I'll Miss Ya, Dallas (Or, Wherein I List Five Places I Will Miss Which Was Supposed To Be Ten But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

As most of my friends and family know, I'm moving to Durham next month and traveling before that. I'll post about these trips (on this woebegone blog in dire need of updating), but FIRST! What will I miss about Dallas? Here's my personal list of what will make it tough to leave The Big D (insert joke here if you must) behind.

5. Kings Spa -- AHHHH... OUCH... ahhhhhhhh... zzzzzz

 But really... why are there sphinxes? And pumpkins? And a coat of arms (not pictured)?

But really... why are there sphinxes? And pumpkins? And a coat of arms (not pictured)?

Kings Spa, the zany, confoundingly decorated epitome of Korean cleanliness in Dallas's Korea Town; the place where you will live your nightmare of being naked in public, burn yourself on the hot stones, wear the least flattering shade of orange invented by man, get scrubbed in your nether regions by a tiny lady in a bra and pantie set using a bristle pad, hear three different languages, and generally have a great day. This spa-waterpark-wonderland is so deliciously strange, there's no way I couldn't put it first on this list. As a side note, my skin has never been as soft and healthy as when I started going every two weeks for a "seshin," or cleansing session. 

Bonus points if you fall asleep in a hot room and figure out how those ladies wrap those tiny towels on their heads. 

4. Bastille Day -- la joie de l'ete

 Photo by  Elliott Munoz

Photo by Elliott Munoz

Did you know that Oak Cliff was originally a French settlement called La Reunion? Well, now you know. The long and the short of it is that these lovely French folks decided to build a utopian society off the Trinity River, which was all a grand idea until they got here and realized: 1) It's hot. For evidence of that, see man in the homemade pool above. 2) The soil is hella terrible. 3) It's hard to have utopia in heat and drought -- both tend to make even the gentlest people pretty miserable. So back they went. The oligarchy of France was better than Texas summer... that's how rough the weather is here. 

BUT.... they left us Bastille Day! Or, at least enough French history to allow us to celebrate it without being total poseurs. I am always proud of Dallas on Bastille Day. We wear our best French-inspired outfits, glug rich reds in the heat, party, eat Jambon-Beurre, and have some glorious times, ignoring the sweat and our purpled teeth. Drunken skips through that fountain help. If only La Reunion-ers had access to a hose, ice machine, and a tin pool, they may have stayed.

 Look at that perspiration glisten! 

Look at that perspiration glisten! 

3. Tacos Chanos -- los tacos de la calle estan PERFECTO

 Real sign from inside the restaurant. Clearly accurate. 

Real sign from inside the restaurant. Clearly accurate. 

Many (many... many...) moons ago, some friends and I went in search of the perfect street taco. And while other Taquerias have longer lines and more famous names (el si hay... cough cough...) I would look no further than Tacos Chanos to make your Mexican food dreams come true. Well, if you're me, I guess. One odd personality trait I inherited from my mother: I love pickled vegetables. Beets, dilly beans, kimchi, cucumbers, ginger.... and carrots, the latter of which I have only found at Tacos Chanos. They hand make their own pickled jalapenos, carrots, and celery with a bit of fresh thyme thrown in, and the crunch is SO satisfying with street tacos it almost convinces you that you've eaten healthily. Add homemade horchata, fresh key limes, onions, and cilantro along with some major al pastor game, and you have yourself a damn fine meal, my friends. Not many can handle how far Tacos Chanos is from the typical Tex-Mex experience, and that's exactly why I like it. 

2. Proximity to Fort Worth -- the secretly superior sister town 

 An abundance of longhorns! Who doesn't love longhorns?

An abundance of longhorns! Who doesn't love longhorns?

 

Sorry y'all (actually not sorry at all), Fort Worth is just better than Dallas. Though it lacks racial diversity (and that part is admittedly kinda strange), nearly everything else about Fort Worth makes it a superior place to live. Traffic is not as problematic. It's more walkable. People are generally nicer. TCU has a more fun student body than SMU (don't kill me, we all know it's true). The art museums are superior. Housing is less expensive. It's even hillier and prettier and has FREE botanical gardens in the heart of town. I'll kinda miss Dallas, but I really miss Funky Town.

1. My people -- the only real reason to live anywhere

 Horsin around after the Tweed Ride, another Dallas favorite.

Horsin around after the Tweed Ride, another Dallas favorite.

I've told this story at least ten times recently, but it bears repeating: I did not want to move away from the Carolinas in 2008. I desperately wanted to stay, but national economic insecurity and the general directionlessness of being 22 left me feeling powerless to do anything else but drive back to Texas. I cried nearly all 16 hours. But once I got here, I made new friends, got a fantastic first copywriting job, learned a trade, started a business, and grew. I have had so many bosses, colleagues, boyfriends and best friends I wouldn't have had if I'd stayed. So, many thanks to them. I am better, or at least stronger, for having known you. 

