Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lobsterfest? Lobster Feast!

Every Memorial Day, after my Aunt D walks in the town's Memorial Day parade as part of the Environmental Commission, showering the townspeople with good tidings and wildflower seeds, she invites family and friends over to her garden for a Lobsterfest to kick off the summer. Lobster alone is quite the draw, but her husband, Uncle Robert, is a master gardener and has created a hidden paradise, encased in evergreens and populated with tall lilacs, bursting peonies, scattered impatiens, hanging petunias, and climbing clematis.

Drinks are served, appetizers eaten, and witticisms exchanged. If there's one thing I have come to count on from my parents' friends, it's lively conversation. Cackling laughter and knee-slapping abound. There is never a dull moment. It's the best.

Lobster is served, heads and bodies thoughtfully removed for our more civilized eating pleasure. We had a king's choice of tails and claws, which always makes me happy, since I'm a claw-girl, myself. Four claws, no tails. Delicious.

You'll notice that Aunt D has a lot of lobster accoutrements. This is a side effect of hosting an annual Lobsterfest. Until Memorial Day weekend, a corner of her attic could double as a Bar Harbor gift shop. Which is not a bad thing! (Loyal readers know how I feel about all things Maine.)

Outside, during cleanup, we notice there's a little butter on the table -- a reason lobster is best eaten outside. But no worries, an ingenious guest discovers that a little gin & tonic cuts the grease!

After dinner, Connor, the very helpful grandson and cohost of the party, goes table to table serving dessert and coffee. He and his mother made mini-cheesecakes for all to enjoy. And that we did. I especially loved the thick graham cracker crust.

I don't have any pictures of the peach pie I brought, except the one Aunt D sent me this morning.

Can't wait for next year, and more importantly, can't wait to dine al fresco with friends and family all summer long. Life is good, isn't it?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tri Tri Again

This weekend I had the pleasure of accompanying Mr. SevPrez to his first triathlon since his knee surgery last spring. He has put in countless hours of rehab and training since then, so it was a great day for the SevPrez family to see all that hard work, commitment, and sweat pay off in the form of a successfully completed race and -- wait for it -- third place in his age group! What a stud!

The race was in Hammonton, New Jersey, on the Western border of the Pine Barrens. It's not a very glamorous race, as triathlons go. There is no booming rock music playing at the start and few spectators on the course. It brings out a tough crowd of gung-ho triathletes seizing the opportunity to tuneup before the race season really gets going. And there were some serious cyclists there: more than one Lance Armstrong-style Time Trial helmet and countless bikes that cost upwards of $6000. As the racer with the fancy bike next to Mr. SevPrez said after the race, these bikes buy you minutes. I commented privately that these bikes must have been bought in the boom-times (before the onset of The Great Recession), to which Mr. SevPrez replied, these are 2009 models. Yowza.

I quickly escorted him out of there before either one of us decided he needed an equipment upgrade. 'Cause hey, the proof's in the pudding -- he could race well on my old puple 10-speed Huffy.

We'll be at the Metroman, the Timberman, and the Bassman this year, if you're interested in participating or spectating. Bring your cowbell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Woman Behind The Bob

On Tuesday night I went with a very fashionable friend to see Anna Wintour, long time editor-in-chief of American Vogue, be interviewed at the 92nd Street Y by Jonathan Tisch. For those of you who may not follow fashion, Wintour is quite a character in the fashion world, and was the real life inspiration behind Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly in the movie The Devil Wears Prada.

She, like many high profile female head honchos, has the reputation for being tough, demanding, unreasonable, and unlovable. She doesn't usually grant many requests from the media (perhaps owing to the fact that she controls her own very powerful media platform), so tickets to this interview went fast, and it was a full house.

The house included two fervent PETA protesters who were sitting but feet away from us in the balcony. They stood up, unfurled their banner, and began to shout in earnest about how Wintour has animals skinned alive for fur, until a security team rushed through the doors and whisked them away. A few sycophants tried to drown out the protesters with their own proclamations of undying love and loyalty for the editor. It was quite a show, and it seemed our tickets had just paid for themselves in entertainment, regardless of how the interview went. We felt a bit like extras in The Devil Wears Prada.

Anna picked up right where she left off once the hubbub died down, as if she had just paused for Tisch to sneeze. She acknowledged that everyone has a right to their own opinion, and on the topic of fur, hers is that Vogue reports on the fashion industry, and as long as fur is a part of it, Vogue will report on fur. 

It was then that I began wondering if Wintour would ever turn her face to the crowd, or if we would be looking at the left side of her blonde wall of hair for the entire hour. She sat cross legged, leaning forward into the microphone, and did not once turn to the audience to smile, get a reaction, or preen. (Very different from Martha Stewart, who I suppose is conditioned by her daily television show to make every appearance a performance, even if it is a painfully wooden one.)

It is at this point that I must refer you to a visual aid, if you are not familiar with Wintour's iconic bob. 

It is always the same shape, color, and length. Never a split bang, never a flyaway. I had actually asked my friend over dinner beforehand if she thought it could be a wig, because her hair is so perfect and full. We thought not, but whatever it is, that baby is impressive. It is the iron curtain of hairdos, used by Wintour to shield herself from prying eyes, or maybe to conceal a pair large, Dopey-like ears?

