Let the disclaiming begin. Dear friends, I had plans for some Cookbook Love essay or other, maybe accompanied by some arty-fantastico food photography. This will be coming soon enough. In the meantime, I found myself awake at a ridiculous hour of the morning today. Since there’s nothing more depressing than studying at 5:30 in the morning, I decided to seize the moment and participate in the 25 things meme, on which several people tagged me on Facebook. The damn thing took me such a long time to write that I decided to cross-post it to PTMYB. Most of these 25 things will be old news. Many more of them will be tedious, the epitome of “today I ate a burrito for lunch/I hate my job” blogging, to use my friend Tristan’s excellent phrase. But in the end, exercises like these dust the cobwebs off my brain, and in the end, I can’t complain about that. You certainly may, though.
1. I have a freckle on my top lip, the result of increased sun sensitivity after I started using Retin-A as a teenager to clear up my skin. Usually it can’t be seen because it’s under makeup, but I just like knowing it’s there, for some reason.
2. My mother did a terrific job (and, really, still does) at setting good examples for me. When I was little, my mother read as much as time would allow; she loved art and art history, and would let me look at her college art history textbooks; she was an early believer in local, sustainable farming and used to shop for vegetables from the truck farmers in Wilmington, Delaware (and she used to bring me along); and as much as she loved me, she didn’t live through me and she didn’t treat me as if I were the center of the universe. I have reaped only good things from this.
3. I skipped fourth grade. This meant that from fifth grade through college, I was frequently the youngest person in the room.
4. I am no longer the youngest person in the room. Frequently I am the oldest person in the room. I used to feel weird about this until I heard Bill Clinton lament that he had just left a meeting where he was the oldest person in the room, and I thought, “dude, you were SIXTY YEARS OLD before that happened to you. Do you think any of us will have to wait that long? Try working retail for a while, dude!”
5. My second job out of college was in the special sales department at Viking Penguin (now Penguin Putnam). I started working there less than a year after Viking had published The Satanic Verses, and four months after Ayatollah Khomeini declared the fatwa on Salman Rushdie. By the time I started, the bomb threats had largely dried up, but every once in a while, someone would feel the urge to call a bomb threat in. I didn’t panic, mostly because my coworkers were old hands at building evacuation, and this was all in a day’s work for them.
6. When people ask me if I miss New York, I say no, but that’s not entirely true. The New York I miss is not the New York I left in August; rather, it was the New York I used to visit as a teenager, and the one to which I moved when I was 21. It was never easy or cheap to live in New York, but it was easier, and cheaper, and if you were resourceful, it was possible to do a lot with relatively little. That New York is long gone, and I don’t know if it’s ever coming back.
7. Before I met my husband, whenever I fell in love, my immediate response was to think “It’s love! It’s love! It’s love! I’m in love! Love love lovvity lovvity love!” (repeat x1,000,000) The day after my husband and I had our first date, my immediate response was to think, “Okay. This guy is not like all of those other guys. This guy is different, and if it doesn’t work out, you’re not going to find something this good with anyone else...so for the love of God, DON’T SCREW IT UP. Don’t scare him off. Don’t do anything stupid. Just be good to him, because this is a REALLY GOOD THING.” That was about the moment I suspected I might want to marry him.
8. I often struggle with focus and attention span issues. After a lifetime of study skill classes and time management seminars, I am only just beginning to consider that it might be a brain chemical issue. The jury is still out on that, though.
9. The only flavor I really don’t like (with the exception of the usual suspects like microwaveable scrambled eggs in a tube and frosting in a can), and have not grown to like, is caraway. For years I wouldn’t eat rye bread because I thought I hated the taste, but after I had my first taste of seedless sour rye, I knew that what I hated wasn’t the taste of the rye, it was the taste of the caraway seed. The only place I can tolerate caraway is on a kummelweck roll, the roll used for the mighty Beef on Weck sandwich. Other than that, I still find it really unpleasant.
10. When I was 10, I was in a car accident that, by all laws of physics, should have killed me. I still don’t know how I managed to survive. I have a permanent lump of damaged tissue on my right shin, as well as a scar from where my leg was cut on the door handle, surrounded by 16 smaller scars rendered by sloppy stitching at the hospital.
