Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How To Get Out Of Jury Duty

The title of this post is a flagrant attempt to draw Google hits, I’m fairly confident that “How to get out of jury duty” will prove even more popular than “naked girls next door” but I may be seriously underestimating the number of 13 year old boys on the internet. After Thursday’s painful trudge through the halls of justice I returned on Friday to continue my attempts to prove that I was not at all suited for the role of decider on matters other than, “Do V-neck make my boobs look hot?” (yes, always) “Does this recipe have too much butter?” (Not even possible!) and “Do programmers *really* need sleep?” (Sadly, yes.).

Unsurprisingly, much of the questioning on day two focused on my annoying beliefs that independently gathering information to assist in making an informed decision was generally a good idea and that the internet houses a few valuable and accurate pieces of information hidden amongst the gigabytes of lies. The lawyers were insistent that all important information would be given to me at the trial and that any googling I did would result in hit after hit of inaccurate information (“Not everything you read on the internet is true.” “Nor is everything you hear in a court room.”). We debated the evils of the internet (with me citing this and this) and my abilities to distinguish fact from opinion for a good 20 minutes before the lawyers left the room to discuss ways to kill me that would be easy to cover up. I felt pretty confident about my impending dismissal and even the remaining potential jurors commented in a congratulatory tone that I was definitely going home. I have to assume that the lawyers were out of peremptory challenges and were not creative enough to come up with a way to dismiss me with cause because they returned to inform me that I would be serving as an alternate juror. After eliciting a promise from me that if the judge instructed me not to look up information on the internet I would refrain from googling rather than be held in contempt (*gulp*) the defense lawyer jokingly asked how I would feel if people went out and googled me. I replied that I wouldn’t care since I knew exactly what the search results would be and that I could make things easier for him by giving him my blog url. I admit that this generous offer was made with personal gain in mind, I was hoping that both lawyers would read the blog and come to regret their decision to put me on the jury. If I was going to spend the next week tethered to the court house I didn’t want to be the only one wishing I was somewhere else.

Monday morning I reported back to the refrigerator of the Queens County jury waiting room and whittled away two hours of work (thank the god of irony for free wifi) while awaiting my turn in the jury box. Finally the bailiff arrived and lined myself and the other 7 unlucky jurors up to take us to the court house. It’s amazing how much jury duty resembles an elementary classroom trip to an assembly. After being led down a winding path through the court house library and up a back staircase that had clearly once been reserved for slaves, maids and hunchbacks we petulant eight were left to stew in a 10x10 room on the 6th floor. Only a few minutes passed before the bailiff returned and summoned me to the court room. I steeled myself for what I assumed would be my promised lecture on the evils of Google.

The judge’s uniform combined with the courtroom setting proved extremely effective at keeping my big mouth shut – two smarmy lawyers in a room full of plastic chairs I can handle, but stand me in the old carved oak jury box in front of a robed and scowling black lady judge and I all but melt into a puddle of apologies. I was ready to turn yellow and swear off the internet at a single word but it turned out that I wouldn’t have to.

Big Scary Judge: Have you corrupted any of the other jury members with your views on jury duty?

Little Insignificant Brianna: No, I’ve been doing work all morning; I haven’t spoken with any of them.

BSJ: Ok, we’re going to dismiss you as a result of your views.

LIB: Thank you!

I cannot say definitively that this blog saved me from jury duty but I think it’s a pretty safe assumption. I don’t know exactly which of my views the Queens country court system found objectionable enough to give me the heave ho though there seemed to be some implication that the main problem was my general desire not to serve on a jury which ignores all of the evidence pointing to “getting out of jury duty” as American’s new favorite pastime. Personally, I suspect the main problem was my referring to the prosecutor as hip heavy.