We learned some interesting tidbits about Wintour and how she works. She didn't go to college. Her personal fashion icons growing up were Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. She always trusts her gut to make decisions, and doesn't believe in market research. Her criteria for a new hire is someone she would want to spend time with, someone with personality (Andre Leon Talley, anyone?), someone who is unafraid to disagree with her.  She has tremendous respect for the fashion industry and its ability to work in unison to achieve a goal, and has spearheaded several projects that prove this conviction: 7th on Sale, a benefit for HIV/AIDS, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which fosters promising up-and-coming American designers, and the Met Costume Institute Gala, which is pretty much the best party ticket in New York.

She was extremely poised and well spoken, giving generous, straightforward answers to Tisch's questions. You must know how happy this made me after the Martha incident -- I wasn't expecting much. Wintour continues her mini media blitz this Sunday, when 60 Minutes airs a bio piece on her. All this has me wondering: what's her agenda? Am I so alienated from the high fashion industry that I don't realize it's dying in this recession and needs Wintour to go out there and drum up some sales and enthusiasm? Doubtful. I may be cheap, but I can still recognize Thakoon when I see him on the subway. Would that really do the trick anyway? A Wintour press tour is not putting spending money back into people's pockets. 

Things to ponder as I stroll through the racks of H&M, TopShop, Zara, and Uniqlo on my lunch break. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Table

We had both sets of parents over for dinner on Sunday to celebrate our moms. I was excited to finally have a reason to spring for tulips, and to use my new floral print napkins on a day when the sun was out. 

Everyone else seemed most excited about the rhubarb pie...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Don't Call It A Comeback

On Sunday I fulfilled one of my goals for 2009, which was to train and run well in the Long Branch Half Marathon. It was a gray, drizzly day, but armed with my visor, some $1 gloves, and my homemade Ray Allen sleeves, I managed to achieve my goal of breaking nine minute mile splits. 1:57:34. I was pretty pleased with myself, since my personal best time of 1:53:12 at the Philadelphia Distance Run came five years ago, and it's been many 2 hours plus halfs since then.

Next up on the agenda, the Spring Lake Five on Memorial Day weekend. I put a little three week training program together with the aspiration that I finish in under 40. This is also something I haven't done in five years, but I think it's worth a shot.

After a few more hot and short local races through June and July, I'll be upping the speed work and taking on tougher nine week training program for the Philly Distance Run on September 20th. Then maybe the LBI 18 miler... And beyond??? 

One race at a time.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day, A Spiritiual Heyday

Today's a pagan day, a day for fires, flowers, dancing -- we are opening the gates to the heat of summer and everything that comes with it. As such, I wanted to give a shout out to the WaterFires of Providence, Rhode Island. The whole family was in town for a late Easter celebration and we went downtown on an unseasonably warm Saturday night to check it out. 

It is just as it sounds, a simple spectacle of wood bonfires burning in metal cauldrons perched just above the water of the joined rivers of downtown Providence. Music is played. Gazing crowds gather quietly on the banks. It's a return to a more primitive form of entertainment, and a reassurance that us humans, we pretty much dig on the same stuff. We can't resist sitting in a big circle and staring at a fire. It's our DNA, it's who we are.

Then this May Day morning I listened to Leonard Cohen on "Fresh Air." You know I kind of forgot about him, but I went through a serious LC phase in college, and hearing him brought back the memory of finishing the first semester of sophomore year and retreating back to my housing project of a dorm room, opening up all my windows, blaring "New Skin for the Old Ceremony" at a level only 19-year-olds can tolerate, and attempting to take a nap. Do you think I was trying to telegraph that I was sad? Holy mackerel.  It was the last day my crew of friends would be together before we sprinkled ourselves around the globe for the next six months. Two of my best friends came in, pulled me out from under my comforter, and cajoled me into accompanying them downtown to pass out flyers for some show. 

The verve and panache with which they passed out these flyers cannot be described with words -- all I can say is that I have been walking the sidewalks of New York City for ten years now and I have never seen anything like it before or since. You couldn't not take a flyer. It was a gorgeous display of enthusiasm, the kind of thing that makes you believe that having a great time is always an option.

God knows, sometimes you just have to put the Cohen away and keep to the sunnier side of things. But today's for the natural, for the beautiful, for everything and everybody exactly the way it is. As Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes, "Life does continually go up and down. People and situations are unpredictable and so is everything else. Everybody knows the pain of getting what we don't want: saints, sinners, winners, losers. I feel gratitude that someone saw the truth and pointed out that we don't suffer this kind of pain because our personal inability to get things right...We no longer believe that there are people who have managed to avoid uncertainty."

Did you know that Leonard Cohen lived at a Zen Monastery for five years? Yeah, neither did I.

Tonight I crack open the ol' compact disc collection in search of his old albums, and play them loud, listen to this aging Pan, savoring my dip into the lows with the knowledge that it will pass on like all things. I leave you with an excerpt from Cohen's poem, "The Street."

I know the burden’s heavy

As you bear it through the night

The guru says it’s empty

But that doesn’t mean it’s light

From The Book of Longing, 2006. You can hear Cohen recite this and other poems, during his interview with Terry Gross here.