And now, I get to go home. See you on the other side of this wild rumpus.

Valparaiso Stole My Heart, and Nearly My Purse.

Valparaiso--the sloping, brash, circular city that reaches out of the rugged Chilean coast and stretches its fingers over the hills above, all careening waves and jagged rocks met with rounded, worn cobblestone streets-- the city that darts upward so dramatically its founders built outdoor elevators called funinculars to help locals get around--a port city. A poetic city. Here, brightly painted victorian houses roost precariously on cliffs, overlooking the flowers that cling magnificently to the cliff walls, making enormous natural vertical gardens, pops of pink and yellow and green on the brown red rocks. Color and danger intertwine in this city like no other, each balancing the other.

It's grimy, and it's gorgeous. The people are hardened by the steep, winding, uneven roads they have to traverse, the steely naval culture kept alive by the active port in the heart of the city, and the cold, whipping winds off the Pacific. Yet they're soft in the way people are when you're surrounded by such beauty.  They're kind. They're a hearty, good people. 

They're also incredibly hard on thieves, but more on that in a minute. 

 So much blue everywhere. 

So much blue everywhere. 

 

After riding the bus west for two hours from the Santiago airport, I saw it. Valparaiso. It was foreign, it was bright, somewhat poor, and so very different. I found a cab and spent the afternoon in one of the "cerros," the hills that define the neighborhoods. I was staying in an old, periwinkle, creaky Victorian home, owned by four generations of Valparaisians -- I never could tell how many of them there were, the house was so tall. A tiny blue-eyed cat and two dogs lived in the courtyard, and they were my instant friends. I made my way to the fourth, and top story of this sturdy blue ghost of a house,  with panoramic views of the water and the city. It was a romantic day, lounging in the top floor of this blue and natural wood wonder with its colored glass and timeless views of the bay. It was also a slow day, of listening to the wind creak the sides of the house in early spring as I slept off my plane flight.

I petted the cat and practiced my rusty Spanish, and went out wandering using my skills riding in a shared cab (colectivos--a shared cab system so befuddling I never did quite get the hang), and went twilight touristing and taking photographs. It was dreamy. I was enchanted already. I was in South America, walking on old streets, luxuriating in just how spectacularly unique and exotic it felt. But I was moving slowly, hungry, my senses inundated to saturation. 

Before I left for Chile, I did extensive research on the food scene in Valparaiso. I read and memorized articles such as this one and this one, and mapped them all out on paper with great care, starring each and giving myself directions. It was my vacation, damnit, and I was determined to eat well. Of course, I didn't know then that the Chilean aversion to all pepper and spice would make that desire unfulfillable, but on night one, I was going to have homemade squid ink pasta, and I was going to love it. I wandered toward my restaurant, lost but unafraid, jet lagged, and overjoyed.

And then I was robbed. 

It was in this fevered state for Valparaisan cuisine that I saw him. Tall, lean, and running straight for me from across the street, an asshole thief out to do harm in my happiest state! I jerked back with a "NO!" as he grabbed my purse, the one with my carefully created custom map, my Kate Spade wallet I saved for three months for, and my brand new passport. Clearly at 7pm I thought I was safer than I was. Save the scolding, I've already heard it. So I pulled back, the "NO! NO! NOOOOOs" sounding like they came from somebody else, somebody both louder and wilder than I felt. I kicked. We pulled. The bag ripped. I fell forward onto the unforgiving streets so hard I have a bruise the size of a baseball two weeks later. 

I had always assumed that if it came time for the "fight" or "flight" response that I would fly, but nope. Well, I did, but toward the danger, which my Chilean friend Maria later told me was "very very stupid." (When you don't know much English, you don't mince words.)

On the street, from the depths of my long-forgotten Spanish classes came the phrase "ayuda me," or "help me," and I found my footing and chased after my passport with all the rigor I had, screaming my one Spanish phrase like a banshee, blowing the whistle on this asshole. 

A teeny woman (from here on called Teeny Woman) heard me, came out of her apartment and started chasing him, the Asshole Thief. Then a man came out of his shop and started chasing A.T. Then a teenager came from her apartment and started screaming and chasing him while shouting in Spanish. He turned a corner and I lost him, unaccustomed to running up steep cobblestone hills in boots. Asshole Thief! I slowed and realized I was shaking--feeling pain, dull and throbbing, starting to grow in the hand that had fought for my purse.  My only thoughts other than the pain: my cab cash, my address, my passport. Cab cash. Address. Passport. Money, home, passage to the USA, all in the hands of a lanky foreign purse snatcher. So much for squid ink pasta. How would I get back home without a passport, and how would I get to the Victorian ghost house without a map?

