Five Years Later, Back In Philly for a Day

The last time I in Philadelphia was in 2010. I met my mom and aunt there before we rented a PT Cruiser and drove to State College to attend my brother’s graduation from Penn State’s MBA program.

I was underwhelmed by Philly. I was underwhelmed by the entire state of Pennsylvania – we drove from Philly to Harrisburg to State College to Pittsburgh, which was beautiful from far away, with all its bridges and trees, but once in the heart of the city, found that it was almost entirely under construction. I remember driving in circles for nearly two hours, thanks to what felt like hundred of road closures and poorly marked detours, before finally finding a decent restaurant that was….closing for the night. At 9PM. On my birthday. And Mother’s Day. We ended up driving some more, nearly into the Allegheny River until we came across the garish lights of the Spaghetti Warehouse. Done up like a country carnival, it reminded me of every bad horror movie I’d ever seen.

Philly was better. There were pretty quaint pockets of red brick buildings and cobblestone streets. Green parks everywhere, each with their own bronze statue of Mr. So-and-So Important Man who contributed to the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, and a lot of other famous landmarks my mom, aunt and I walked blithely past. We had brunch in Rittenhouse Square, saw the smaller than expected Liberty Bell, climbed the famed Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and took a bus (disguised as a trolley) up and down Market St.

We walked a lot. We smiled at the old black men sitting on the park benches (in Chinatown they turned into old Chinese men sitting on restaurant stoops) and stayed at the Best Western Independence Park, which, on the National Register of Historic Places, would be remodeled two years after our stay.

I remember thinking, “I would probably never come back here, unless my kids were really into American History or something.”

But five years later, I went back to Philly with Tom. Last time I was single and had never had a boyfriend. I was still in college with one semester left and was interviewing for a bunch of jobs, but mostly I was waiting to hear back from Google. They called while I was eating a sandwich at the Reading Terminal Market. I didn’t get the job. A few days later, I turned twenty-four and told myself it was imperative that I graduate from college before I turned twenty-five. I did.

This time in Philly, I was still unemployed, but wasn’t waiting to hear back from anyone, except for maybe my parents who are traveling in Eastern Europe and have yet to answer my emails.

I wasn’t in a bad spot five years ago, but I’m in a better spot now, which got me thinking about that cliché: “Travel is a state of mind.”

Five years ago there was a lot on my mind. On top of all the school and job stuff, I observed my brother in his first relationship. I wondered if I’d meet someone sooner rather than later. Two years fell somewhere right in the middle.

Philadelphia, if I am honest, was still underwhelming. Sure, it’s hard to sell the city in just half a day, especially if the main reason for your visit is a wedding at the Sheraton. But the wedding was fun, as was the afternoon leading up to it. We walked around Old Town, revisiting some of the spots my mom, aunt and I walked by five years ago, and thanks to an old coworker’s suggestion, had some really good ice cream at Capogiro Gelato, once ranked the Number 1 Ice Cream in the World by National Geographic Magazine

At the wedding I met some of Tom’s old college buddies and danced my face off to the most amazing wedding band I’ve ever seen of heard (Tom and I asked several of the guests who all agreed).

I took a lot of photos, just like I did when I first visited. And even though it was the same city, it looked different and I didn’t feel quite the same in it. So. I’m not trying to sell Philadelphia. I’m trying to sell a state of mind.

Nice train station. Bad penmanship.
Just another day at the Corn Exchange.

