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I ran into a friend at work yesterday, and he asked me how I’d been lately.  It had been awhile, I realized.  We used to see each other often, but I couldn’t actually tell you the last time we had spoken. I like him.  We haven’t known each other long, nor were necessarily besties or anything, but he is one of the few coworkers who I actually feel like I can talk to.

My answer, “Well…”

He’s not on my social media, and as I began to casually comment on bouncing back from things, his eyes began to grow wider.  The last six months were something of a Greek tragedy, a Southern gothic.  I told him about the family stuff (which I won’t mention here), but I had a lot more to say about the car accident and the breakup that happened right before it.  And there was more… so much more.  But why get into the minor stuff.

It was a strange moment for him I think because I was smiling and looking great as I recalled a litany of drama.  I’ve been on the upswing.  I was speaking to my acupuncturist (a treatment I highly recommend if you’ve recently experienced trauma), and I observed to her that my life of late has been in strange sync with the seasons.  Winter was awful.  A winter among winters.  But spring… ah spring.

“Most people wouldn’t think of it that way,” she said. She meant that in a good way.  So far I really like her.

So: spring.

Having weathered a saga of things that I won’t get into much here, I’ve turned with the weather to greener things, newer things.  As rough as the past six months have been, there’s a great relief that comes from passing through hell:  freedom. I find myself very unencumbered as of late.  Perhaps I set the stage for much of this last year when I was busting ass and paying off my student loans, maybe I would have gotten here sooner had not life intervened, but in either case I’ve entered a phase where I’ve put down or been released from a number of burdens. Work, family, debt, relationships. Unencumbered.

I’ve been doing things on my own lately.  Going to shows.  Exploring new places.  Pushing hobbies to new places.

This weekend I dropped by a Maryland trail that I can’t wait to get back to: The North Central Rail Trail.  It runs from Hunt Valley up to PA, close to York they tell me.  It used to be a railroad but became one of the many Rails-to-Trails projects that have swept across the country (an awesome parks project that everyone should support!).

On a chilly Sunday in March, the winter still holding spring back for one more week, it is a very peaceful place. The last of the season’s white was trickling through the trees, while the first of the season’s green was pushing up along the path.  Once past the first mile marker, I had the place to myself.

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I plan on buying a new bike soon, and this is the first place I intend to ride it.  The crushed gravel is easy, and there is plenty of shade.  It’s one of those strange places where one can feel very removed from society and yet in fact be still quite close to it.  The peace of a country garden without losing any cell signal.

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I’ve taken up trail running.  That’s what I was up to this weekend.  I do a few 10k’s every year, but I want to add some trail runs in this year.  They just sound fun.  I might have to join a runner’s group or something, as I can’t seem to generate any interest in it among my friends who run.

Or I could just keep going it alone.

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More to come.  Tonight I start another new thing: Pilates.  Since my car accident, I’ve become committed to developing more and better-balanced core strength (I might even start observing leg day at the gym!). I’m looking forward to tonight. It will be fun.

 

 

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Dear, Asshole Who Rifled through my Car Last Night,

Thank you.  Thank you, well first, for not taking anything.  Yes, you found nothing of value in the car.  I could, perhaps should, stand upon my soapbox here and upbraid you for not even taking a moment to look through the mound of CDRs, the absolute wealth of music, days and days of it if played end to end–I could lambast you for the ignorant musical taste that lead you to so quickly pass up a horde of treasures.  You had your pick.  No one (apparently) was watching.  I could not even have found myself angry if a thief had broken into my car only to purloin the most choice album in the deck.  The CD might as well be a loaf of bread, in my mind.

But no, you took nothing.  Because, of course as a city boy, I keep nothing of value in an unattended car.  But I shouldn’t really be thanking you for not taking what was not yours.  And I’m not even going to thank you for putting most of my stuff back after you’d pawed through it.

My thank you is a little more nuanced than that.

You see, asshole thief man, sometimes I feel paranoid.  Well, not literally paranoid, but I feel like I’m acting paranoid.  I check the lock on that car door often.  Very often.  More often than I do most things, when you consider it.  If I come and go from the car two to three times a day, that’s four to six times (or more) that I’ve double checked the lock.  That’s more than I floss or brush my teeth.  I have one of the little clickers, like most people, and I “click click” “click click” until I am beyond certain that the car is secure.

But last night, oh last night.  I don’t have to tell you, my asshole thief man friend.  You know.  I even remember, as I was walking in, my arms draped with empty boxes, I remember asking myself, “did I lock the door?”  The keys were in my pocket, I’d have to put everything down again to check it.

