My fingers slipped in his grasp as he flung me gently from him in our kitchen big enough for only two. We clenched fingertips, olive oil and garlic clove residue holding us together while he led me twirling back into his embrace, wrapped up like a ringlet curl. His whisper tickled my ear, which he kissed, and my neck. Then we danced. To no music, we danced. Starchy bubbles cracking from ziti tubes, we danced. Wiping the kitchen titles with our socks, we danced like this until the subway grumbled and screeched and announced my stop and the end to my half sleep daydream. I walked home with light feet in the misty rainfall.
Someone should tell me that myspace isn’t a trendy social network anymore (see below).
It’s not even that I’m oh-so-totally-obsessed with taking pictures of myself. I have no emo photos with sultry eyes at the camera, thick gray eyeliner drawn to my ears, bangs in my face, bathroom mirror in the back, bra strap curling off my shoulder. Eyw, gross. It’s just that there’s only two of us and I want life to be frozen and framed like only photographs can.
I hate “welcome back” posts in the blogosphere. I just realized that I actually hate the word blogosphere, too. Eyw. We shall focus on the positive. I do, apparently, enjoy the blog more than I recognized. Catharsis, practice, brainstorm—something about it just works.
I like to do a lot of things. Herein begins a list of things I do, which is really just acting as a footbridge to cross to the more important list of Things I Don’t Do. A Shauna Neitquist book that I’m reading piecemeal, leisurely, has me talking all this inside out list-making nonsense.
And thus, I cook. We cook. We eat dinner (obviously…like you). Fish and chicken, beef stew, tofu. We let the crockpot simmer all day, we cook dessert before dinner, we eat while we heat, do dishes and play, grind vegetables and fruits to a glass full of of juice (and do dishes again).
The night we made garlic chicken and sweet potatoes from an internet recipe, I bought a whole chicken because I’m usually pretty great at following directions. The recipe never said anything about a head. It said whole, but it didn’t say head.
After defrosting the chicken, the visible breasts, thighs, drumstick legs, and wings, I lifted it from the sink and the head flopped down from it’s neat little place tucked under the chicky. The chicken hit the sink with a splat when I let it loose from my hands. I ran from it (in case?) like a tiny little girl.
I guess I’m not great in high pressure situations. When the smoke alarm went off a few weeks ago, I ran around the apartment, flapping a towel furiously overhead and shrieking “What do we do?” in what was once a whisper. You can imagine how helpful that was for clearing the smoke. Much like opening a window would have been.
No browsing, no basket, no list tonight.
I make the avocados tumble from pyramidal piles. A case of Corona, cheese with jalapenos, bagged together on the street with the rain. The longnecks kiss my knuckles with their cold on the way home.
I’ve forgotten the limes. Only naked-necked bottles of Corona, no limes. I won’t fold fajitas without a citrus squeeze over the meat. A new receipt. Holding the cold case, both hands, a thigh.
This city moves so fast; these clocks wear thin. I can’t move through the motions without a list. I’ll, each time, forget the limes.
He wrapped my sandwich up in a brown paper bag like the world had screeched to an almost-halt and we were stuck in slow motion in this local sandwich shop, just the two of us.
He tucked in the edges like a Christmas present and rolled the open end of the paper bag slowly upon itself. Once, twice, twice and a half. It should have only taken a quick moment. So swift should have been his movements that he was handing the bag to me and closing the top all in one fluid turn of the wrist. I should have already been out the door with my torpedo, no cheese, extra sub sauce and my meatball sub with provolone. But he took his time, paused, hesitated, didn’t look at the bag, but up at me while he stayed in this final moment of his sandwich sale.
Have a very good night, miss, he said in his heavy Romanian accent, never taking his blue eyes from mine.
Thank you, I meant it. Merry Christmas, though surely we’ll meet again before Christmas day comes.