In all seriousness (just kidding, I promise to continue my trivial ranting) I think it’s clear that when it comes to the internet the US justice system, much like newspapers and record companies, is caught somewhere between denial and full freak out so for the time being if you want off of a jury (or if you just like to mess with lawyers) blog about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Justice Brianna Style

Today I was supposed to go to Splish Splash with Amy and spend the day eating ice cream and getting sunburned, but instead I had jury duty. My first 3 hours of civic duty involved:

  • 83 minutes of pedantic instruction on the difficulties of tearing along a perforated line and just how unlikely it was that I was ever going home (I believe the phrase, “Save it, I don’t care.” was used).
  • 60 minutes of musing over exactly how many of my tax dollars are being wasted keeping the Queens Civil Courthouse a frosty 42 degrees in July (~$89/year).
  • 17 minutes of admiring a guy outside tooling around on a solid gold bicycle with a red velvet seat, deciding he must be on trial for being the biggest pimp ever, hypothesizing that the cops were likely just jealous and considering becoming one of his hos.
  • 30 minutes viewing a repeat of a pro jury duty film starring Ed Bradly and Diane Sawyer which I first saw in a California court house 4 years ago and which I believe is called, “Stop Your Whining Bitches.”

I probably should hold back a bit on the whining since Queens County had seen fit to provide me with free wireless internet access so I was able to use my laptop as a personal heating device while sending out emails begging for pity from friends and coworkers. In the following hour, while making laps around the large waiting room in an effort to keep the icicles at bay, I contemplated ways to ensure that I would not be making the one hour, three train trip back to Jamaica Queens.

I come from a long line of civic duty shirkers and hope one day to live up to my mother’s high standards. The one time mom made it into the questioning room it was in regards to a case involving a neighborly dispute over pets. When asked how she felt about pets mom said, “Well I’m a responsible pet owner myself but I have a neighbor whose dog repeatedly got into our horse pasture -- luckily the problem went away after I paid a visit to the neighbor and told him that the next time I saw his dog on my property I would shoot it in the head.” Unfortunately I’m nowhere near as good a bluffer as mommy. While filling out my jury questionnaire I noticed that they ask you to let the bailiff know if you’re a felon which got me thinking. What is the most minor felony that I could commit that would allow me to get out of jury duty for the rest of my life? Is there some service that could find an unobjectionable crime that I could take part in which would only result in a fine and no jail time? I would happily go down to Texas and buy a vibrator if that would get the job done. Apparently the punishment for just not showing when summoned to jury duty is $1000 or 30 days in jail so if I can find a felony with less of a punishment it would seem like a smart investment to just get with breaking the law. I walked across the room and took a cutting from one of the decorative plants in hopes that stealing government property was felonious enough for now.

Finally my name was called and my 19 new BFFs and I were lead (“single file, no pushing, there’s enough civil justice to go ‘round”) into a jury questioning room where the strangely hip heavy prosecutor explained that his client was suing over a car accident that took place years ago. At the time of the car crash he didn’t appear to have any injuries but he has since realized that he is scarred for life and would feel much better if he had a big fat check. It was at this point that I had what I really hoped was a brilliant idea and not an idea likely to get me held in contempt. As soon the questioning began I made with the very obvious note taking which I was hoping would have three parallel effects:

  • Provide much fodder for late night blogging (see: NOW)
  • Make me seem annoyingly interested and inquisitive
  • Possibly result in being removed from the jury for being a VERY FAMOUS BLOGGER

It turns out that my tactics for getting dismissed from a jury are much more complex than those of the other 19 potential jurors I entered the room with. Every person that I witnessed being questioned had obviously gone with the “act too stupid to be on a jury” plan which resulted in questioning that went something like this:

Lawyer: Do you think people always tell the truth?

Potential Juror: <5 minute pause> ummmmm I don’t know...

Lawyer: Can you imagine a situation where someone might not tell the truth for any reason?

Potential Juror: uhh maybe… I don’t really understand the question...

The lawyers seemed so used to this that I almost felt bad for them until one said, “I don’t know what computer science is!” Shortly after this winning phrase was uttered he asked the juror if he, a Comp Sci student (aka some sort of techno whiz), would be tempted to go home at night and google words or phrases that he heard in the trial. I immediately thought, “Of course! How could he not? Is this illegal!??!” The prosecutor seemed intent on convincing us that when on a jury you’re pretty much not allowed to use the internet – if this is the case I am so going to jail if I end up on a jury. Yesterday I may have claimed not to be at all addicted to the internet but now that I have faced the possibility of being prohibited from accessing this sweet cake of knowledge frosted in naked women and sprinkled with the corn nuts of celebrity gossip I have no doubt that even one day on a jury could lead to serious withdrawal. I talked to a lawyer friend about this issue (see that lawyer guys? I have LAWYER FRIENDS – I’ve been corrupted with her knowledge I totally should not be allowed on a jury.) and she didn’t think it was really illegal but the judge could ask me not to do it which would obviously force me to agree to something that I am incapable of doing and could result in him tossing me in jail if I don’t learn to lie about my love affair with the magic tubes.