 Not meant to be. 

Not meant to be. 

 

The fear and the pain started to set in, and everyone was yelling at me in Spanish. 7pm is early for Chileans, and everybody was out. I was mentally too slow even to register how overwhelmed I was. And then two things happened: At this point, a crowd was starting to form, and they were all talking to me in español muy muy rapido when a man named Miguel came from a bar on the corner and hustled me inside, the bar on the corner and mercy, he spoke English.  I figured, well, I have no money but I won't turn down ice. I hadn't realized it, but I had been robbed in front of my future favorite spot in Valpo, Brecon's South American Irish Pub.

Then, Teeny Woman reappeared from the crowd like a genie, holding my purse, contents intact. WHAT? Teeny Woman took down big Asshole Thief? I still don't know how she did it, but I learned: don't mess with even Teeny Chilean women. This night was getting ridiculous. 

 Purse. Hand. Breckon's floor. It looked far, far worse the next day. 

Purse. Hand. Breckon's floor. It looked far, far worse the next day. 

Here's the biggest problem with not speaking the language where you travel: there's no effective way of saying "thank you." No amount of muchas gracias-ing could express how lucky, just how fucking lucky and grateful I felt for Teeny Woman chasing down Asshole Thief and getting my passport back with her magic Teeny powers. But I did my best. "MU-CH-AS GRA-C-IAS!! I said incredibly loudly, as if volume showed just how grateful I was. Woman was Chilean, not deaf. My bad. 

Teeny Woman disappeared back into her apartment or genie bottle or angel cloud, I was left inside Brecon's with a throbbing hand and the police to deal with, because oh yeah, four of them had showed up. Here's how this conversation went:

Me, to bartender: I need a drink, the strongest.

Bartender Tom: Ok

Police: Rapid Spanish rapid spanish rapid spanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanish

Me, again to bartender: Do you know Spanish?

Bartender Tom: No, I'm Welsh. I've lived here a week.

Me to police: Lo siento, no comprendo, lo siento, mi español esta muy mal....

Police to me: Rapid Spanish rapid spanish rapid spanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanish

Bilinguel Miguel, holding ice in a rag: Rapid Spanish rapid spanish rapid spanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanish they want to know what happened.

Me, to Bilinguel Miguel: A man stole my purse.

Miguel to police: Rapid Spanish rapid spanish rapid spanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanish (I feel like he was saying a lot more than "a man stole her purse.") They want to know details. 

Me throughly embarrassed I couldn't remember more: I don't know, he ran up and stole my purse! Teeny Woman saved me. 

On and on this went for about 15 minutes while Bartender Tom prepared my terremoto with whiskey, Bilingual Miguel and the owner, Tony, who joined him speaking to the police, and the police responding in rapid Spanish, and me just staring wide eyed, clutching my ripped purse dealing with all the feelings and nobody understanding, literally. 

Bilingual Miguel to me: They want to take you to the police station.

Me to Miguel: You have to be crAzY lOcO Miguel. I'm not getting in a car with a bunch of MEN who don't speak English.

Miguel and Tony to me: You kinda have to.

Me: I DO NOT.

M & T: You do, or else they will never catch the man. We must keep our city safe. Do it for us.

Me, defeated, probably too easily: Will you save me my drink, Tom?

__

 This was not taken from a moving police car in Valpo, but it could have been. 

This was not taken from a moving police car in Valpo, but it could have been. 

Reader, may I just go ahead and tell you what it's like to ride in a police car with four spanish speaking police men, winding at top speeds with the sirens on on the loco winding roller coaster streets of Valpo? It was like this:

The guys: Rapid Spanish rapid spanish rapid spanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanishrapidspanish --- stop to look at me --- jajajjajajajajajajaja!!!

Repeat 4X

I didn't feel self conscious at all. I couldn't tell what was causing my nausea: my hand, my hunger, the way that dude drove on the winding streets, or my embarrassment. 

Twenty minutes later at the police station, I'm greeted thusly:

Police one: You...look...like...movie girl. But she's dead. 

Me: Which one?

Police one: I find her. 

Me: You speak English?

Police one: SI! Brittany Murphy!

I'm having faith already.

All went smoothly at the police station, other than the clear language barrier, and the news that apparently after being robbed I look like Brittany Murphy. 