Please note: I did not ask Tom to be in this photo.
Tom searches for food.
Very old and narrow buildings. We ended up going to Sassafras Bar for lunch.
Built in the mid to late 1800’s.
Fish n’ chips and a Salmon BLT. Just like Ben Franklin used to eat.
The heavily tattooed bartender/waitress had been working there for six years and gave us a brief history of the place. It used to be a longshoreman’s bar, and when they redid the place, took off the wood paneling to find the original tile underneath.
Original tile floors as well.
Original taxidermy too! Just kidding. 
We ended up walking by the Best Western I stayed in five years ago. They completely remodeled the lobby and rooms. Head here to see what it looked like before…
A herd of obese people learning things they will forget once they smell a Philly Cheese Steak.
Splendor in the grass. And apparently a lot of dead people buried at Washington Square.
If we did come back, we would come here.
I don’t know about the other flavors being number 1, but this was the richest dark chocolate gelato I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot.
The fanciest Walgreen’s in all the world, where Tom and I bought a wedding card for the bride and groom.
The atrium style-lobby at the Sheraton Society Hill. Tom was also not asked to be in this photo.
The bride and groom! They seemed a very well-matched couple. At least from where I sat.
The best wedding band ever. If I had engaged friends in Philly I would tell them all to book these guys. They were phenomenal.
The best dinner rolls ever along with an unconventional wedding favor. I didn’t win anything. :(
The beginning of a fun night, as symbolized by my champagne glass, empty before the salad even came out.  

Thom’s Thursday Thoughts

Thom Walking Chloe the Toy Poodle

Thom said I shouldn’t write these every Thursday if there’s nothing to write about. I looked at him and said, “But you’re Thom! You have a lot of thoughts!”

  1. Tom has reached the halfway point of Alexander HamiltonI am impressed by his ability to sit and read for hours at a time. The last time I read like that was when Harry Potter 7 came out.
  2. This past week, Tom and I dog-sat Chloe the Toy Poodle for my friend. We both became very attached to her, Tom especially, who would call Chloe a “he” or “Chlo-sters” or “Dog” or “Puppy” or “Chlo-chlo” but never by her name. But he gave her cheese so she was like, “Arf arf! I’m happy.” (A dog -tentatively named “Lieutenant Columbo” – is definitely in our future, but “not until we get our ranch house,” says Tom).
  3. Two months after moving to Hell’s Kitchen, Tom bought new jeans from A.P.C., his tightest pair yet. Tom hates it when I wear his clothes but these jeans would probably look good on me too. They are, after all, unisex.
  4. Our friend Paul, told Tom about a discount wine website called Last Bottle which Tom immediately signed up for then told me to sign up for and then spent a good afternoon hoarding six bottles of wine, which should last us approximately 1.5 weeks. Not because we are winos but because we have friends over a lot, especially since now we have a fabulous new dining table made by hipsters in Indonesia.
  5. My cousin Larry and his wife Angela moved to New York earlier this week and we had them over for homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs. I made the sauce from this Mark Bittman recipe, recommended to me by a friend. Tom made the meatballs using this recipe from The Joy of Cooking, his favorite cookbook, pointing out that it was the 1975 edition, which he special ordered because it contains the original recipes and tutorials (like How to Skin a Porcupine), which were deleted or edited from later versions.
  6. Lastly, a friend, noting this very successful series, suggested I start a Monday series based on her thoughts, mostly: “Fuck fuck fuck. I hate Mondays.” So does Tom, so I’ll include this thought here. Thankfully, it’s already Thursday, so the weekend is just around the corner.

Hittin’ Up Boutiques in Greenpoint

A few weeks ago Tom and I went to Greenpoint Brooklyn to buy a table. We wanted a long table for our dining area because we like to have friends over for dinner and there’s nothing sadder than a bunch of adults crowded around an “expandable” Ikea dining table that was originally meant for your 300 sq. ft. studio.

We had our sights set on a handmade beauty by Mark Jupiter, which was for some reason listed on a random, lying website as ranging from $1200-$1500, but when we got to Mark’s workshop in Dumbo, were informed by Mark himself, a very handsome, rugged looking fellow, that he had “never made a table less than $6000.” He said this in a friendly yet matter-of-fact tone, and we, staring at his beautiful creations, could only agree and say, “Someday, someday.”

We still wanted something that looked handmade but wouldn’t leave us on the streets living under our table, and a friend told us about From the Source, which features sustainably sourced, handcrafted furniture and which has two showrooms – a small one in Chelsea and a much larger “flagship” in Greenpoint.

I’ve never had any reason to go to Greenpoint. I just knew that it was vaguely far and out of the way, like the Upper East Side. But one balmy sunny day a few weeks ago we made it out there and discovered Greenpoint was, despite certain rundown pockets, quaint, quiet and charming. Before we knew it we had wandered through a half dozen boutiques, stopped for a drink, and then found a place for a lovely early dinner. Here are my reasons to go back (mostly for the cake and more furniture, should we need it).