I was eventually called up to be questioned for the position of “alternate number 1” where I made sure to put on record all of the following

  • “I’m an Atheist so I don’t believe in God”
  • “I’m actually very interested in tort reform, especially in regards to limiting excessive payouts.”
  • “My mom testifies in A LOT of medical cases, testifying is practically her favorite hobby after shooting dogs”

Unfortunately mid discussion of my love for Google and it’s sweet sweet knowledge a police officer knocked on the door and forbade us to continue as all government work must stop at 4:15pm. Which means that tomorrow I’ll be back for more frostbite and fun times– If I never update this blog again you’ll know I’m either out defending justice or rotting in jail.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A New Kind of Family

A month or so ago New York City was wallpapered in ads for The new ABC Family show, Greek and my readers were almost subjected to an uninformed rant about just how unrealistic I imagined the family channel's take on fraternity life must be. At the urging of a coworker I've since begun watching season one of another ABC Family show, Kyle XY, and now suspect that by extension Greek can only be one big heroin induced orgy.

The first few episodes of Kyle XY teased at a plot line involving the 17 year old daughter, Lori, giving up her virginity to a boy who is not even really her boyfriend. Obviously, I suspected that this was a ruse since there was no way that the former Christian Broadcasting Network was going to sanction a no strings teen sexcapade; but I was WRONG!!!! Lori totally gives it up to Declan in the woods (and uses a CONDOM -- which might be an even greater affront to the Christian right.) while her 15 year old brother gets in on some naked hottub action with a girl he just met. This little jaunt into corrupting the youth of America took place (in my year behind netflix supplied world of Kyle XY) 4 episodes ago and, miraculously, Lori is still alive and not pregnant -- I don't know what Disney (owner of ABC) is trying to teach our kids but I expect to see Mickey Mouse promotional lube on store shelves any day now. Since recovering from the shock of unpunished teenage sex I've noticed that this is not the only way that the Kyle XY writers are trying to mock our freedom -- they also endorse the two Ps: Pot and Porn. Try not to burn your eyes on the following completely true examples of how Disney is further promoting the Devil's agenda:
  • When Lori bemoans losing the attention of her sausage supplier to video games her mother comments that Lori is lucky not to be a teen in the 70s when boys would constantly ditch you to smoke the weed.
  • 15 year old Josh is realistically portrayed as fantasy BFFs with one of the centerfolds in his very dirty magazine collection (which is much more Penthouse than Playboy if you know what I mean) -- the parents know about and condone the collection even going so far as to giggle when the porn spills out of Josh's hiding place in front of the family and a collection of neighbor kids.
As a sex loving liberal freedom hater I applaud ABC Family and their attempts to expedite station founder Pat Robertson's eventual heart attack. I don't know how he's still hanging on -- maybe they should break out the golden showers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dear Pandora

We've been friends for a long time now and even though I am still a little hurt that you chose not to respond to my past advances I've moved on and I'm really happy now. I had hoped that we could still hang out without there being any weird animosity or sexual tension but lately I'm a little worried that you are incapable of putting our past aside and working with me to develop a healthy friendship. A few times over the past few months you've choosen to act out in ways that can only be described as cruel.

I feel a little bit like I'm the butt of the internet radio version of that hilarious joke where the cute boy asks out the slightly awkward girl but when she agrees he laughs and informs her that no one wants to go out with her because she is really smart and totally funny and will absolutely be a heart breaker once she escapes the hell of 7th grade (Not his actual words. Not that I would know...). I'll be sitting at my desk, rocking out to some new band, bookmarking songs, thinking that you have been awfully nice to me today (maybe you've changed your mind about me? I have a nice bottle of red and the New White Stripes CD at home, wanna come over?) and then, when I'm feeling my best and thinking that my hair looks really good today and all the boys love me, you play a little Hootie and the Blowfish. I may not be fluent in the communication methods of music recommendation software but even the illiterate know that Hootie is an insult. I am a very upscale music listener most people haven't even heard of half of the bands that I love, I think we both know how cool that makes me. I didn't even own a Hootie CD back when they were the musical equivalent of Funyuns (hugely popular, apt to give you bad breath, devoid of nutritional content) so your behavior is particularly hurtful. But you know what? Forget about me for a moment, I'm a big girl, I can take the taunting -- How do you think this makes Blue Rodeo feel? It's their radio station that you insist on playing this crap on and it's not fair, Blue Rodeo is just a ragtag group of Canadian rockers, they don't deserve to be dragged into your little game; we both know that this is about us.