“No, of course you locked the door. ” I said to myself, “You always lock the door.”

As you discovered, this was a mistake.

But as mad as I am at you–and I am fucking mad at you–I can only take it so far.  Because you, by finding my humble unlocked car the one time I left it unlocked, you have reminded me that I am not paranoid after all.  I am not some crazy person, fearful of the unruly hordes waiting in the shadows for me to turn my back, if only momentarily.

No, I am merely engaging in what my computer nerd friends would call “best practices.”

So thank you for that, Mr Asshole Thief Man Who Rifled through my Car Last Night.  I needed the reminder.

–CS

PS: I hope you got ran over by a car as you were fleeing my neighborhood after your spree.

PPS: And not just run over, but run over by a half asleep truck driver who didn’t hear the bump, and who dragged you for two miles before you flopped off of the fender into some ditch.

PPPS: And not just any ditch, but a rat and were-dog infested ditch, where you were slowly eaten alive by vile rats and were-dogs, which as you know, resemble dogs but eat their prey like a fly does, by vomiting corrosive bile upon your face and licking it up.

PPPPS: But as you know vile rats and were-dogs will not consume everything, so you were of course still alive come daybreak.  With just enough left in you to see the crows and gizzard necked vultures swoop down to pluck out your beady eyes.

PPPPPS: And also your testicles.

PPPPPPS: And then I hope you got run over again.

PPPPPPPS:  Asshole.

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I’m still waiting on the appraisal.  Since the housing market went to shit, all these layers of extra paperwork and second sign-offs have been added that slow everything down.  With the housing credit ending, there’s a scramble on that I think is slowing things down even further.

Sigh.  I just want this part of the process done with, so that I can rest easy.

In other news, I went over to Faidley’s in the market at lunch.  Hot damn.  I wanted to enjoy some seafood, and in particular some crabs, before the price of seafood goes to hell thanks to the BP spill in the gulf.  If you’re looking for crabcakes, this is one of the places to go.  I actually skipped the crabcake today and instead had a steakfish sandwich.  My coworkers are always talking about steakfish, and I’ve been like “what the fuck is steakfish?”  No one has ever really given me a straight answer.  It’s definitely not any old kind of fish served cut up in steaks.  It’s a certain kind of fish deep fried and served on a sandwich.

I did a little Googling, and it seems that steakfish is uniquely a Baltimore thing.  Essentially, it’s a poor man’s fish filet sandwich.  People swear up and down that it’s not hake, although I think most of the steakfish you get these days is in fact hake.  I guess there is a steakfish of yesteryear that was made from some other fish.

In either case… it was alright.  It was sorta good-bad.  Like aweful, but sorta likeable.  I think Faidley’s knew how to fry it up right and get the most out of it.  That it’s totally local colored my opinion.  I’m eating it and even if not totally enjoying it, wondering what could be done to spruce it up.

I’m wondering if steakfish tacos might be a workable dish.

Anyway.  I was tempted to make this post a rant about the oil spill, which would devolve into a sort of rant about being a bit unhappy with Obama (he just approved more offshore drilling), but at the same time being unwilling to admit it publically because, as much as I might have some complaints, I don’t for a second want to sound like the Republicans speciously crying bloody murder on the right.

I’ve got some concerns about Obama, and I fear that in the next election I won’t be voting for him, so much as I am voting against the Republicans again.  I am sick of this.  I wish I could consider voting for a third party candidate without worrying about the Republicans taking over and getting another eight years just like the Bush years.

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Future Notes for the Ultimate Vegetarian Chili

– the Boca brand ground round was perfect. use again.
– must incorporate Melinda’s hot sauce next time, even if as a garnish.
– the mirepoix (heavy on onions, light on celery) was solid. addition of leeks good. did not make it taste too much like “chili’d up veggie soup” as feared.
– consider mushrooms. unsure of which or in what form. to be used lightly. not sure if standard umami kickers such as soy sauce will work quite the same here as in regular chili.
– for chili powder, exploration of such dried peppers as anaheim and ancho necessary. much experimentation there. must achieve a well rounded and bright spicy, tangy flavor (this chili cannot and will not go as “deep” in flavor as regular chili). consider the technique for reconstitution of dried peppers read about.
– the sour cream as a topping brought it together. consider whether this will be necessary or if other methods of increasing the richness can be achieved.
– make the beans yourself next time, instead of canned.