 

One robbery, two clown car rides, and three hours after my normal dinnertime, I left with a fancy criminal report in spanish and proceeded to drink my teramoto and eat french fries for dinner. Not quite squid ink pasta, but alas. I was just happy to speak some English to Tom from Wales with a Texas tattoo (he spent 10 years in Houston!) and Bilingual Miguel who said "we think we know who robbed you. Stop in tomorrow."

Then I took a cab home, showered and slept. That part is boring. 

So the next day, I looked at pretty things. Here's the montage part of our story. 

 I feel like this street art is looking at that cute munchkin approvingly. Or maybe cheese? Can't tell.

I feel like this street art is looking at that cute munchkin approvingly. Or maybe cheese? Can't tell.

 The streets were much less scary by day. 

The streets were much less scary by day. 

 The ocean my God the ocean

The ocean my God the ocean

 I made friends with this bird at Pablo Neruda's house. 

I made friends with this bird at Pablo Neruda's house. 

I'm a pretty independent person. I spent the whole second day getting around Valipariso despite the language barrier and my swollen, throbbing hand, but by 5pm when I caught myself talking aloud to a bird at Pablo Neruda's house, it was time to go speak English to somebody. 

BACK TO TEMPLEMAN STREET, THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

It was an odd sensation walking down the same street, pacific blue as a backdrop down the steep hill, looking so unassuming I wondered if I had invented the whole thing. Turns out, I had not. The owner Guillermo, or Tony, as I called him for reasons I can't remember now, was working the bar. 

Me: Hi Tony!

Tony: Hola Ana, how's the hand?

Me: Mi mano esta mal. (I tried my best.)

Tony: You need to work on your Spanish. I know who robbed you last night. He parks cars in the neighborhood.

Me: Oh, like a valet?

Tony: No. Not like a valet. These guys in Valpo tell you where  to park, and you pay them to make sure that nobody (meaning the parkers themselves I guess) don't break into your car while you shop.

Me, feeling like that's the must suspicious job ever: OK.

He continued...

I fought in the Bosnian war for Chile. I was shot by a sniper in the shoulder, and won medals of honor. When I got home from the war, I opened Breckon's, and want to make tourists happy and teach them about Chile. I keep my medals locked in the cabinet behind the bar. Two nights ago, men broke in and stole my medals. I'm already set to find these men. 

Me: Was it the same guy?

Tony: No, but he and a couple of other men snatch purses in the area and sell what they can at markets. I will go to these markets to try and find my medals, and will see purses.

Me: So what happens now that you know who did it? Call the police?

Tony with a VERY serious look: I will take care of it.

Me: HUH? What does that mean?

CLEARLY THE GODFATHER DID NOT PREPARE ME FOR THIS MOMENT.

Tony: I'll take care of it. He won't be stealing again.

Me on the inside: Oh my good lord. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Have I met the mafia don of Valparaiso? Is Asshole Thief going to suffer? 

Me on the outside: Sooooo you know where he lives?

Tony: I do. Let me pour you a Carmenère.  (subtext: drop it so you don't become an accessory). 

 

I still don't know what happened to Asshole Thief or to Tony and his mission for his medals, but I do know that if you own a pub in Valparaiso that is across from a youth hostel, you don't want your potential patrons getting robbed outside. I am a little concerned for A.T. because Tony is the real deal. He's also kind, charming, speaks excellent English, makes a fantastic pisco sour, and treats his bartenders and customers with integrity, but do. not. cross. him. I kinda hope A.Thief still has knees, despite his clumsy thievery and dubitable career choice. Or maybe I don't. 

Valparaiso is, by all measures, a wonderful city. I highly recommend you go here, speak to the lovely people (if you don't speak Spanish head straight to Brecons), take a ride in a collectivo taxi, see Pablo's house, put your feet in the Pacific, and for goodness's sake don't be like me. Carry your cash in your bra or hidden pocket and leave the passport at home so Asshole Sorta Valet Thieves don't try and rob you, fail, and possibly get maimed. 









Bill Murray Wins.

What were the best pieces of relationship advice you've ever had? My mom has always had three good ones that I find fitting:

- Wear rubber gloves to do the dishes because men like soft hands. They also like head scratches.

 Bonus points if they're fancy like these!

Bonus points if they're fancy like these!

- Go on a really long road trip with somebody before you commit--so many things can go wrong in those cramped spaces on the road, and you want to make sure you and that person do OK under pressure. 

o-ROAD-TRIP-facebook.jpg

- Know somebody through all four seasons before you marry. People behave differently in different seasons. This one was actually from Beth Dowdy, and it sounds like an excellent plan.

fourseasons7.jpg

 

But now we have this winning advice from Bill Murray that I think blow all ideas right outa the water. If you're up for this, I could marry you. As the story goes, a group of guys at a bachelor party in Charleston, SC asked him to make a speech. This is what he said:

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s pick a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”

 Like these people! And yet maybe different. 