A few days ago you played a Firehouse song for me on my Lyle Lovett station. Firehouse has changed a bit in the past 17 years and is making a valiant effort to grow with their fans from "main stream rocking hair band" to "sensitive adult contemporary guys who are just edgy enough to have long hair." Regardless of which of these categories you are filing the band under they should never be played next to Lyle. Pandora, I have to question how well you know me, and frankly, if you care about my feelings at all. I thought we were close but no true friend of mine would mess with my country music boyfriend. I owned a Firehouse cassette tape back in 1989 when "Don't Treat Me Bad" was on heavy rotation over at KIIS FM so I am familiar with their particular brand of auditory assault and I am appalled that your passive aggressive behavior has devolved to the point of mocking my preteen self. I admit that I was a pretty bad ass sixth grader who was constantly playing with fire and getting burned and/or getting kicked in the face and coming back for more, luckily I've matured and if you continue to torment me I will go have a little tete-a-tete with lastfm. Do not mess with me.

Get it together or else,

Monday, July 16, 2007

It is Getting Harder and Harder to Pretend I am Not Grown Up

My 26 year old brother is getting married. This is a kid who less than a year ago gleefully told me about running a motorcycle into a tent housing people whose early bedtime did not live up to his partying standards. This boy used to engage me in “reasons to get married” conversations which resulted in lists like:

  1. Well, what if you really needed nice silverware? Like what if you had a job where you had to host lots of dinner parties?
  2. Ok, let’s say you’re super religious and very eager to have some sex?
  3. Perhaps you have crappy friends who won’t show up to a party without pretense?

Last Thursday when Kurt told me about the engagement I was on my way home from wine club where I had luckily partaken in just enough of the devil’s juice to keep my head from exploding (Rose wine, haven’t you heard? The devil is going subtle these days). In true low key baby brother fashion (tendency to crash motorcycles into tents aside) he just slipped this nugget into our boring conversation about each other’s weekend plans, “So you should look for a plane ticket so you can be home on April 19th.” Which allowed me to ask “why?” and buy a moment to catch my breath and resist blurting out “OH MY GOD ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?!?! ARE YOU EVEN OLD ENOUGH? IS THIS LEGAL????”

I’ve managed to chill out over the weekend and I think I might be able to get through to April without having a break down about being old and single. Congratulation Kurt, I know you never read my blog but if you did you would be super happy that I did not use this opportunity to tell embarrassing stories about your childhood. I’m saving those for my drunken toast.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've Finally Been Reduced to Talking About the Weather*

As a child my family used to occasionally take trips to Las Vegas, mostly for the strippers but we also appreciated the access to stores that specialized in goods other than feed. On a few of these trips when I was about 8 or 10 years old we stayed at the Tropicana which I saw as the height of luxury. My favorite thing about the Tropicana was the night time laser light show that was performed on the side of the hotel tower. The show was choreographed to the song “Hot Hot Hot” the tone of which is decidedly positive with its "party people" and "hands in the air" and "rum bum bum." I now have to acknowledge that the band Arrow totally lied to me about what it feels like to be hot hot hot. It is very hot in New York these days. I want my readers to fully comprehend what I mean by that last statement but I am unable to find the proper font, text size or color to convey exactly how hot it is. Yesterday, I sat on a frozen bottle of water, the resulting sensation was the best my ass had felt in years. I’ve been wearing skirts and using the extra fabric to fan my lady bits, this means that roughly 750 people are seeing my panties on a given day which seems like a reasonable trade off. On Monday I contemplated lying down on the subway ramp on the theory that the tile might be cooler. This is a place where I KNOW people have peed