From the Source has a small showroom in Chelsea but their main showroom is in Greenpoint.
Tom getting some sun in WNYC Transmitter park, where hipster couples went to sunbathe, read and picnic.
The River Styx knows how to live the good life. We didn’t eat here, but would come back to check it out.
Tom “casually” walks past pretty old buildings.
Seeking sweet respite from the heat.
Smiling because of Ovenly’s Pistachio Cardamom Cake with Chocolate Frosting. #cakesmile.
Checkin’ out that booty. 
The hipsters really like to tell you what they’re thinking without talking to you.
A charming home goods boutique called Home of the Brave. The prices encourage you to buy just one thing at a time, but we bought three pillows so will not be back for a while.
Bassho pillows from Japan? We will take three. Including the pineapple one on the top.
Distant selfie.
Lots of clogs at Wolves Within. And throughout Brooklyn.
Mini versions.
Understated ties at Wolves Within, run by the same owners of Home of the Brave.
Stopped for a glass of rosé at Mrs. Kim’s. Really owned by a Korean named Mrs. Kim.
The plants look alright.
The pretty garden at Anella.
Pork chop.
Burger. Though this was just okay.

Recap:
Home GoodsFrom the SourceHome of the Brave
ApparelWolves Within (“thoughtfully curated” clothes for men and women); Pas Mal (Not featured here, but in the neighborhood and worth checking out. I follow the proprietress – a very chic Korean lady – on Instagram).
Food and Drink: Ovenly for good coffee and baked goods; I’m going back for their Salted Chocolate Chip cookie; Mrs. Kim’s for an early afternoon drink or two; Anella for American (New) fare in a pretty garden. According to reviews, brunch is the time to go.

An Update From My Mother

Mom playing golf
My mother called today with some urgency in her voice. I braced myself. She has a tendency to begin good and bad news in the same ominous way: “I have something to tell you,” she said. After an unnecessarily long pause: “I’ve decided to move faster.”

I was relieved. Was that all?

“I was walking, and then I was playing golf, and then I was playing badminton,” she said, “And I realized. I am very slow. Why am I  so slow?”

My mother has always moved very slowly, but a little over two years ago she seemed to have slowed down even more, causing us (mostly my father and I) to crack jokes in which we likened my mother to sloths and glaciers, until a family friend with Parkinson’s noticed distinct similarities – like muscle stiffness that wouldn’t go away and a weakened sense of smell – between my mother and herself. A short while later, the summer before I moved to New York, my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

She’s doing well. Between the exercise and the medications and our family’s support, she’s successfully kept the disease from progressing too much. Her young, NYU-educated doctor – a handsome Indian man with brilliant teeth and long, thoughtful fingers – calls her his star patient. He tells his other patients of the woman who maintains excellent mobility and good mood because of her dedication to various exercises. This might be thoughtless advice at other hospitals – golf, badminton and gym memberships are expensive not to mention time-consuming – but the doctor can be reached at Newport’s Beach’s Hoag Hospital, where Benzes’, Range Rovers and Bentleys sit side by side in parking lots lined with imported palm trees and manicured hedges, waiting to be driven back to multi-million dollar beach front properties.

Unfortunately, my parents don’t have a multi-million dollar beach front property or a Benz, Range Rover or Bentley. But my mother does drive a Lexus – a very nice car, but amongst luxury car aficionados probably nothing to ooh and aah about. It is a long, pearlescent boat of a vehicle, bought some years ago to replace an older model she drove for ten years and which she used as though it were a pickup truck: hauling plants, dirt and fertilizer about as though it was her day job.

On one occasion, I found three lady bugs crawling over a small pile of spilled dirt, riding in the backseat with me. On another, a spider crawled up my arm and I twisted around to find that it had made a motor home of my mother’s car, having spun a delicate web in the corner of the rear window.