Scheme for Revenge

Do not vandalize this person’s car. Though the rage may burn white and hot. Though you might have been forced to not only dig, but hack through ice to uncover another spot. Though you may have hurt your arm hacking said ice. Though your space was marked in the Baltimore tradition. Though, not only was the space marked, but there were other free unmarked spaces, making the theft of this space complete asshole bullshit. Though the superb job you did of shoveling this space was rewarded only in theft. Do not vandalize this property.

Instead dig. Rise early. Well before the light of dawn. Ready your shovel. And dig. Every bit of snow you spent hours and hours excavating from the road will be returned to it. You shoveled it out, and you can shovel it back. It may be everyone’s street, but it’s your fucking snow. Pile it high around the car. At least two feet, all around, with extra in the front. Do not touch the car whatsoever. Pack the wall along the side of the snow bank smooth. Extend your gloved finger, and carve boldly: “ASSHOLE!”

The Train

It reminds me of New York and DC. Manhattan mostly, but only because Manhattan is the most pleasant of these public transit memories. Nights spent cruising from the East Village to Greenwich Village. Old friends and family and the good parts of my 20s. But this train looks more like a DC train than a New York train. There is little about it that says Baltimore, aside from the names of the stops and the faces of its passengers. 

Riding with them I feel myself a part of my city in a way that is uncommon for me.  It’s strange that I avoid public transportation because I so prefer my own four-wheeled independance, and yet sitting in this crowd makes me feel isolated in a way that being alone never will.  It’s not a bad feeling.  I enjoy the bustle of a thousand microcosms shuffling together into and out of downtown.  I wear my earbuids the same as everyone else, but I don’t get my book out.  Instead I people watch.

Taking the train forces me to rise an hour early and trek the entire length of Hampden. This is not colossal, but it is certainly not what anyone should want at 6:00 a.m. on a cold morning. Somehow it doesn’t bother me though. I enjoy walking through my part of town as it is awakening. People bundled tight walking excited, wagging dogs and muttering sleepy hellos. Cars whizzing by. The line practically out the door at both the Dunkin Donuts and the Royal Farms. The birds. Even in the dead of winter, this nestled town within town wakes to song.

Finally stretching the last length of Union on my first morning I heard the clarion “BRAM BRAM” of the train’s horn and the urgent dinging of bells as the gates lowered. I was all the way down the street. Furiously I started running. Thanking Fate that I’d worn casual clothes. Holding my messenger bag to prevent a disastrous spill. Thud, thud, thud, thud. The train skidded into view. The northbound train. Whew! I slowed down and caught my breath.

Then, “BRAM BRAM!” the southbound train whizzed into the station. Shit! I took off, sprinting as fast as I could.

Rounding the tracks, the doors were already open. People were filing into the train. One, two, three, another, another. In moments they were all gone, and I was still at the other end of the platform. My breath starting to give way, the doors closed, and I came to an exasperated halt. Feet from the train. This is it, I thought, this is how my week is going to go!

But it waited. I stepped up to the train, pushed the “open door” button, and–panting–stepped onto the train. The last passenger.

Freelance Whales

My new love in life and my most listened to artist of the week. Hearing this album, I already know that it will remind of this snowy month in 2010. Blizzards, and cozy nights, and triumph over the elements. It’s the perfect music for these days.

Friday

I’m dead tired. Dead on my feet tired. I still have a hike to make to and from the train, and already I’m almost gone. Struggling to lead my students through the end of this lesson. Fighting to stay awake each time I sit down. But I must do something. Sit down. Write.  We finished early, and if anything, I must keep awake until the end of our workday. If only I could sort a single cohesive thing out of this fog that is my brain.

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How is it that The Strokes could put together such a masterfully succinct and enjoyable album as Is This It and then fade into the mediocrity of their subsequent albums?

It’s late.  Well, end of the day.  My students have all left.  The other class on this floor has left.  And I’m finishing up some work and listening to The Strokes.  You frustrate me, Strokes.  What is your god damn problem!

I’m by myself up here right now.  Alone at the top of a thirteen story tower in Baltimore.  It’s a strange thing being alone at the top of a tower.  I can look out across the city and see the rush hour bustle.  The city is dark.  Alive right now only in lights that trace themselves across the streets, across the skyline, and down the horizon.  It’s quiet.  I hear only the building’s air vents.  In here everything seems frozen in time, crystalline in appearance.  It’s like looking out from inside of a snow globe.

I love these little isolated moments.  I feel like for a moment–just a moment–I can think clearly.  I hope I can catch some more of them over the holidays here.  I’ve had some things percolating in the back of the brain.

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