The worst part of the heat is trying to sleep through it. I have one air conditioner in my apartment and it’s located in the living room so that a certain Mr. Grump-n-stuff can enjoy not dying. This means that when temperatures rise about 80 degrees I have to choose between sleeping on my couch where it’s nice and cool but I can’t quite get comfortable or on my bed where I can lie spread eagle in front of the fan and whine all night about the heat. I could also buy another air conditioner but they weigh 8 million pounds and I don’t have a car and I can’t carry it by myself and when I start planning out the process for actually procuring a second air conditioner I quickly say fuck it and commence with the back up plan of eating another popsicle. So I have been forced into being creative and have experimented with a variety of methods for staying cool at night:

Method 1: Fill spray bottle with water, spray above head, let mist rain down on me
Reasons for Failure: mist dries too fast, fear that I’m making the humidity worse, process is too manual, concern regarding growing mold in my mattress.

Method 2: Hold frozen bottle of water in hand
Reason for Failure: Hand sucking up all of the coolness, rest of body still overheated and considering revolt against selfish hand, ice melts too fast

Method 3: Rest frozen bottle on belly
Reason for Failure: Belly is an oversensitive nancyboy who can’t handle the awesomeness of the frozen bottle, ice melts too fast

Method 4: Rest frozen bottle on panties just over hips
Reason for Failure: As I doze off my hips move and then the bottle rolls onto Mr Wimpy (aka my belly) which results in general body freak out, ice melts too fast

As you can see nothing is working and my creativity button has now melted.

The only thing significantly worse than the heat is the corresponding arctic chill that has descended on the NYC subway system. I was recently on a subway train covered in Con Edison ads describing ways to save energy I read these while shivering on a 50 degree train on a 90 degree day. Oh irony, you’re such a cad.

*Next time on RAB: How 'bout them Mets?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Winner Parade: Entry 4

A few months after moving to the bay area when I was a bit lonely living on my own for the first time and spending all of my time either at my job programming graphics for slot machines in an office where no one turned on the lights or visiting the all women hippy dippy gym where I attended water aerobics at least three times a week. One of my few friends in the area was Monica, the evening receptionist at the gym who had occasionally invited me out with a few of her friends. It was on one of these outings (I believe at Halloween when I was dressed as Raggedy Anne and so, obviously looking super hot) that I met The Boy With Awful Taste. He seemed like a nice enough guy, not really my type but fun to hang out with. We hadn’t flirted or even talked much so I was surprised when a few days later Monica asked if I’d consider going out on a date with TBWAT. Having very few friends or plans I figured what the hell and told her to have him call me.

In my memory of the date that followed I do not recall knowing exactly what show I was being taken to see but I admit that this is likely due to some postdate self esteem survival instinct. I certainly knew the show’s venue and date and time and I knew how to use the internet so I must have known that at 22 on my first post-college date I was being taken to Disney on Ice. Now maybe lots of young girls are wooed by the dewy reflection beaming off of Micky’s skates, maybe the magic of fog machines and pirouettes has sparked many a romance but my feelings about ice dancing caricatures of cartoon characters were more gag-y than swoon-y. Selective amnesia aside it is obvious that my gag reflex has been so tamed that when faced with the decision between another Saturday night curled up with the internet and an actual date I was fully convinced that I could keep my lunch down through a 2 hour skating spectacular.

The date started its skydive into a ravine filled with barbed wire when we arrived at the San Jose HP Pavilion and TBWAT had to stop at the ticket booth, not to pick up our tickets to ice skating cartoonary, but to grab his tickets for a future event…. WWF wrestling. He was super excited about seeing some live action man on man sparring and I have to applaud anyone with a strong enough sense of self to resist backpedaling when his date is so clearly unable to hide her general disgust whiling thinking, “Who knew that there was a Disney/WWF combo demographic?”