11. Lloyd and I have no children. This was not a choice on our part; we decided to see what fate had in store for us, and to take the hand we were dealt. So far that hand does not include kids, and since we’re getting longer in the tooth every day, I don’t think it will. Sometimes this breaks my heart, because I think Lloyd and I would make decent parents and we could have a great little family. Other times this fills me with the purest relief. I certainly wouldn’t be in law school if we had kids—and yes, I worry that I would end up unwittingly screwing up their lives, or Lloyd’s. Having said all that, when people ask me if we have kids, I still automatically answer “Not yet.”
12. After one of my coworkers saw David Bowie at Lee’s Art Supply on West 57th Street, I used to hang out there for hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I never did, although I was told that he was a regular customer.
13. Among my closest friends are my college roommate, who has been a dear friend for 25 years, and my childhood pen pal, who I met by filling out a “Do you want a British pen pal?” coupon in a teen magazine. We started writing to each other when we were 12; I met her for the first time when I was 22 and flew to England to meet her and her new baby son; she was maid of honor at my wedding. With both of these friends, I can go for months without keeping in touch with either of them; yet once we starting talking, it’s like we never stopped.
14. My first trip overseas was a summer program in the country formerly known as the U.S.S.R., between my junior and senior year of college, in 1987. Two weeks before the end of classes, I was asked to leave the country by local government-types. This was not for political reasons. Yes, there’s a story. No, it won’t be told here. >
15. The most shocking thing about law school is how quickly I reverted to my dopey, awkward teenager self. People will tell returning students that they are at an advantage because they have more life experience, they know that the world doesn’t turn on their grade point average, they have a better sense of what’s really important in life. I have two words for these people: Nuh Uh. I have two more words for these people: Contact high.
16. Even though I feel perpetually dopey and awkward in school, I really love my class. It is composed of brilliant, funny, warm and humane people, people who will laugh with you and will watch your back when your back needs watching, and I could not ask for a better group of people with which to be in school.
17. While I like actual breakfast food, I love leftovers for breakfast even more. The day after Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.
18. I feel more at home, more comfortable in my own skin, working in a bread bakery than I do anywhere else. The two weeks I spent in continuing education at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Vermont were among the happiest of my life. I was doing something I really loved. I was good at it. I was training with people who I admired and respected, and I wanted them to find me worthy. I was making a plan for the future. At the same time, I recognize that I am lucky that I never opened that bakery after all. Between the spike in commodity prices and the credit freeze, 2008 would have killed us. We would be over half a million dollars in debt, and probably would have had to declare bankruptcy. It is a sobering thing to look at your dream and think “thank God we dodged *that* bullet.”
19. Counting the summer work I did as a teenager, I have worked as an office assistant, an intern at the Youth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., a title searcher, a newspaper reporter/photographer, a sales assistant in both the publishing and cosmetic industries, a bookseller, a children’s book buyer at the store where I sold books, a temporary switchboard operator at an emergency homeless shelter run by the Red Cross in Brooklyn, a pastry cook, a breadbaker and a standup comic. (That last one didn’t really pay, and I wasn’t good at it.) With any luck and plenty of hard work, I will also be a lawyer, working on either food policy issues or civil rights.
20. I once called in sick from work because I was reading a book I loved too much to put down. (Disclaimer: Everybody gets *one* sick day in their lives like that. I’ve had mine. I won’t be taking any more of those.)
21. I wish I could throw a baseball.
22. The only downside to being married is that I can’t fall asleep listening to the radio anymore. If I were single, that radio would be playing all night long.
23. Although my grandmother taught me basic garter-stitch knitting when I was little, I didn’t really learn how to knit until I was 38.
24. My heart still breaks much more easily than it should. It doesn’t take much. I keep waiting for it to toughen up a little bit, but it never does.
25. I miss the way I used to listen to music when I was a teenager. Call me a sentimental old fool, but I believe there is something almost chemical in the power a song you love has over you when you’re younger. Occasionally I still find a song that makes me feel that way, and when I do, I feel like a new person. Hearing a song like that feels like diving into clear water. It feels like doing the work you were born to do. It feels like love.