Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On My Love For Cowboys

For a geeky New Yorker with a tech job who loves Hillary Clinton and vodka gimlets and video games I know a lot about cowboys. I know some of you are now giggling to yourself and thinking “Silly Brianna, cowboys aren’t real!” (Hi Amy!) but I grew up in cowboy country and have a number of good stories about rocky mountain oysters, horse shoeing contests and artificially inseminating cows to prove their existence. I like to bring up cowboy factoids on first dates and at parties – it keeps people entertained and it makes me seem unique but for all of my comic bravado I mostly feel sentimental about the cowboys I have known (that's cowboy, musician and friend of the family Fiddlin Pete on the left). Trying to explain love is probably almost always a futile effort but as a good little slave to the left side of my brain I’ve long been searching for the source of my love for cowboys. I cannot honestly site any of the idealistic cowboy myths that permeate urban culture. In my experience cowboys are rarely strong and silent. They do not typically bust out deep thoughts like the guys in the movies. Most of them don’t even have cute butts.

Of course cowboy stereotypes aren’t all favorable. Earlier this year I attended Pro Bull Riding at Madison Square Garden where the opening ceremony made a very compelling argument for cowboys being ignorant, culturally unaware and easily fooled into voting for anyone willing to don a pair of boots. The arena at the garden was covered in dirt and a huge “USA” had been carved into the floor, a guy wearing a cowboy hat fashioned out of the box for a Coors Light 24 pack was sitting 20 feet to my left and inexplicably an army tank was parked on the right edge of the stadium. New York City was ready for some bull riding. As the event began (following an awful preshow involving people dressed up as janitors and lip singing songs from 1967) the lights were dimmed and a huge screen was lowered down from the ceiling. What followed was a series of shots of each bull rider before a backdrop of his home state. Each chaps-clad stereotype recited a couplet from a poem about loving America and horses and chewing tobacco. Interspersed between the poetry styling’s of the manliest men in New York City were shots of air force jets and soldiers in Iraq. As the camera pulled out as the last of the bull riders delivered his final line (a guy from Brazil who I’m sure loves freedom slightly less than all the American boys) the USA on the floor BURST INTO FLAMES! This was followed by a brief fireworks show and then the night’s honorary guest was introduced. If anyone out there has any doubts about how badly Rudy Guliani wants to be president let me lay them to rest. A New Yorker does not put on boots, a fringed suede jacket and a bolo tie unless he is serious about getting him some southern votes. And the cowboys are more than ready to vote for Rudy – he saved America after 9/11, he’s a “true American hero.” (like GI Joe only sleazier and less homoerotic).

Despite the ridiculousness of Bull Riding does NYC I still felt a bit mushy while watching those guys get tossed around. Cowboys almost always tug at my heart strings and I have never been able to fully explain why. I usually just blame it all on nostalgia. Fiddles and songs about the rodeo make me happy because they remind me of home. I’m sure this is at least partially true… except… I didn’t listen to a lot of country music when I actually lived in the country (In fact it took a class at a liberal east coast college to teach me to love Loretta). I also didn’t willingly go to very many rodeos and I mostly gave up horseback riding around age 12. As an adolescent I used to pride myself on not being country.

Every August friends of my parents host an annual weekend party at their remote (no phone, no light, no motor cars without four wheel drive) cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s typically 3 days of horseback riding, potlucks, hiking and drinking with good old boys. For years I was all but outcast by the other kids my age (junior rodeo stars all) because I insisted on spending my afternoons with my nose literally in a book but figuratively in the air. I was way too good for cowboys. If it weren’t for my parent’s good standing I’m sure I’d have been told to go back to the mall. Most of the families at this party have deep roots in the Owens Valley ranching community; their grandparents drove cattle in the Sierras and they all seem to be living an extension of their ancestor’s lives. Not so the Klemms. Dad was born in Germany, mom in Wisconsin. My grandparents on both sides all but hated horses. No matter, somehow my parents and younger brother manage to fit right in, but I have never been able to walk the line between book smart and horse smarts. I am having a hard time articulating the divide between myself and the rest of the party guests without sounding like a huge snob but I could not join in on late night drinking games or afternoons of four wheeling because I couldn’t speak the language. Conversely I assume that everyone else could only roll their eyes as I sat on the porch for hours reading “The Beauty Myth.” or in the cab of my dad’s truck listening to Liz Phair on repeat. And yet…I have rarely felt as at home as I do at that party. There is an acute sense of belonging that somehow seems to transcend the fact that I am so obviously out of place.