The show finally began and the hordes of tots that surrounded me were lulled into silence by the jazz hands and figure eights of Woody and Buzz Light Year (note #1 to single guys: if you wanna get laid avoid date venues where the child to adult ratio is greater than 1:2). At intermission TBWAT offered to procure us some Disney themed snakage and beverages (note #2 to single guys: dates, like all things, are always better with booze so do not take your date to a place that refuses to serve cocktails). He returned with all he promised and more… while foraging for sustenance TBWAT had bought me a gift: a pink wand that when shaken lit up and played twinkling sound. Despite my now ample experience with Toy Story (is this a sign?) I cannot identify which character was likely to carry the wand. I also cannot provide a picture because I regifted the thing to an 8 year old neighbor girl within 1 month of receiving it, but for that night I had to put on my best 22 year old princess face and ohh and aww over this very generous gift, thank god for my secret BA in Theatre Arts. And so, wand in hand, I spent act two trying in vein to cast spell after spell, “Bippity! Toy Story On Ice, become a Ryan Adams concert!” “Boppity! Diet Coke become a margarita!”, “Boo! TBWAT, turn into Jack White!”

Post kiddie ice capades TBWAT proposed we grab some real food and, because it is impossible to say no to a guy who bought you a wand, I agreed. On our way to his second venue of choice (a diner with some sort of dimly lit lounge/strip club hiding behind a curtain near the bathrooms) his phone rang and at the end of his 10 minute conversation he invited the caller to join us for diner (note #3 for single guys: do not invite your friends to join you on your date). I was mostly ok with this plan (not that I was asked) since the addition of a third party seemed a sure sign that he was not planning on romancing up the evening. I figured the drive from the ice spectacular to the diner would serve as the necessary transition between “possible couple” and “just friends.” When we arrived at the diner I was doubly glad to be a single woman because our dinner companion was hot! That’s right folks – Winner Parade Four is a twofer!

Hot Friend(HF) and I spent most of dinner inappropriately making eyes at one another and (for my part at least) wondering if there was any way to finagle going home together without making both of us horrible people. Unable to reconcile that or come up with a way to surreptitiously jump his bones in the diner I was forced to get a ride home from TBWAT but not before HF asked for my number. I’ll admit to a small amount of shame at picking up a Guy #2 before my date with Guy #1 was officially over but I mostly figure that this is the kind of disaster #1 should expect when he invites another guy along on his date. I told TBWAT as much a couple of weeks later when he implied that my behavior made me a huge bitch.

HF called me a few days later and, since we worked within a few miles of one another he picked me up from the casino gaming empire for a quick lunch which lead to another date and another until we were sitting on the edge of relationshipdom staring into the abyss. Once I get past date three I’m usually a jumper and HF was no exception, he was cute, lived near by, worked at a tech company and… did I mention cute? Did I mention that I was 22? Unfortunately, HF was stuck on the edge of the cliff paralyzed with fear. He hemmed and hawed and sited being much much too busy for girlfriend but stopped short of actually breaking up with me until one day when he called to tell me that he had signed up to coach volleyball to high school girls. I am a lot of things: witty, cute, gifted with the internet, an expert on trashy tv, a great chef, a decent writer. None of these attributes can compete with 15 year old girls in short shorts jumping up and down and encouraging you to get behind them and show them exactly how to serve ("But I'm not very good and it might take a few tries! I Hope you’re patient!"). Needless to say I was broken up with over the phone just before the second night of practice.

While I’m sure many of my readers are dreaming of the chance to hook up with TBWAT or HF I cannot tell you the whereabouts of either. I honestly cannot remember the name of TBWAT so he is ungoogle-able but I suspect that he has yet to discover the internet anyway (and thus he is seriously missing out on the chance to relive our date but all of you lucky people can do so here – feel the ROMANCE.) . I do remember the name of HF (typical, right?) but unfortunately he shares a name with a famous race car driver so I can't properly stalk him -- it probably doesn’t matter, I don’t think they let pedophiles access the internet.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Urban Gardening

It is surprising that I have made it all the way to 29 without having my own garden considering the gardening gene that must have been passed down from my mother. My post college years have been marked by a pronounced laziness which often makes it difficult for me to get it together in May for a garden in July but this year I applied my well honed project manager skills to growing things and I'm delighted with the results.

For my first foray into the urban garden I started some dahlia bulbs and zinnia seeds in planters on the fire escape outside of my bedroom window. The zinnias jumped right up within a few days and I was immediately hooked on my garden project. Zinnias really are the best starter flower ever. They're easy to grow and quick to deliver pretty bouquets. I'm already enjoying vases full of flowers in the bedroom and living room and the blooms last about 2 weeks which seems to be about the amount of time required for the cut flowers to "come again." The plants are also amazingly forgiving when I forget to water them, which happens roughly twice a week, luckily their 2 day droop turns back to perk within 30 minutes of showering.

