Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do You Smell Pizza?

Quote of the blog:

Justin: “Why do my post-it notes smell like industrial poison?”


One morning, when I was working as a college advisor, I smelled pizza in my office, but I didn't have any pizza in my office. I looked through my doorway into the assistant’s office (our doors and office windows faced each other). I didn’t see any pizza there either, but asked one of them, “Hey Matthew, do you guys smell pizza?” They sniffed. “Nope.” And then the smell was gone.

Later, I was in my co-worker’s office. We had been talking for twenty minutes when I smelled pizza again, for just a moment. “Cindy, do you smell pizza?” She sniffed. “No.” I knew I smelled pizza but no one else could. I was so confused.

A few hours later a new shift of office assistants were working. I caught the smell again. I asked, “Shannon, do you smell pizza?” She stopped and smelled. “Nope.”

I felt like I was going crazy. I kept typing and then smelled it again - but just for a moment! What could I be smelling? And then, as I answered my question, I felt my cheeks turn hot and red with realization. I had spent the night at my parent’s house and had woken up feeling a bit dizzy. Just as I was leaving I told my mom who brought out her essential oils. “Here,” she said, offering me a small bottle with a green label. “Put this on your tummy, it will help with the dizziness.” I obeyed and glanced at the label before dashing out the door to work. The label read BASIL. All day I kept thinking someone was eating pizza somewhere but I was actually catching a whiff of my basily smelling self!

Needless to say, I didn’t ask anyone the rest of the day if they smelled pizza. I was so glad no one could answer "Yes" or that had tried to help me investigate the mysterious smell!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Living Room Lecture Series

Quote of the blog:

Brook: "What else do I have going for me if not my curiosity…and my accessories?"


I tend to live by the phrase “there are no uninteresting subjects, just uninterested people.” My general curiosity has led me astray a few times (“Sure, feel free to cut my hair however you like, why not?” or “How bad can a street-vendor pretzel really be?” And “I suppose I should give John Cusack another chance.”) but generally it serves me well.

One Sunday morning last August I woke up thinking of how much I loved my voice lessons in college (thanks Constance!) and how out of practice I was. I thought of my friend Rachel. She’s a phenomenal singer, has a really fun personality, and I figured she’d be willing to give me a refresher. N.B: One of the many reasons I love New York is the variety of people I get to interact with. You meet people from so many different industries without being in “the industry” yourself. I’ve met bankers, dancers, artists, actors, fashion designers, industrial designers, scientists, architects, archivists, editors, engineers, analysts, publicists, police officers, etc. etc. etc.

As I got ready to contact Rachel I thought of others who would be interested in coming as well. I sent her a text, “Would you want to give a one hour workshop/presentation on the basics of singing?” She responded within minutes, “I would LOVE to!”

That was the beginning.

In church I slid a note to my roommate Gaby (I like to tell myself it was inspiration not irreverence). Gaby is the in-house photographer for a company in Brooklyn and the note read, “Would you be willing to give a one hour presentation on the basics of photography?” She wrote back, “Sure. I actually just did that at work and have a presentation prepared.”

Thus began the shameless exploitation of my friends’ knowledge. I decided to host two lectures a month, every other week on Tuesdays or Thursdays. I was shocked at how easy it was to organize and amazed (and grateful) at how willing people were/are to share their experience and knowledge! Within 72 hours I had booked September-November and starting up again in January. Preparing an hour presentation is no small endeavor but people have been so gracious, even enthusiastic, to share what they know.

I call it the Living Room Lecture Series (LRLS for short) The idea is that the lecture provides attendees with an introduction to a topic of the presenter’s choice (they pick the angle, focus, etc.) that helps people come away with a better understanding and new/enlightened perspective as well as a few resources to find out more, if interested, once the lecture is over. It's a casual fun way to learn from each other.

Typically we have ten to twenty people attend. I’ve recorded every one and will edit and post them as podcasts eventually – I actually met a girl at one of the lectures who has her own podcast and is going to teach me to edit and post! Below is a list of the titles of the lectures we’ve had so far! The full description and presenter’s bio’s are available on the FB group (if you’re interested in joining or reading more):

March: “Untitled: A Test Site for Art & the Artist” by Talia G.

February: “Just Speak to Me” by Joel R.