Like these people! And yet maybe different. 

Thanks Bill! WILL DO!



So, this is a bummer.

It seems all my content from November 2011 has disappeared into the interwebs! How tragic. Here's what's missing:

- Lots of complaining about how scary it is to be unemployed. 

- Advice on how to rock at being unemployed. I may have to rewrite that one.

- A rant that almost got me sued. Can't rewrite that one for aforementioned DRAMA.

- Lots of musings on my best friend, and how much I learned from living with her in college.

- Adorable photographs of my pets. 

- Ramblings on how scary it is to start a business. It's still scary. 

So, there's that. RIP, last three years of A Bonney Blog. Maybe now I'll be motivated to write more!


New Job Love.

As The Weepies sing in their terribly precious song, "All This Beauty," you can ask about it... but nobody knows the way. No breadcrumb trail to follow through your days. Ain't it the truth? The past year I can think of quite a few peers who have waded through much confusion, pain, and disappointment, myself included. But sometimes, every once in a while, something good happens. Sometimes when you don't deserve it, occasionally when the timing baffles you, and almost always when it can't be anticipated. In this case, for me, it has come in the form of a job. A writing job. A happy job. A job that pays. A job with upward mobility. A real job.

And, miracle of miracles, it is a job where I feel appreciated. Have you ever worked a job where you rarely, if ever, got complimented on your work? It's rough, no? If you are in one of those jobs, I have this to say: someday you will no longer be in that job. And when that happens, you will be so glad you had the willpower to make it through. And if you are in a job like that, good for you; you are lucky.

Yesterday, as an introduction, my supervisor made a video of me. I share it because a. it's hilarious and b. it's slightly embarrassing and c. it's already gone out to 250 strangers, so what's a few more going to hurt?

Sidenote: Why am I so awkward always? And why do I say my cat's name that way? Good grief. If I weren't so thankful I would be much too embarrassed to show my ridiculous mannerisms this way.

And as if all that celebration were not enough, today I created my first copy (for you non-advertisers out there, that's a word document) for a new client, and I actually got applauded in a large meeting. Applauded. Yes. Me.

Pinch me. Really? Pinch me. And y'all, really. If you are working in a job that is hard, that you don't like, where you feel lost, confused, stressed... I've been there. It gets better. Just keep on keepin' on. And let me know if you are feeling that way, I will take you out for drinks (or eat Pho, since, you know, it's my favorite food and all) because for the first time in years I am not the one needing to gripe. Bring it on, friends.

 

Writing.

"For me, writing is the only thing that passes the three tests of métier: (1) when I'm doing it, I don't feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it's frightening."

—Gloria Steinem

Happy Birthday, Bob!

Ohhhh sweet, lovely Bob Dylan.

Man of mystery, spinning lyrics as a tailor of song, twisting threads of words, creating color and pattern where there was none, and at last landing us back where we started, ears seared. May he live long.

I have liked Bob for a few years now, having been introduced to him through an old flame. Though at this juncture, I do have a confession to make. I did not like Dylan at first. I know. I had a tough time with the gravel in his voice, the density of his lyrics; I lacked the patience to let his songs grow on me slowly, unused to the lack of hooks and production. It's true, I was a music neophyte. But, well, gosh. The things we do for love, eh? I couldn't let that boy from yesteryear know that I hadn't at least attempted to memorize his works, so listen I did. And yay for me. The boy and I separated and moved on, but Bob and me? Well, that had a little more staying power.

His birthday was called to my attention by this interesting New York Times article about not only Bob's birthday, but the birthdays of many musical greats this year. Be sure to check it out!

And now I leave you with the music and lyrics to my favorite (or at least one of them) Dylan song. From his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, "Mr. Tambourine Man." To this day I can not get enough of that last verse... ahhh to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea...

Mr. Tambourine Man

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Though I know that evening’s empire has returned into sand, Vanished from my hand, Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping; My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet, I have no one to meet, And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship, My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip, My toes too numb to step, Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’ I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade, Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun, It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run, And but for the sky there are no fences facin’. And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme, To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind I wouldn’t pay it any mind, It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind, Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves, The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach, Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow. Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands, With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves, Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Sunday Post.

If you know me well, you most likely know that this year has rocked the ole' boat a little bit. Four jobs, two apartments, one death, one road trip, two boyfriends, one GRE test, one trip to DC, and roughly 624 tears later, I have arrived to the end of May again at last. This time last year I was preparing to go on the Ethel trip, and as I wrote was excited to, "search, grow, and love." Well, in the last year I have done plenty of all these, I am happy to say.