It is highly likely that gardening is giving me a bit of a God complex -- I cannot get over how magical it feels when a little seed turns into a plant! I quickly added to my Eden by purchasing 2 tomato plants and a basil bush at the Union Square Farmer's Market and soon had my own little baby jungle. In May I spent a number of Sunday mornings curled up on a cushion among the foliage with a popsicle and my laptop looking forward to a flower filled summer. Sadly the dahlias never raised their heads above the soil -- I blame inferior Home Depot bulb product -- so a few weeks ago I filled that second planter with more zinnia seeds and added some nasturtium and morning glory seeds to the backs of both planters in hopes of a vine and flower covered fence come mid August.

The tomato plants fast out grew the fire escape and in mid June were relocated to the roof outside of my kitchen window. This relocation is perhaps the best idea I've ever had as it facilitates just picked tomatoes without leaving the kitchen. It also makes my general laziness less likely to result in parched plants since the sink is now located 4 feet from the very demanding and spoiled tomatoes. Watering the plants does, unfortunately, still require being sort of outside, which usually requires getting dressed. I slack off as much as possible on that last rule so if you're in Astoria some weekday around 7:30am you can enjoy the site of me leaning out the window trying to hide the fact that I'm only wearing a tank top and underwear.

My Brandywine tomato has already given me two babies, both of which were delicious. The fact that I have tomatoes to eat in early July serves as proof that little Miss Brandywine is a raging slut. back in May when she was only a foot tall and yet to graduate to a big girl bed she was already taking the party to the bees. I was a naive new mother who didn't expect blossoms until the plant was at least 2 feet tall so I missed the obvious signs of teenage pregnancy and called my own mother (Grandma Brandywine) in a panic over having already failed at gardening only 3 weeks in. Mom advised me to leave the babes on the vine but to also begin plucking any blossoms until the plant was at least 2 feet tall -- this birth control method was much more labor intensive than I was prepared for, if only they made tomato chastity belts. I also have a cherry tomato plant who, I'm happy to report, is on the path to riotousness and is clearly embarrassed by the brazenness of her sister. At an impressive 3 feet tall she has only recently begin putting out a few demure little buds so there are no cherry tomatoes to munch on yet.

It's possible that come the heavy tomato season in August I will be buried in fruit and complaining about all of the tomato sauce that must be made and frozen before it all goes bad but for now I'm a happy urban Farmer McGregor, bunnies beware.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Foraging for Fun in Central Park

On Sunday Kajal and I attended a foraging tour of Central Park led by Steve “The Wild Man” Brill. There was much munching of greens and poking around in bushes (If only used condoms and broken glass were edible I could save so much money…). Unfortunately, there were no mushrooms to be found, however we did spy bushes loaded with blackberries that should be ready to bake into pies come mid August and I procured the root of a sassafras tree which hopefully I can turn into some root beer before the summer is out. The majority of the edible foods we found were of the “this could be added to salad and the flavor easily masked by a nice vinaigrette, you won’t even notice the bitterness!” variety and since the CSA currently supplies me with ample quantities of unrecognizable green stuff I didn’t bring much home.

The tour was much more crowded than I’d have predicted –when I arrived at least 20 people were gathered at 103rd and Central Park West collectively bitching about the MTAs broken promises of B and C trains (I for one had a great time dodging old ladies on my jog down from 125th). There were a shocking number of children on the tour, I suppose there are a lot of parents in Manhattan looking for an easy way to rid themselves of extra offspring (by the time they hit 7 the cuteness completely wears off) and letting them graze on random vegetation in the park probably seemed like a great opportunity. Spending 4 hours following toddlers, tots and tweens into the woods is the best birth control in the world since it became obvious after only 15 minutes of foraging that you seriously can’t take kids anywhere, even when anywhere is “the park.” All of the parents on this tour were in a sort of deep denial where 4 hours of “my feet hurt!” “I’m hungry!” and “why didn’t you bring my gameboy?” (I hear ya kid…) could somehow be interpreted as family fun. I usually love kids but come Sunday evening I was heavily camped in “not yet ready”– Kajal’s husband has been pushing her “make a baby” button in vain for years now and I suspect that this event will be enough to delay that plan for at least another month – this is how I plan to slowly win the game of “Keep Kajal Fun and Baby-Free.”