My father – his own car always spotless inside and out – would shake his head and mutter something about getting my mother an actual pickup truck, but Lexuses were known to be safe and easy to handle – built like a tank – so that even if my mother exercised poor judgment and continued to underestimate the size of parking spots, scrape curbs and beams (luckily, she is lucky and has yet to hit another car) or if someone else has poorer judgment and rear-ended her, she would at least be safe. When the time came to replace my mother’s car, they went with the same.

When the new Lexus arrived, its bells and whistles were wasted on her. She hardly ever glanced at the rear view camera, preferring to rely on an initial glance-back before she got in the car; had not once retracted the sunroof, never listened to music, used neither the seat warmer nor the bluetooth or any of the other fancy features the Lexus had to offer. She simply drove, either at a heart-pounding speed down our 15-mph hill and other local roads, or at a snail’s pace whenever her tires hit the freeway, where other cars sped by, honking and glaring at the sunglass wearing Asian lady, always grateful she – not they – were perpetuating the stereotype.

Sometimes she drove while on the phone (though now she’s learned to use the headset but this is more a phone feature than a car feature) and if the conversation ran long, would sit in the parked car, in the dark garage, to finish her conversation. On several occasions we expected her back hours before, only to call her and learn, “Oh, I’ve been home for a while. I’m just in the garage talking to your aunt.”

Anyway. I am getting carried away. My mother called to say she made up her mind to move faster.

“So what happened then?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “I got in the car to go to the driving range. I told myself, ‘moving faster starts now!'”

I put my hand to my face and was not surprised by what came next. She began her new life of speed by slamming her foot on the gas to reverse out of the driveway and promptly flew into two out of three large trashcans. Trashcans large and tall enough to be mistaken – if one had very bad eyesight – for two buffalos. Trashcans large and tall enough to be unmissable in both the rearview mirror and the rearview camera, to neither of which she paid any attention.

She spilled garbage and recyclables over the road and shattered her right tail light.

“Of course I didn’t want to,” my mother said, “But I had to go in and tell your father.”

“What did he say?”

My mother laughed, “He didn’t say anything. But I’m sure he thought a lot of things.”

Like how he probably should get you a pickup truck, I thought, Or a bus pass…

“Anyway,” she said, embarrassed but still buoyant, “I thought I’d tell you a silly story about your silly mother. I have to go play badminton now.”

We hung up and I went to the window to watch the traffic on 9th Ave stand just as still as when my mother first called. I imagined her hurtling down the hill in her long white car with the broken tail light and smudges of garbage on its pearly white bumper, golf clubs and badminton racquets rattling in the trunk. Despite the risks, I hoped my mother wouldn’t slow down.

How To Make a Money Tree Work For You

Money Tree
The thriving money tree next to its former home.

Tom and I have now lived together for a little over two months (Saturday, June 13th was the first official day we lived in the new apartment) and contrary to what friends see (or how I paint the picture), we are both quite “domestic” in our own ways. I did not expect Tom to “nest” so enthusiastically but he’s invested considerably more thought and energy into our new home than I, who mostly make the tea and sandwiches.

Tom is quite handy. He’s done most of the furniture assembling and leveling and other small repairs and also wanted, to my surprise, a small forest’s worth of live plants. I would have been happy with an orchid here and a farmer’s market bouquet there, but I recalled the lush warmth of my parent’s house and also the plant-filled living room of our friends’ – another young couple’s – new apartment and agreed: our white-walled, light-filled apartment could use some green.

We now have not one but five potted plants flourishing in our apartment, and more on the way.

The first of these was a money tree, purchased for ten dollars at the bodega across the street. As though to make up in leafy symbolism the funds that were no longer incoming, it began to flourish after I was fired, quickly outgrowing its small plastic pot, leaning precariously in one direction so that it threatened to tip over. Tom insisted it be repotted.

I am the daughter of two green thumbs, but my own hands have managed to remain dirt-free for most of my life, thanks to my more willing father and brother, who when we were growing up, would spend hours in the backyard helping my mother haul bags of dirt to and from her garden while I watched from the cool interior of our kitchen. Larger jobs – like reseeding the lawn or replanting the flowerbeds all around our house – were left to our friendly team of gardeners. My parents would go to Home Depot or the local nursery, return with the annuals they liked, and leave them in the front yard. I would see them on the cement as I left for school and by the time I came home, the flowers would be peering at me from their new dirt beds, happy to have settled down for good.