Despite my embodying almost everything they hate there are a lot of real cowboys out there who I know would never hesitate to let me sleep on their floor, ride their horses, eat from their menudo pot or pat their ass (though some of the women might look at me askance). Unconditional love is always pretty awesome but it is even more astonishing when it comes freely from people so different from me. My heroes are writers, musicians and scientists but my family will always be cowboys.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Little News Items

Received an email from a friend today about how he often waits for big news before sending email and since big news rarely happens he never sends email. I do this too -- and I do this on my blog, figuring I should save valuable blog space for important topics like bra shopping and The Real World I often forget to make mention of my every day activities. Since it's been a slow week on the jcrew sale (hi, no one is pay $40 for v-neck cable sweaters, we all know my price point is $29 and you have overstock, stop being so stubborn.) and in the world of awful tv (though Amy and I did watch Wife Swap for the first time ever and some loon was making everyone eat 4 month old RAW chicken) I figured I'd update all on some little news.

1. I am going to New Orleans in a week for the first time ever (please pass on must do suggestions!)
2. I made some awesome olive rosemary bread for the superbowl (recipe from Cooks Illustrated)
3. I have friends who seem to think i'm the kind of person who should be invited to a football themed party
4. I will be spending Oscar night in Kentucky for work. I should really be getting paid more.
5. In march I am taking a professional cooking class at the international culinary education center -- am super excited and expect to gain around 10lbs.
6. Just finished "House of Leaves" was unimpressed (it never gets over being pretentious)-- have just started "The End of Faith" and so far I'm enjoying it even if it is a little dense for the morning subway ride.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Random Wants 2

While browsing at Barnes and Nobel yesterday I ran across this book and immediately fell in love with author Garth Sundem (aka the smartest man on earth). This book contains equations for determining all of the following and more:
  • Do I have a snowballs chance in hell?
  • Should I become intimate with a coworker?
  • Should I call in sick to work?
Those of you lucky enough to hear me whine about my personal problems know that finding a mathematical equation to provide answers is my ultimate dream. Out of a desire not to appear to my shopping companion like the biggest dork ever (though he probably suspected this when I started heavily pushing the book on cod) I did not purchase this book yesterday but I have added it to my Amazon wishlist (hint hint ;)).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Best Email Ever

Yesterday I sent my dad this email:

So I read this blog called "cool hunting" they tell you about cool new products and events and today they featured solatubes! see here: http://www.coolhunting.com/archives/2007/02/solatube.php thought you'd be amused.

My dad installs a lot of solatubes and they are indeed cool -- I figured he'd be happy that the world finally noticed. Instead he was just disappointed in his daughter:

saw the forward from "cool hunting". I was initially exciting, then dissappointed, thinking you'd finally come around and are checking out hunting sites on the web. Oh well!

Cool is obviously relative.

unrelated: happy 100th post to me!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Recipes I Inviented 1: Pinto Bean Soup

When I lived in the bay area my friend Sky and I fell in love with a Mexican food joint on Berkeley's 4th Ave. I can't remember the name of the place but it's in the back of the parking lot that sits between Peet's Coffee and Sur La Table. Sky and I spent many happy Sunday afternoon lazing on their patio at a time in my life when happy afternoons were a bit too uncommon. Our favorite dish was a big bowl of pinto bean soup covered with a mound of fresh avocado and tomato. After moving to New York I found myself missing Sky and Mexican food and California and I decided to try to recreate this soup. After a fair amount of trial and error I think I've managed a reasonable facsimile (perhaps one of my Bay Area readers can whip up my version and then head over to 4th Ave for a side my side comparison?).

Pinto Bean Soup

1tbls olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 bell pepper, roughly diced
1 tsp oregano
1 tbls cumin
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 caps pinto beans, rinsed
1 can hominy
1 cup corn (I usually use frozen)
2 limes, juiced
chopped avocado
chopped tomato

Place the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add onion, garlic, jalapeño, bell pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper; saute for 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, hominy, corn and lime juice and simmer for 10 minutes. Using and immersion blender puree a small amount of the soup (I do this in the pot) so that the soup base becomes think and creamy. Serve with chopped avocado and tomato.

I usually eat this soup plain but it's also wonderful with a couple of warm corn tortilla or (trust me) scrambled eggs. I don't think the original soup had hominy in it but I'm fascinated with hominy and always looking for ways to eat it that do not include picking around the tripe in menudo. I suspect that the soup could benefit from a little chopped cilantro if your taste buds allow you to consume cilantro without triggering the feeling that you are eating a cleaning product.