We wait tables, asleep in these no-slip soles. Slinging schnitzels in front of folks expecting too much, pouring floats for children with clumsy fingers. We linger, we rush. We sit for just a spell. They yell. We hide behind slow-drip coffee and our souls slowly drip, coffee. In this industry, we go crazy. We get angry. We laugh at jokes we’d never make, live comfortably in a world we didn’t create. Disappointment sucks us dry. But yet we try. We follow and lead, then we only follow and forget to lead. It’s not easy, you see, but we try.
Fancy French name? La Creperie’s got that covered, complete with a three-paragraph history of the crêpe and the sweet couple who started the restaurant on the menu. This presumably overlooked detail was a delightful compliment to my six cups of coffee while I waited for my friends, er, co-workers on this cloudy, crisp Tuesday morning-turned-afternoon.
Latest possible brunch before the noon hour is something was can also check off our list after this visit to La Creperie. My crew seems to have a difficult time getting out of bed when their jobs don’t hinge on it, so even as breakfast from weeks ago has been pushed back from 10:00am to 11:30am, we ordered our crêpes at 12:30 in the afternoon, setting a new precedent for “breakfast” in Urban America.
Our sweet waitress was patient and attentive. If she thought I was flaky when I couldn’t tell her how many of my friends would wake up and join me for breakfast, she didn’t show it and described her favorite crêpes to me instead. Much appreciated, mademoiselle.
When we finally did eat, everything tasted great. The crêpes were folded into rectangles and filled with savory mixtures of curry chicken or goat cheese and tomatoes. The dough had more of a wheat taste than the heavier egg crêpes that I made over the summer with my missionary friends, but I was happy with both varieties. I’m a sucker for sweet things, so even in its simplicity, I think my favorite was the sweet crêpe we snacked on for dessert – butter, sugar, lemon-covered. Mmm.
The décor in this cozy little French café was inviting. We were the anomaly among dark cherry wood walls, decorative plates hanging above the bar and in open china cabinets all around us. The tables were sturdy and stained in old mismatched colors. The place had character, which I suppose is what we both had in common.
So bring your sleepiest co-workers and GO.
My friend Julie really likes dive bars, you could say, more than the average bear. When she walks into a dive with character that impresses her low-maintenance list of must-haves her eyes widen and she makes ohh-ahh sounds. This happened when we descended a stone staircase with an iron rail into a covered grotto sort of entryway where the underground doorway of Bricks was hidden. Inside, the bar was maybe ten stools long, made of black bricks and mortar. There were four tables opposite the bar against a natural exposed brick wall with carved window holes that opened to the other room of the small restaurant. Julie was gushing in a silent sort of way and after about twenty minutes, it was rubbing off on me. This place really did have true character.
One half price bottle of Pinot Noir complimented our pocketbooks and our meal. Flavors on both the house salad (Julz) and the spinach salad with bacon (and tomatoes instead of eggs) were exquisite. The pizza was timed perfectly, coming out in a nice lull after we’d polished off each of our salads. A delightful Hispanic lady was refilling our waters like it was her job (which, it probably was) and our waitress, who was very pregnant was filling us in on the short history of the place and surrounding venues.
We were able to get a medium pizza with half of two varieties. The bricklayer was artichoke spread, red peppers, cilantro and mozz. It was tasty, but the flavors were pretty mild all around. The peppers were the most bold flavor on this side of things and I might have preferred the artichoke the be more dominant. The other side was a heat-something-or-other clever title but we took the “heat” off by getting it without jalepenos. Barbeque chicken, bacon, and gouda are the ingredients I remember. The chicken was delish, the BBQ sauce, a bit sweet, but I didn’t taste the smoked gouda as much as I wanted to. We wondered if the jalapeno flavors actually would’ve fit well on this half, and were happy we didn’t order them.