But yes. This has been a year of riotous change. Which may explain the 624 tears (roughly) and the fact that at least one or two of them always get shed when I sing the song below. The director of my choir is an incredibly talented composer and this is his latest piece, recently translated from a German poem. I have found the words comforting as I reel and rock from all the changes. And after all, it is Sunday. Enjoy!

"Be Still, My Soul" arr. Michael Cox

Be still, my soul! The Lord is on your side: Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change he faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul! Your best, your heavenly friend thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul! Your God will undertake To guide the future as he has in the past; Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still my soul! The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still my soul! The hour is hastening on When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone; Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.

Be still my soul! When change and tears are past, All safe and blest, all safe and blest, all safe and blest, We shall meet at last.

Text: Katherina A. vin Schegel, 1752

Education.

Well, I am working, slowly but surely, on a longer post on "What Really Matters." It is taking me some time. But one thing that really matters to me is education. And as I wrestle with a decision to go into debt for the chance to further my education, this quote from The Washington Post jumped out at me: “The well-educated adult has an integrity of character, a rootedness in essentials, and a self-understanding that makes it possible to live well and consistently in an unpredictable world.”

Oh academia. You are so nice. And expensive. And nice. And girlfriend could use some roots. Roots sound nice. And a root beer. Ok I'm off.

A Little Tune.

Sometimes, I like my music a little cheesy, a little simple, and a little singable. Kinda like the song version of your mama's grilled cheese sandwich. Well, this is a perfect example of one of my favorite "comfort songs." You know, the kind that when you hear it you immediately feel that all is a little more right with the world. Musically, it's not groundbreaking. But that's not really the point of Stephen Kellogg's music. His many albums are more like lyrical diaries, with songs like "Sweet Sophia," about the birth of his daughter and "Satisfied Man," his thoughts about how he will feel at the end of his life. This particular song I am sharing is called, "In Front of the World," and it is a song he wrote to his little brother when he went off to college. I think about the lessons of this song often, and thought I would share it with you! Since, you know, I am trying out this more-frequent-blogging thing. Below are the lyrics.

Lyrics to In Front Of The World

Well, it’s hard to live in front of the world, There’s only so much that you can pretend. Write down what it is you’re thinking; Take each day as it comes; You never know what’s hanging ‘round the bend. And as far from the world as we get, I can swear that the two of us will always be the same. Figure out what it is you believe in, And if you must choose, try not to trade your fortune in for fame.

And you’ll learn, learn, learn. You’ll wait your turn, turn, turn. And you’ll get sick on the way By the things that people say. It’ll break your heart against the wind, But you will just keep breathing in.

Well, if you’re scared to live in front of the world, I’ve got news for you, you should be then. When your confidence gets low and you’ve got nowhere to go, Just remember how you felt about me and our friends. And we’ll learn, learn, learn. We’ll wait out turn, turn, turn. And we’ll get sick on the way By the things that people say; It’ll break out hearts against the wind. But we will just keep breathing in.

Watch the way you fall in love... ‘Cause if you’re smart, you’ll take it slow. And don’t ask me about it, cause I don’t know, ‘cause I don’t know, know, know. But I’m gonna learn, learn, learn. I’ll take my turn, turn, turn. If I get sick on the way. By the things that people say. It’ll break my heart against the wind. But I will just keep breathing in.

Flying.

I often have dreams where I can fly.  In fact, I am close to obsessed with it. Sometimes to fight off sadness, I imagine myself hovering just above a situation. I levitate right out of my kitchen, through the window... and off. To... wherever. Today I was biking, and I saw a red-winged blackbird in flight. I was pedaling fast, and the bird took off a mere yard or two away from me, and for a few brief moments he flew in sync with me. Beating wings, streaking red across the green field, perfectly in time.

And as we moved together, same speed, same height, same motion... I thought.. Hm. Perhaps I can fly, after all.

Why You Matter.

"One is deluded when one believes that what he or she says or doesn't say, [does or doesn't do], makes no real difference." -- Dr. James Smart, What Really Matters About a week ago, I was sitting and reading a book called, What Really Matters, a collection of lectures from professors of all disciplines. A friend turned to me and said, "So what does really matter?"

"To me?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Virtue."

"Virtue? That's boring!"

Well, ummm. No. Compassion, humility, temperance, and general uprightness, while not scintillating, are nevertheless necessary topics of thought and conversation. Nobody is going to be thrilled by my words this evening. But the end of the conversation with my friend has been weighing heavily on me since:

I meekly pointed out, "It's important to be good!"

"Why?" he breezed. "Nothing really matters anyway."