I'm hoping to make Recipes I Invented a semi regular series on this blog -- if you happen to make any of these recipes please comment and let me know how it turned out!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

More Stat Counter Self Obsession

Someone in Hatfield England recently found my blog by searching for "rush aroma vagina sucker." While this blog is (according to the all mighty Google) the 32nd best page for this search I still cannot fathom what this person was looking for.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Oprah Finally Getting in on the Sweet Cult Leader Action

Today Oprah tried to sell all the housewives of America (and those of us with dvr) on a little piece of crap self help movie called "The Secret." I tried to research the secret via the secret web page but it was overburdened with 45 year old housewives wishing for a magical way to lose 5lbs so i turned to my friend wikipedia.

Here's the gist:
  • If you want something badly enough you will get it
    • You'll only get things that help the universe as a whole
  • If you want something and you're not getting it it's because you subconsciously don't really want it.
  • If bad things happen to you it's because you subconsciously wanted them to happen. (So stop your whining cancer victims!)
Here's a little example:

In one example in the film, "a kid who wants a red BMX bicycle cuts out a picture in a catalog, concentrates real hard, and is rewarded with the spiffy two-wheeler."[2]

Since you only get things that help the universe I have to assume that the boy was a paperboy and his first bike was stolen and people missed their papers and because they had not read the news they did not know about the genocide in Sudan but once he got the new bike they read about it and then they totally fixed it. Thank you The Secret!

More evidence of the powers of collage were shown on Oprah -- one of her guests claimed to have made a collage of herself on Oprah and HERE SHE IS!!! And now, because of her, I've written this sweet blog post and the universe is a happier place.

Keeping it Real

Am suffering from a lack of blog inspiration but thought everyone would enjoy this conversation that took place between me and the lead QA engineer on one of my projects.

[15:10] Alison: ok, that bug is fixed
[15:10] Alison: onward ho!
[15:10] Alison: i wasn't calling you a ho
[15:10] Brianna: good, i prefer whore
[15:10] Brianna: i'm old school

Monday, February 05, 2007

On the Inadequacy of New York City Grocery Stores*

More often than I care to admit I find myself missing California. Most of the time I remind myself about how much I love the subway and the snow and the silly entertainment offerings that New York City provides and I buck up a bit and decide to tough it out in the big apple for a bit longer. This new optimism lasts until the moment I set foot in a NYC grocery store. Entering a grocery store in NYC is like foraging for grubs in winter in pre-civilization Russia. If you’ve ever thought New Yorkers a bit gruff you need only visit one our local grocery stores to find out why.

In other places in the United States supermarkets are a sign of American capitalist dominance. I once had a visitor from Japan who took at least 2 rolls of film in a California grocery store because everything was so impressively bountiful. Apples staked over your head? Aisle one. 3lbs box of Lucky Charms? Those are on special in the front of the store. 75 varieties of dried prunes? Right this way mama. While such opulence occasionally left me a bit embarrassed at our country’s consumerism I mostly loved supermarkets. I loved the huge aisles fit for monstrous carts. I loved the oak barrels filled with bulk dry goods. I loved the beautiful organization of row upon row of abundance. I often found myself browsing in my local Safeway, amused for hours at their offerings. In California grocery stores not only sell everything from lychees to truffle oil they also usually have an in house Starbucks, pharmacy and bank. The grocery store trauma I suffered upon moving to the big apple almost killed me.

Here in the NYC procuring food is challenging. I’m sure much of this has to do with the general lack of space for grocery stores in NYC (though Whole Foods seems to have very little trouble finding big buildings to sell their wares in, in neighborhoods much fancier than my own (albeit at much inflated prices)). In most cases New York’s cramped quarters seems to lead to ingenious efforts to efficiently utilize space. Not so at Key Food where in addition to cramped aisles they also lack organization or any attempt at smart stocking. Space seems wasted due to pathetic shelving techniques and a general lack of product knowledge (why would you keep yeast in the refrigerator section? Why would you stock organic cereals both in the organic section and the regular section? Why would you keep organic milk in a separate section than regular milk (and why does nonorganic Greek yogurt live in the same section but regular old Dannon is in another refrigerator all together?) Why are tortillas kept in the dairy section?).

I also can’t get enough of the general dinginess that seems to plague grocery stores in these parts. If there is one establishment that NEEDS to scream “I was just taking a bath in a vat of bleach and I’m so clean that my butt cheeks squeak when I walk.” It’s the grocery store (You know, assume grocery stores could talk and walk and had butts… actually I’m pretty sure Key Food has a butt, that’s where they keep the soda.).