The atmosphere is what sold me on this place. Chicago is a city that’s known for its pizza, let’s be honest. I am a lover of the deep dish, even in light of the billboard on Wells that says, “Deep dish pizza is an imposter. If you can’t pick it up, it’s not a slice of pizza.” Or something like that. I’ve had better thin crust, but not at a more ambient, underground location.
Bricks is a GO, even if you just get salad and drinks.
I met a gal who buys more Starbucks than I do. She speaks loudly and laughs with a wonderful, contagious laughter. There are probably tens of millions of these people, but only a handful I know personally. And few with such an incredible “cool” factor. Starbucks practically sponsored this road trip as I drank my way to middle-class success with soy pumpkin spice lattes, soy white mochas, and raspberry white teas with honey at rest stops in Ohio and Indiana. Thank you to Starbucks, and to my new Starbucks-toting friend.
Primanti’s is a Pittsburgh legend, they say. I first heard months ago about these sandwiches that have French fries and coleslaw in them. My wrinkled brow and smug pout weren’t exactly open to the tasting. But the frequent mentioning of such a sandwich had me itching to try one upon my first-ever arrival to Pittsburgh, PA. OgleSchedule (kinda like iCal for the Mac users among you) said lunch on Saturday would be the perfect opportunity.
The line at Primanti’s was out the door, maybe half a block when we showed up post-Allegheny-River-kayaking. The place was total chaos. Grandmotherly women cleared tables and threw piles of customers in the seats, and then they’d bustle around to take drink and sandwich orders. Sometimes, they’d just holler from behind the bar “We gitch ‘yinz yit?”
The menu was plastered to the wall, and pretty much required a meat selection. There were Penguins and Stillers tacked to the wall and I had my Terrible Towel in my purse, ready for anything. Kevin is a Pittsburgh-er. He ordered double meat. Me too, sweet sausage and a water. My job is done. The rest of everything gets tossed on the sandwich and they mark the double meats with a French fry.
First bite was all it took. Sold to the sandwich.
The sandwich was twice as tall as the height of my open mouth – and if you’ve met me this is telling. I had to bite off the meaty part and then the coleslaw-y part, trying to combine the flavors into a chipmunk bite. Would’ve been an attractive first date, I bet. The whole process of eating could’ve used a strategic planning committee. But, boy, was it delicious. I don’t typically like coleslaw, but this was sweet and crunchy. I thought the fries would be a soggy mess, but they were seasoned and well-cooked. I had a dream about the sausage – will that convince you that it’s good? I wasn’t even remotely hungry until late morning of the following day, but since Sunday afternoon, I’ve been in perpetual craving.
For those Michigan friends of mine, my top place to pig out has been Yesterdog for years. Our beloved East Grand Rapids spot has been unrivaled in my mind….until now. Primanti’s may have just broken the mold. Watch out, Yester – competition does exist. And the Travel Channel says that Primanti’s ranks at #7 of the best places to pig out.
A large part of my weekend plan was to arrive early or stay late in Pitt to tour Oakland and eat at Mad Mex, on the recommendation of a former-friend, former-employee. Just a word on why I went home straight from the Ogle home on Sunday afternoon. (1) Truth be told, I was still pretty full from Primanti’s and two Ogle-morning feasts prepared by the Mrs. (2) More importantly, Pittsburgh’s not “I have a friend from…” anymore. I visited in order to spend time with Lindsey, my intern friend from the summer, and was exponentially blessed by her design, engineer, marketing, and pharmacy friends. I was satisfied. The weekend exceeded any and all expectations I may have had. I didn’t need Mad Mex, where I could ask them if they remembered an old bartender. Didn’t need my downloaded Oakland walking tour, or even my self-guided education of old Pittsburgh resident architecture – as much as I’ve become interested in it over these years.
Pittsburgh’s my town now. Home of friends of my friend – Mister Ogle and family, and Mister McNally – both stellar companions in these Pittsburgh adventures of mine. Pittsburgh’s mine, a certain destination on future road trips. Ahh, the taste of freedom.