January: “Less IS More” by Emily O.

November: “Picture this: How to take better photos NOW!” by Gaby G.

October: “So….what is modern dance?” by Carly B.

October: "Entrenching Civil Rights: The Presidential Dimension" by Matthew G.

September: "If You Can Talk, You Can Sing!" lecture by Rachel S.

September: "The Stories of Our Lives" by Alexis C. from StoryCorp

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let's Eat at the Movies

Quote of the Blog:

Richard: I hate the movies on the planes. I keep seeing bad movies like, “My Special Trousers” or “My Magic Pants” or something.

Everyone looks confused.

Mario: Do you mean “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”?

Richard (snaps): That’s the one!


Three years ago my friend Amanda and I decided we should go to a documentary or foreign film once a month. On one such night we were supposed to grab dinner before the movie. I don’t remember if the movie started earlier than we thought or if we were late to dinner; either way, we didn’t have enough time to eat before the movie started. We were hungry, and while popcorn for dinner is something we’d done before, we preferred to find another solution. And if there is something Amanda does well, it’s come up with solutions.

Amanda: We eat in the theater.

Me: Eat dinner in the theater? During the movie? Like, take dinner in with us?

Amanda: You’ve never eaten dinner in the movies before?

She asked so incredulously I thought this must be a common New York thing. And well, even though I had never done it, I had seen people eat anything from quesadillas to hot dogs to sushi in the theater. I gave my consent.

She nodded and pulled me into a Chipotle. Chipotle? We’re sneaking burritos into the theater? I started to get nervous but didn’t want to let on. I hadn’t snuck any “legitimate” food into the theater since 7th grade:


Time: Saturday matinee.

Scene: Seven fourteen-year-old girls try to walk nonchalantly through the empty lobby past the ticket holder (TicketMaster) at Movies 8 in Orem.

TicketMaster: Umm, excuse me girls. You aren’t allowed to bring outside food into the theaters.

We try to look innocent. He shoots a meaningful look at the abnormally square stomach of my friend’s sweatshirt. And another glance at another friend’s bulging sleeve-ends.

Had we been crafty we would have handed over just a few items. But as we were by and large honest, obedient, kids, we handed over everything. His eyes widened as we pulled treats from pockets, purses, sleeves, and hoods. The cache grew. He called his coworkers over to see the mound: one package twizzlers, five candy bars, four bags of chips, seven Gatorades, and one medium pizza.

Just then a group of 9th grade boys walk in. Oh the shame.

End scene.

I thought about this memory as Amanda and I walked toward the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. My heart beat a little faster but this TicketMaster didn’t even make eye contact to notice the heft of my tote or the slight waft of marinated chicken.

The theater was small and mostly empty and Amanda and I sat towards the back by ourselves. It was a French film: almost all dialogue with little music and scene after scene of teachers talking with each other, lecturing in class, footsteps echoing in empty halls. I waited for a loud scene, in vain. I glanced over at Amanda and was shocked. Somehow she had managed to open her burrito and eaten half of it without making a sound! She has the art of crafty eating down.

Finally I pulled my burrito out of my bag and out of the brown paper sack. The crinkling noise filled the theater. People shifted, irritated in their seats. Excuse me while I cheer the opening serve at Wimbledon with a vuvuzela. A vuvuzela that smells like marinated chicken and roasted veggies. I slunk down in my seat and took a guilty bite.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Harvey Might be the Man for Me

Quote of the blog:

Pei: Tell me about your date.
Brook tells.
Pei: Hmmm. He doesn't sound like your Mr. Rabbit to me.


This past August, after I finished my work in Oxford, I took a trip to Stockholm. The plan was to meet my friend Jason, my summer European travel buddy, at Rygerfjord Hotel (a boat hotel!). I arrived midday and stowed my things in our cabin: a room with two fold down bunks and walls just inches out of reach when I stretched my arms fully to the sides. Jason would arrive from Germany around 7:30pm. I explored the ship and then wandered the streets of Södermalm, the island where the hotel was docked. I got back around 7:15pm and left a Clementine and a note on the top bunk telling Jason to come up to the top deck when he arrived.