Stocking of goods seems rather haphazard at my local Key Food (and lest you think these problems are Key Food specific I assure you that things seem no better at the Trade Fair down the road nor at the C Town that I used to frequent in Park Slope). Certain basic items can usually be counted on – they seem able to keep on top of ordering bread and eggs and milk – but if you’re looking for anything even a bit out of the ordinary good luck. Additionally, grocery stores in New York do not reliably stock toiletries or many cleaning products so if you need a new toothbrush or a bar of soap or some Windex you’re probably stopping at the drug store on the way home (while carrying 50 lbs of groceries).

Things I have (at least on occasion) been unable to find at the grocery store:

  1. Rapid rise yeast
  2. Arborio Rice
  3. Leeks
  4. Toothpaste
  5. Laundry detergent
  6. Hormone free (not organic) milk (aka hormone free milk that costs less than $4.50/half gallon)
  7. Booze

Let’s talk a bit about #7. This is not an occasional problem, it's the law -- grocery stores in New York state are not allowed to sell liquor. Someone please explain how making me go next door to purchase vodka is advancing God’s mission or keeping America safe or doing anything other than annoying me. If anywhere should provide easy access to alcohol it’s NYC – hardly anyone drives, we should install whiskey fountains on the street corners. I can buy beer at the grocery store so it’s not like New York state law is really protecting me from the devil juice. Furthermore what drunk is too lazy to go to another store? Inconvenience can’t keep people away from booze. Addicts will drink bottles of cough syrup if they have to; an extra stop just pisses people off and provides an easy go to target for late night mischief. Oh and don’t forget to buy your mixers at the grocery store – they apparently can’t sell them over at the liquor store. I like to think myself fairly restrained when it comes to alcohol consumption but my heart swoons every time I return to the booze aisle of a California grocery store.

To further inconvenience shoppers grocery stores (AND liquor stores!) in NYC close! You can ride public transportation from midnight until the sun shines but good luck buying peanut butter after 11:00pm. Not since living in Perth Australia (where grocery stores were closed from Friday at 5:00pm until MONDAY MORNING) have I been unable to purchase food at all hours. How is it possible that in the Mule Capitol of the World Safeway stays open 24 hours a day for all of my shopping needs but in America’s biggest city I can’t buy cake mix at 2am? (Yes, this is an actual need. Who doesn’t want cupcakes after a night of drinking?).

I know what you’re all thinking. “Brianna, just use Fresh Direct and shut up already.” There are a few problems with this plan:

  • I will never be organized enough to remember everything I need when creating a Fresh Direct order
  • I live alone; I rarely need enough groceries to justify Fresh Direct
  • Fresh Direct does not allow me to decide willy nilly on a Sunday afternoon that I want to make bread from scratch (or that I want some damn cupcakes at 2am).
  • Fresh Direct also does not sell rapid rise yeast.
  • I like complaining

* This post was originally titled “On the Inadequacy of New York City Supermarkets” because Supermarket is my go to word for grocery store but I have decided that I cannot in good faith continue to refer to the dingy crowded unreliable markets in this city with any term containing the word super.

Third Party Resources

Finding food in New York is harder than it seems, so if you know a starving New Yorker, why not send over breakfast gift baskets? You can get a gift basket filled with very non-New York treats, like California wine gift baskets or some much-coveted cake batter.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

How to Find my Blog Part 2

As we learned in Part 1 most of the people who stumble upon this blog are soon disappointed. Instead of showing you pictures of my breasts or Sandra Lee's panties I spend my blog inches blathering on about reality tv and personal politics.

Last night Mike reported that this was the number one hit on his blog (one assumes this post is to blame)

I am now dissapointing people on other blogs!

As for my own keyword searchs I'm happy to report that google deliveries the following people to my doorstep

dial soap causes breasts in boys Hit #2! And it doesn't even reference the post on soy turning boys gay.

Update: Last night Amy and I were wondering if this was a problem we didn't know about -- after much googling we concluded that there was no active paranoia on ye olde internet about dial soap causing boy boobage. Then this morning i'm watching last night's Saturday Night Live (on DVR) and on Weekend Update Seth Meyer tells me this:

A new study suggests that lavendar and tea tree olis found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions can in rare cases temporarily leave boys with enlarged breasts.
I don't think dial packs a heavy dose of essential oils but it sounds like there is now one more easy way to make fun of the hippy kid.

how to raise heterosexual boys #6, there's the gay soy post.

brianna's POOP #1!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone wants a piece of me.

klesla girlfriend #9 (CALL ME)