The extent of my involvement with my mother’s garden was to water the plants when she left for long trips. But even that simple, dirt-less, task I did half-heartedly, if at all. When her plants died – and a few inevitably did – I felt only a smidgen of guilt. They could, after all, be easily replaced by another trip to Home Depot. And they were, after all, not my plants.

So when Tom noticed the money tree outgrowing its pot and said, “That needs to be moved into a bigger pot. We’ll have to buy some dirt,” I gave him a strange look.

We were in New York City. Where does one buy dirt? Wasn’t there some task-rabbit service we could call? Perhaps leave it on the fire escape over night and find it the next morning magically ensconced in a bigger pot by the hands of a fairy gardener who lived on the roof?

“Home Depot,” Tom said, shrugging as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, “We’ll just get a bag of dirt there.”

My strange look remained. We had no car. Did Tom expect us to haul a bag of dirt home on the subway? In the middle of summer? Or pay for dirt and a taxi? That sounded exhausting and seemed to go against the fiscal wisdom the money tree was supposed to represent.

I hoped it was one of those things Tom would forget about, or would do himself while I was out. But as the term of my unemployment grew, so did the braided trunk of the money tree. It seemed cruel to keep its roots cooped up in the small, plastic and rather cheap container, but still, the thought of leaving our air-conditioned apartment to buy dirt made me tired. So I kept quiet.

Until one rainy afternoon, when Tom worked from home. After lunch I thought to water the money tree. I did so in the sink and commented on the amount of dirt that was washing away and worried for the money tree’s health.

“Alright,” I said to Tom, “Let’s re-pot it.”

We had purchased terra cotta planters at Ikea the week before and that afternoon, bought a small bag of dirt for $3.99 (more than dirt should cost, I think) not from Home Depot but a little family-owned hardware store a few blocks uptown. Back in the large sink of our tiny kitchen, we “gardened” like millennials would, first Googling, “how to repot a plant” and repotted the money tree. It was much easier than I had anticipated and I was surprised to find I liked the feeling of soil on my hands.

In less than five minutes the money tree was relocated and the plastic pot put aside. The money tree looked instantly happier and I felt the faintest flush of pride. I could now understand my mother’s satisfaction with having an entire backyard of plants she successfully repotted and grew herself. What a powerful, purposeful feeling! It occurred to me too, how often she must have wanted to strangle me for letting countless of her darlings wither and die.

I am no botanist, but I estimated that within a year, perhaps six months even, the money tree might outgrow even this new, roomier pot and require not one but two small bags of dirt. I eyeballed the top of its still tiny trunk, wondering if it would continue braiding itself skyward and if, at some point, we’d have to loosen the ties the nursery had placed around the top of the braid.

Tom had suggested the repotting and of the two of us, seemed to know about these things. Indeed the money tree seem more relaxed and confident. It stood straight now and indeed to newest leaves seemed to glow greener than the rest. Tom would know.

I asked him to assess the tree, predict its future. Should we cut the ties and let it grow however it wished? Or should we keep it bound?

Tom glanced at the tree, his work was finished. He shrugged again.

“I don’t know, but I’m not going to tell the money tree how to live its life.”

Indeed, indeed. I nodded in the way one ought to in the presence of a wise and eloquent being, then went to water the money tree.

A Toy Poodle Doodle

Chloe the Toy Poodle, a good dog.

It’s odd how quickly one gets used to unemployment: an open schedule unless I do something to structure it, long quiet afternoons alone in the apartment with just the sound of irate honking, road construction and  the occasional shrieking siren outside to accompany my keyboard taps.

Yesterday and today however, I have a companion: a caramel colored toy poodle named Chloe, pictured above. We are dog-sitting for a friend gone back to California for a few days, and we – Tom especially – are very happy to do so. Mostly because Chloe is a very good dog.

She is quiet. She is house-broken (trained, my friend tells me, by a golden retriever back home in California), and she is patient. When I get up, she gets up. She trots behind me wherever I go, sometimes so quietly I don’t hear until I turn around and lo, there she is, right at my heel.