DOH.

Well, that left me dumbfounded. Conversation over: Nihilism, 1. Bonney, 0. And it really is a shame I wasn't taught using the Socratic method more often. Perhaps if I were more accustomed to having my views challenged I could have formed a clearer response than, "Durrr well you don't really believe thaaaatttt...." Maybe.

But either way, I have now done my research, and have prepared this retort. I believe, so strongly, that we do matter. Our choices matter. Who we become, well darn it. It matters.  Here's why:

My friend was exhibiting a nihilistic tendency with his blithe statement. And nihilism, existentialism, and the like—well, friends, they just aren't good roads to go down, philosophically speaking. The reason being: if you were to fully, truly embrace these philosophies, life would completely lose all meaning.  Alas, that was the main thesis of these philosophers' statements.  Indeed, the true nihilist would have to reasonably conclude that in a world completely lacking rules, norms, knowledge, and morality, the next significant action would be suicide. Life is hard. And if there is no good to live for, why live? And this, my friends, is why this movement never really caught on, except in our pseudo-intellectual-post-modern-blah-blah-blah conversations. Seriously. Nobody really believes this.  And you know why?

Because we have an EGO.  Or, to be a little less Freudian, the rational.  "That conscious thinking thing," as John Locke would say.  The part of us that cares about ourselves and our own development.  So if we are to, quite literally, survive, one must accept that at least one thing matters. And that is you.

Now here is where the fun begins. For when the ego comes into play, the question of how relate to each other and how we should relate to each other becomes relevant. Because after all, if you matter, well that must mean that everybody else matters, too.  Nihilism is just so... boring! Boring because it is just one big ole cop-out in the end. Any philosophy that ignores the matter of how we relate to one another ignores far too much to make a valid system of living.

And as a wise child I know would say, "And what's the whole point of that?"

Ok. So we have this sense of self, and sense of others, and that matters. And we have these six-billion-plus population, all with this same "selfness," all mattering. So. Hm. Isn't it a logical train of thought to say then, "Well, if all these selves matter, then perhaps how I fit in with all these different selves matters, too." After all, it is certainly not a difficult claim to prove that we can do irreparable harm to one another. To take a little existentialist example, try on Camus's The Stranger when Meursault shoots that Arab man for no other reason than it is hot outside.

Although, if we were all do go about doing that in Texas, we would have excellent population control in the summer. Since we have the highest rate of teen mothers with more than one child and all. But I digress.

The point is, outside of absurdist novels, we can't just go around shooting people. So, if we can all agree to do one another no egregious harm is an aspect of wise living, perhaps there is a flip side. A way TO treat each other.

WOAH VIRTUE.

To most of you, this exposition will seem somewhat unnecessary. But I have seen a disturbing trend in those my age to accept this philosophy of the meaningless of life, and I have seen it lead to a general attitude of thoughtlessness, selfishness, unkindness, and, even more dangerously, depression, alcoholism, and generally self-destructive behavior.

All that to say, sometimes I can be thoughtless. Selfish. Unkind. I get depressed, and sometimes I do really stupid things. But I see these as faults, issues to be dealt with and changed, not acceptable attributes. I can't tell you how many peers have commented to me, "Well, this is the time to be selfish." No, friends. There is no time to be selfish—and I would even go a step further and say that the early twenties is the most important time to fight that vice; the habits we form now will be the habits we keep. And therein lies the difference between a virtuous person and non.

And really, you want to be a virtuous person because conflict is inevitable. And in those cases, don't you think it is a good idea to have some moral ground to stand on? A little strength of character?

I know I need to wrap this thing up. My next post will be much more about the virtues that matter to me, and my take on how to live a just, kind, and peaceful life. But I will end with this thought: I am fairly confident that this trend of not caring in my generation has much less to do with laziness (although in some cases that may be true) but rather in fear. We are afraid of how much influence we have over each other. We are afraid of the influence others have over us. We are afraid of our problems, afraid of our power.  We are unwilling to accept that we have the ability to uplift or crush one another with the slight of our hand. So we ignore it. And oh dear. Do we ever sell ourselves short when we do that.

To live virtuously requires courage. Oh so much courage. You matter.

 

 

 

Because I Promised You Rainbows

At the start of this bonny little blog, I dared to promise rainbows. And while it took several months to locate a brilliant symbolic spectrum, dear readers, I love you so. I found you two! Behold (and look closely).


Double rainbows. And doubly good wishes for a happy Friday! I will leave you with the lyrics from my favorite Irish blessing. (I don't know if I just had too many lucky charms as a child, but rainbows make me think of the Irish.)