I sat at one of the tables with my back against the boat and relaxed. It was nice to decompress (not decompose like I accidentally said one time). The travel guide I pulled from my bag had almost been The Abba Guide to Stockholm (“The book ABBA fans all over the world have been waiting for!”). Traveling under the Swedish band's guidance was tempting and I debated at Blackwell in Oxford for a good twenty minutes before selecting the more updated, practical, and smaller Lonely Planet book.

I wrote in my journal, read my Stockholm guide and gazed across the water and watched the sky turn pink as the sun gently set behind the city spires. It was almost 10:00 pm. Where was Jason? Somewhere in Germany was all I knew. I realized that we hadn’t exchanged flight information and I wasn’t even sure where in Germany he was. I was just starting to really worry when he arrived at 10:30pm. His flight from Bremen and the airport shuttle to Stockholm had both been delayed.

I was falling asleep on my bunk as Jason regaled me with his adventures in Bremen. He showed me the children’s book about The Bremen Musicians he purchased. I loved that story growing up! I drifted to sleep as I listened as Jason talked about Germany. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep until I said something out loud I didn’t mean to. It was one of those, “was that my outside voice?” moments. I wanted to explain myself but fell back asleep.

In the morning, I asked Jason if I had said something embarrassing the night before. He started laughing and told me what I said. Apparently shortly after I dozed off, I announced in this happy, breathless, and tired voice, “I’m getting married.”

“What?” Jason asked.

I explained, swooning, “I met a rabbit.”

Jason, laughing, clarified, “You’re getting married to a rabbit?

I almost woke up only long enough to explain, “Oh, I was dreaming about Beatrix Potter…” before falling back asleep.

I finished the announcement: “We’re going to have lots of babies.”

For the next few days, any time we’d see a picture of a rabbit – or when we saw a live one – Jason would start laughing and elbow me. “Eh? Eh?” Once, in an art store, we looked at school paintings that had hung in classrooms around Sweden. The cashier showed us one that depicted a farm scene. A rabbit scurried across the road in front of a barn. Jason considered the poster and then told the woman, “Brook would like this one. She loves rabbits.” The woman looked slightly confused but turned to me and politely inquired, “Oh? You do?” Jason snickered and I blushed and stammered a response.

For Christmas my roommate Gaby commemorated the experience in a picture for me.

The story has provided ample fodder for teasing. And I’ve had more than one reminder that 2011 is the year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac. We’ll just have to see what the year brings but I don’t put too much stock in dreams – especially the dreams of someone who dreamt she was a rabbit in a Beatrix Potter cartoon. But if I ever introduce you to my man Harvey, you'll know not to ask.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hop-a-long Honesty

Quote of the blog:

B: You can only be as honest with others as you are with yourself.


One of our family’s favorite stories was told to us by my mom’s good friend Candee Reed (see Police, Pachyderms, and a Pickup Truck). I grew up on the story. Candee told us about her friend who moved into a new home in Colorado (we’ll call the friend, Alice). Alice decided that she would befriend her next-door neighbor with whom she shared a fence. The neighbors were friendly and it seemed like their families would get along well, although Alice worried about their family pets.

Alice owned a full-grown black Labrador and the next-door neighbor’s owned a rabbit. Both roamed their respective fenced backyards freely. The neighbor’s bunny was The Family Pet. It was so much a part of the family that it had a Bunny House (cage) in the back yard and a private pet door for “whenever” access in and out of the home. Any time the bunny hopped around its backyard Alice’s Lab would go berzerk – running up and down the chain link fence that separated the yard, barking, jumping and staring.

One day Alice and her husband came home and to their absolute horror they found their dog with the limp rabbit in its mouth. The bunny was dead. What should they do? Worried about the new relationship with their neighbors they reluctantly walked next door to explain what happened but the neighbors weren’t home. After a bit of contemplation they made a plan.

They took the dead rabbit. It was filthy: covered in dirt clods and dog slobber but luckily no blood. They washed and cleaned the rabbit and even brushed the fur. Then they snuck into the neighbor’s backyard and placed the rabbit back in its cage. They figured it was better to avoid any awkwardness with their new neighbors and, really, did anyone need to know?

A few hours later they heard a bloodcurdling scream from the backyard. . They ran to the back yard fence, heart pounding – and asked the neighbor's wife who was in hysterics – what happened. She turned, and with a look of horror on her face said, “Our rabbit died and we buried it! And now it’s back in it’s cage!!”