy and familiarity and comforts: the catching up with friends on their home turf, the seeing a city together for the first time, the wandering around a sunny suburb that’s not your own on a Tuesday when you don’t have to turn on your laptop. We were sad to leave and are currently contemplating our return. Whether it will be in June to take up permanent residence, I really can’t say (except when I’m talking to Dave’s mom; then I have to say no), but I know this for sure: it was a lovely way to start off 2011.

Boy becomes a man, man becomes a werewolf
March 24, 2010

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of being greeted by all this melodrama and illness and – this is a technical term – ickyness every time I click on my homepage. I’m still not feeling super great physically, but I’m trying to turn a corner in terms of my attitude and outlook. By which I mean: let’s move on, shall we?

I think food might be a good place to start, considering it was pretty much the focus of my weekend. This isn’t a total aberration – as my dear friend Courtney once said, I’m pretty much a “food-centric person.” I like it. A lot. But the medicine that I tried (last reference to The Lame Mystery Illness, I promise) totally killed my appetite. So much so that I reached what I fondly refer to as my post-eating disorder weight: the weight I hit after I nixed the fat-free yogurt and saltines diet of my freshman year of high school, but before I started pairing a root beer float (real soda! real ice cream! the horror!) with pretty much every meal at the dining hall freshman year of college. Suffice it to say, without the wonders of daily crew practice and a 16-year-old’s metabolism, this feat was only accomplished due to the fact that I didn’t really eat food for 11 days. I just wasn’t interested in the stuff.

The shit hit the fan on Sunday – two days after I decided I needed to get off those meds, stat. By some strange (glorious?) twist of fate, the point at which the drugs got out of my system coincided exactly with the tasting for Dave’s brother’s bar mitzvah.

Now, for you non-Jews out there, referencing a “tasting” probably conjures up images of Molly and Jason feeding each other tiny, tidy bites of different flavored wedding cakes, right? Think again. Jewish special occasions are all about food: specifically quantity, though quality helps too. Those jokes about Jewish grandmothers grabbing rolls off the buffet line and stashing them in their pocketbooks? 100% Real. That urban legend about Jewish grandfathers (er, me) staking out the door where the servers come out? Less legend, more true.

So that’s your base-line bar mitzvah. But Dave’s parents took it up a notch for this one, at which we will celebrate the baby of the family’s coming of age. They ditched the Original Tacky NJ Catering Hall, where food surely flowed aplenty at all three other kid’s parties, to the New Tacky NJ Catering Hall, where it’s a fucking avalanche of grub. And I do mean that literally. This place has branded itself as a palace of gluttony. Dessert alone is going to send these kids into a diabetic coma: cotton candy machine, bowls of full-sized chocolate bars, a Viennese table (translation for the non-Jews/Italians: massive table, covered in desserts, rolled out to much fanfare on the dance floor.)

But dessert was not our mission – or at least not our main mission – when we headed over to the New Tacky NJ Catering Hall on Sunday. We were charged with helping Dave’s parents pick the adult’s menu, specifically the entrees. Of which there were six. SIX. They brought us six full-sized portions of salmon, chicken and beef dishes: some fried, some topped with cheese, spinach and cream, others dusted with a Thai chili marinade; all, unfailingly, super rich and heavy. Oh, and that was after the cold appetizers, hot appetizers (egg rolls! scallops! things made out of phyllo dough!) and Caesar salad, but before the chocolate mousse for dessert. And, let me repeat this: all full-sized portions.

The staff was ready and waiting with styrofoam takeout containers, but I was not going to let this catering hall best me. After starting out strong with the appetizers and salad, I took down at least three full entrees worth of fish and meat, even polishing off the chocolate mousse – which wasn’t very good, but no matter. When it was all over, I leaned my spoon against the empty dish in triumph and reclined in my chair like it was Passover. (Show off.)

The place itself was about as Jersey as it gets: fake pillars, fake waterfalls, fake fountains designed to look like they were imported from Rome (they weren’t.) Ballrooms with themes like “France,” “Italy” and “New York.” (So exotic!) The effect was such that I felt the need to turn to Dave and say something to the extent of, “Babe, I totally feel like we’re in Italy!” As a native of the state, he failed to find the setting as funny as I did.

And the truth is, it’s really nothing to make fun of. Despite all my criticism, I’m sure it’s pretty cool from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old, who is what this night is all about anyway. His friends will get to run around the whole bottom floor of the place with no parents in sight. The fake windows and disco balls dotting the ballroom light up any color you choose – in his case, it will be blue and silver, obviously, as the soiree is Yankees-themed. It’s pretty much your classic bar mitzvah venue, exactly what comes to mind when you think of “New Jersey” and “coming of age.”

Although, to be honest, I don’t think it would have flown with this girl. She’s always been a bit more…particular.

Substantively Better Winter Wednesday
February 10, 2010

Spent watching this


And eating that


(OK, that too.)


With him


While hoping this…

…doesn’t end badly.


But keeping a candle close, just in case.

PS – I know, I know – I’m abusing my right to post sparsely-worded photo essays about weather conditions. I promise the next 2,000-word installment of my India tale will have you begging for brevity.