When I sit, she sits too, some three or four feet away unless I am on the couch, in which case she will paw around at my legs, asking, I think, to be picked up and placed on my lap. I do occasionally, but most of the time she figures it out and finds a spot next to me, or in between Tom and I, like last night, while we watched “Columbo.” She is at first upright, and then after a few minutes, lies down completely like a fuzzy Challah loaf, hind legs out like a furry wishbone. I wish I had better metaphors than moldy foods. In any case, if I remain sitting for a while, like now, as I write this, she falls asleep.

Chloe is a good listener too. She looks at me when I talk to her, “What do you want?” And I know now, the meaning of the curious expression she peers back with: “Have you anything for me to eat?”

Chloe likes bananas. She likes cheese. She really likes chicken. Because of these likes, she does not seem to like her kibble very much. (Tom despises the word “kibble,” just as much as I dislike the phrase “dog food.”) So the kibble remains relatively untouched in its little glass bowl, until I put bananas, cheese or chicken underneath the kibble and she looks as though she’s gobbling it all down, but really, she’s just eating the tastier bits and spitting the kibble back out. Smart? Or just a dog?

Later this afternoon another friend will come and take Chloe for the weekend. I am reluctant, but not more so than Tom, who wanted the weekend to spend with Chloe.

“It feels,” my friend laughed, “as though we are divorced parents fighting over custody.”

It does feel like that. But Chloe will return to our apartment on Sunday night and stay with us another two full days before leaving on Tuesday evening, when my friend returns from California. I’ll be sad to see Chloe go. It’s even easier to get used to the company of a very good dog than it is to unemployment.

Thom’s* Thursday Thoughts

Tom's Thursday Thoughts
Series photo updated to show our new Ikea coffee table.

I know I haven’t blogged since Thom’s thoughts from last Thursday, but trust me, this is in no way going to be the bulk of the content moving forward. In any case, *due to popular demand from various readers (including Tom’s mom), this series, updated weekly, is now called “Thom’s Thursday Thoughts.”

  1. My cousin Michelle visited for a fun-and-food-filled week and left yesterday morning, which partly accounts for Tom making little progress in Alexander Hamilton. “I don’t want to have my page numbers scrutinized!” he says. Whatever. As of this writing, he is on page 244.
  2. From his recent Netflix picks, Tom thought the following were “Alright,” which in Tom-speak as close to praise as anything could ever hope to get.
    • Touching the Void,” which I watched with him and also recommend. It’s a harrowing documentary about two ambitious young mountain climbers who successfully reach a 21,000 ft. peak in the Andes, only to have one of them break his leg on the way down. The fact that the guy with the broken leg managed to make it down the crazy mountain and live to tell the tale and recommence his climbing career made me feel pretty crummy about getting winded when I climb stairs
    • Antarctica: A Year on Ice,” which I did not watch with him, so I cannot say, but as I’ve mentioned, Tom thought it was “alright.”
    • Columbo” – a detective/mystery series from the 70’s starring Peter Falk. Didn’t think I’d ever a.) agree with Tom on an entire TV series or b.) like anything from the 70’s – except of course, Ben and Jerry’s, but “Columbo” is fast becoming one of my favorite TV detectives (snuggling up with Sherlock, Mulder and Scully, Monk, Hercule Poirot and House).
  3. Last week, we ate out almost Every. Single. Meal. but the fiore de carciofi at Bar Primi and the saddle lamb chop at St. Anselm in Brooklyn were Tom’s top picks.
  4. Tom fears this series will just become another Internet listicle of things he reads and watches, except it won’t even go viral. “I’m more than just the TV shows I watch, you know.” So I’m including some of his best, most sharable thoughts from the past week, many of them inspired by long discussions with my cousin on dating and attraction:
    1. On a fat and rather unattractive guy my cousin came across on Hinge: “He’ll be single for a long time unless the manatees start dating.”
    2. On my cousin’s ex, who unfollowed him on Instagram: “I hope he gets fat.”
    3. On Asian girls aging: “Oh yeah, Asian girls age well. You guys look great and look great…until one day you just look like Kim Jong Il.”
    4. On my cousin leaving: “It’s too bad old what’s-her-name is gone. I had a good time.” (That’s your shoutout, Meeps).
  5. Tom’s vegemite and cheese bagel count for the week: 7.