The tour guide, a man who refers to himself as Wild Man without irony, brought along his own brood – wife and 3 year old daughter Violet. At times the tour seemed a long drawn out episode of Violet Don’t Eat It as the three year old lunged at plant after plant screeching, “Daddy!!! What is this??!?!” Wild Man’s replies of “you can’t eat that” were heeded but only begrudgingly and Violet kept rubbing poisonous leaves against her lips clearly contemplating the day when her rebellion would begin with a little nibble. Mom seemed wholly unconcerned, lagging behind us, occasionally asking Dad to stop the tour because Violet wanted him. I have no kids (save one adopted chinchilla with very few needs outside of, “gimmie a craisin now bitch!”) so I feel obligated to include a caveat about not knowing how hard child rearing is and blah blah blah but if my husband ever shows up at my job asking me to take the child while I’m working and he’s meandering around the park it will be very difficult for me to resist castrating him on the spot.

Late to arrive on the tour was a Hasidic Jewish family (you have no idea how hard it is for me to resist calling them “Amish Jews” which I am not afraid to admit is totally how I think of them in my head even if it makes me a huge insensitive jerk) consisting of 2 deaf parents and their five children under the age of 8. At first this seemed like a sure fire recipe for disaster but it slowly became clear that if you plan on leaving the house with a brood of this size being hearing impaired is a distinct advantage. While other parents were forced to put their adult fun aside in favor of chasing down wandering lads and lassies the deaf parents could blissfully ignore the cries and whines of their offspring. I’m sure they had a much more relaxing Sunday than the rest of us. Both HJ (Hasidic Jewish) parents were adamant about documenting everything The Wild Man said even if it required forcing the hearing on the tour to act as scribes. Late in the tour HJM (Hasidic Jewish Mama) asked Kajal and I why we came on the tour. We hardly had time to get through our, “It seemed neato!” schpeel before she jumped in with, “Yeah and if the government falls apart you need to know how to feed your family!” The picture of 8 million New Yorkers trying to feed themselves off of things growing in Central Park is the now the most humorous aspect of the apocalypse (replacing flaming goats). At one point Kajal and I witnessed HJC#2 (Hasidic Jewish Child #2), age ~6 LICK THE EYEBALL of HJC#5, age ~1 – it was refreshing to see that even extreme religion and crazy parenting cannot beat down the urges of curiosity and sibling rivalry. I like to imagine that CJC#2’s thought process went something like this, “oh sure you can eat that weird green planet over there but it’s just going to taste like green and I get plenty of that grossness with dinner every night. I need a new taste sensation, something to really wow my tongue.… I wonder what my brother’s eye tastes like….*LICK*…. It’s Razzz-a-matastic!” For his part the one year old was completely unfazed and all, "I got 4 old siblings my eyeball is constantly soaked from all of the licking." Kajal and I stood next to the stroller openly guffawing at the youngins until Papa CJ walked over and gave us the “my children are not here for your amusement!” death stare.

The Hallmark Channel had a crew on hand to film the festivities for some show that they claimed was not about abused women, kidnapped children or underage sex (I just threw that last one in to mess with the keyword searches of perverts the world over), after a quick perusal of the show's web site I think it’s pretty clear that they were lying. Kajal and I were interviewed over lunch by a nice girl named Sandra (not the sketchy host pictured on that site) but I'm pretty sure we won't be making it on air since we used our time on camera to discuss exactly how awesome the wood sorrel would taste in mojitos (we predict pretty damn awesome since the leaves taste like lemonade -- we'll be testing this theory out soon).

Despite this silly post I have to give the entire foraging in Central Park experience a big thumbs up mostly because it was hilarious enough to inspire a decent blog post. In this day you can hardly beat $12 for 4 hours of entertainment, I'm practically making money when I factor in the dollars I've saved on birth control pills this month. Kajal and I ended the day by foraging for some popcicles which were much yummier and easier to locate than any of the greens offered by the Wild Man -- but they cost us $3.75 each.