A New Series: Tom’s Thursday Thoughts

Tom, thinking on Thursday
Only a few things make him smile like that.

I’m starting this new series to show another side of Tom in contrast to the romantic, sentimental shmuck I usually portray him to be, but I made the mistake of telling him. He then insisted on my renaming the series “Thom’s Thursday Thoughts” because he thought it would be (knee slap) “hilarious”. I was alarmed by how amused he was by this rather elementary tweak to his name and very nearly gave in until our friends wrinkled their noses, “That’s so dumb.” Not sure if they were referring to the entire series or just Tom’s suggested title, but I decided to ignore just Tom. Minus his thoughts, of course. 

This is for anyone who, walking down the street and randomly sees something that reminds them of Tom, wonders, “Hm, I wonder what Tom is reading/eating/watching/doing/thinking?”

All your answers are here, updated weekly.

  1. Tom is a big reader, but he really prefers the genre: adventures on the high seas. He recently finished Endurance by Alfred Lansing, which boasts an astounding 5-stars and 1,518 reviews on Amazon. On Yelp, that usually means a restaurant we can’t afford but this book is only $12.
  2. Now he’s moved on to meatier fare: Ron Chernow’s excellent biography of  Alexander Hamiltonin part because of the debate to remove Hamilton from the ten dollar bill. Coincidentally, Tom, a musical enthusiast, also just purchased tickets for Hamilton in February. If it’s as good as the reviews say it is, I’ll look forward to lording it over the people who gush about Book of Mormon, which I still haven’t seen. On a separate note: if you’re more into biographies about rich men, Ron Chernow’s Titan about John D. Rockefeller is also good, though this is more my thought than Tom’s.
  3. Tom has interesting taste in T.V. As of late, he has been laughing at “The I.T. Crowd” while I sit at the kitchen table and blog. I don’t watch much T.V. (believe it or not I am still working on the X-Files), but this show is pretty funny.
  4. Something else that made Tom laugh: this GQ article about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which is both funny and sad. Tom is unclear whom he will vote for but Trump is unlikely. I will probably still vote for Nader.
  5. Lastly, Tom’s vegemite and cheese bagel count so far this week: 3.

I hope you guys enjoyed that. This is going to be a weekly thing.

Very Highbrow Gets a (Free, Low-Maintenance) Blog Make-Over

Hey guys, the blog is back! And better-looking.

At least I think so.

This laborious effort to move from Blogger to WordPress started back in April, mostly because it seemed all the serious bloggers were like, “We use WordPress! Blogger is for the birds!”

So I jumped on the self-hosted WordPress bandwagon, paid for server space and…got completely mired in the minutiae of blog customization. It took forever to change simple things like photo borders and fonts, mostly because all the forums seemed to be written by people with advanced degrees in Computer Science. If you have an advanced degree in CS and think I am exaggerating, remember: it’s all relative; I majored in English and then More Freakin’ Anglaise (teehee) and was never even once exposed to Excel, never mind HTML.

Tom kindly offered to help, but being very thorough, he was also very slow. There were times when I just wanted him out of the way so I could post something, except on customizable WordPress the photos never looked LIKE I IMAGINED IT IN MY HEAD. I always had to wade through all this rot: endless threads written by kind-hearted engineers advising me to “just go through the Style CSS” and “find this code: a;lskdjfa;lksdja;sldkfj; and replace it with xa;lkjsdlfkja;elkflkjx;lkgj .” What the hell is all that?

It really got in the way of my productivity and made me feel like I was trying to turn the Book of Kells into a comic strip, when really all I wanted to do was turn a comic strip into a comic strip.

And then Tom and I found an apartment, moved, and started new jobs all in the span of one month. The blog revamp was set aside and I continued writing on Blogger, all the while paying for server space I wasn’t using. When I could, I spent hours I could have used to write trying to decipher and understand all this code. 

There are only so many hours in a day.

Tom called me a quitter for not wanting to work through my self-hosted WordPress issues, but I’m at an age where I must play to my strengths. This became even more apparent when I got fired. Suddenly, I had plenty of time to work on my blog but instead of writing, I sunk deeper into cyberspace muck: in blog limbo between the aging but easy-to-use Blogger and the youthful, full-of-promise, but for me, cumbersome self-hosted WordPress.

“There has to be an easier way.” I thought.

So I did what I do well. I cancelled everything and started over. Mainly, I nixed my self-hosted WordPress and started anew on WordPress-hosted WordPress. If that sounds confusing, it was. I’m still not sure what happened but Tom told me everything was going to be okay. Then I redirected my vanity domain and closed down veryhighbrow.blogspot.com. 5 years, I blogged there. Thanks Blogger. (Moment of silence).

So now I’m here: on WordPress for the masses, using a free, easy-to-read theme (aptly called “Libre”) and ready to start posting more regularly. It’s also easier for people to comment directly on the blog. Best of all, I no longer have to worry about photos having a border or about any other choices that Self-Hosted WordPress forces you to make. Sometimes freedom means not having to make a gazillion small decisions that take (me) hours to execute.

If for some reason this blog becomes the blog to end all blogs and I end up needing more storage space and/or a more elaborate redesign…. well, I’ll figure it out when I get there. But for now, I’m getting back to what I’m good at. I hope you like what you see.

The Sunday Seven: On Moving In Together

One evening before we moved in together, Tom came back from a dinner with some married friends and said, “Yeah, so apparently we’re going to fight a lot.” 

I am pretty sure I had just picked his pants up from the floor, turned off half the lights Tom likes to keep on, even if the sun is blasting through our four living room windows, and finished doing the dishes that had been lounging in the sink all day. Most of them Tom’s. 
 
“Oh really,” I said, “What makes you say that.” 
 
I’m also sure in the midst of this conversation he threw another pair of pants on the floor, turned on the lights I’d just turned off, and put another objectionable pile of whatever onto his already cluttered dresser top. 
 
“It’s natural. We’re gonna fight, we just have to figure some things out as we go.” 


We are now nearing three weeks of cohabitation, though it’s really two since Tom was away in London for the past week – and we have already had several arguments. Most of them small, about the aforementioned annoyances and some of them quite large, most of them involving the despair I felt/feel (it comes in waves) about my new job and how it impacts the way I feel about life in general. It’s really too bad for Tom because now he’s the only person I come home to complain to. Before it was just my stuffed animals. 

But now, heading into week four, I feel a bit more stable. The stress from moving and starting a new job have dissipated somewhat, and key pieces of furniture have been ordered. Soon, our books will be sitting together on long, low shelf from Crate and Barrel.

I spent the week trying to imagine what it would be like to be single in the city again, except that was very hard because Tom was always on my mind and we talked and texted regularly. The only benefit was that I could sprawl out any which way across the bed. But mostly, I preferred his presence to the empty space. Though when he’s here I wish that he’d move over. Like working/not working…or with anything in life really, there are always patches of greener grass on the other end. But then you look down at the meadow you’re standing in and think, “Yeah, it’s pretty good here too.”

1. From the Atlantic, the difference between sliding and deciding into a relationship milestone (like moving in together). 

2. But How Long Should You Wait Before Moving In Together? A Handy Infographic to see if you did it right. (Also, the first comment is hilarious). 
 
3. And if you’ve been together for a while, 10 Ways To Know You’re Ready, from the super reliable relationship scientists at EHarmony. They ought to know. 
 
4. For those with parents who think unmarried cohabitants really are living in sin, Some Great News For Living Together Before Marriage.
 
5. And also, you can always point to your friends and say, “Well, so and so X 1000 is doing it too, because apparently Unmarried Couples Living Together is the New Norm. 
 

6. So now you’re moved in – here’s how to Avoid Killing Your Relationship After Moving In. The Tunnel Vision thing is especially interesting. 

7. For some people though, living apart is the best thing for their relationships. Proof that you don’t have to live together to stay committed. 

And just for laughs: A Creepy Meme

Happy Cohabitating!