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord lift his countenance upon you
And give you peace
And give you peace
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And be gracious unto you,
The Lord be gracious unto you
Amen, amen
(Photo by Preston Mitcham, iPhone 3G. Special thanks to PM for being so handy with the technology)

The Ubiquitous Sandwich

Dear Readers,

I am here today to write about one of my very favorite things. Yeah, that's right. You got it. Sandwiches. Sandwiches, you may know, have a long and illustrious history. Although it has been rumored among food enthusiasts that the hallowed "Duke of Sandwich" created this delightful meal by ordering his roast beast between two pieces of bread, the truth is more interesting; though less alliterative. The first recorded sandwich was actually consumed by a rabbi! For more on this stunning man, please see The History of Sandwiches.
Today, though, I am not here to discuss roast beast. Far surpassing Rabbi Hillel the Elder's wildest dreams, the sandwich is now synonymous with a wide range of delicious flavors -- from tangy to sweet, savory to salty, and all flavors in between. Yes, indeed. From its humble beginnings of roast beef and bread comes a meal that can include curry, bell peppers, vegetables, tofu, feta, parmesan, basil, salmon, and any other flavor under the sun. Everybody has his or her favorite sandwich, (I, for one, love turkey, lettuce, mustard, and cheddar on toasted wheat. Scrumptious.) and some adventurers have devised highly creative variations on a theme. Today, I come with two humble offerings. The Caitlin and The Susan. Behold.
The Caitlin
The Caitlin is a filling treat. Devised in California, this sandwich utilizes the contrast of its two main ingredients: the avocado and a fuji apple. Caitlin, in her Caitlinish ways, deftly juxtaposed the creamy green with tart and crisp. Combined with herb roasted turkey and Swiss cheese, this sandwich carries satisfaction to the tastebuds like no other.
Instructions:
Lightly butter (or spread olive oil) on two pieces of fresh french bread. Toast bread lightly. Slice avocado, apple, and cheese in thin slivers. When toast is ready, layer avocado, cheese, apple, and turkey evenly. Enjoy this gourmet sandwich with a light crisp wine or beer. I'm telling you, this thing is a meal. And fortunately, since it uses all the ingredients sparingly, you can create another swiftly -- and guilt free!
The Susan
All vegetarians, take heed! I have a delicious breakfast sandwich made of ingredients that have never eaten breakfast themselves. The Susan is a creation that utilizes some surprising ingredients. Susan invented this sandwich in Baltimore when she was earning her undergraduate degree in classics. And though I had a skeptical ear at first, thinking, "Oh Susan. You have read too much Cicero and have lost your mind," this combination is truly delicious.
Instructions:
Start with a bagel. Toast said bagel. Once toasted, smear a little cream cheese on the top. Next, add basil leaves. Yes, you read correctly. Fresh basil leaves. Chopped. It helps with the chewing. Next, add honey. Sweet, herby, scrumptious. So good, and you would never imagine. Unless you are Susan, of course. Thank you, dear friend. Eat with a cup of tea, I say.
In summation, the sandwich is a noble meal. Carbs, proteins, and veggies all mingle to pack a flavor punch. Like Susan and Caitlin, I challenge you to get creative in the kitchen! Come up with something new, and tell me all about it. Hillel the Elder will be so proud!

Something to be Happy About

Dear readers,

Well, what a week for the American celebrity scene. The United States and the world are mourning the loss of some incredible entertainers. Oftentimes, the death of a celebrity can be so jarring; mostly because we as a society tend to think of earth shakers like Michael Jackson as ageless beings. And though few people's day-to-day life will be changed by the passing of Michael and Farrah Fawcett (and I daresay nobody reading this blog), it serves as a reminder of our own mortality. Legends have passed, and so shall we.
Ok, ok. I know. It's not quite a bonny topic. But, it has been a pretty stressful week for us all. We lost an Angel and a King. Now to turn to more pleasant matters. Since we can safely say it has been a tough week news-wise, I thought it would be good to share some of the things I do to stay calm under emotional strain.
1.
14,000 Things to be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I was given this book for my 11th birthday and take it everywhere. The book is literally a list of 14,000 wonderful little things in life. For example:
- Blueberry pancakes
- Little girls in heart-shaped sunglasses
- "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas
- Hand-knitted mittens
- Green ribbon
- France
- Spring in North Carolina
- Freshly sheared sheep
- Sweet basil
The list goes on that way for hundreds of pages. Calms me down right away.
2. Handel's Messiah
Ohhhh Handel. Mr. Baroque himself. With all that ornamentation and just... so many notes, it is impossible not to feel taken away. Or at least completely distracted by the listening experience. I would share the "Hallelujah Chorus," but I won't. No, no. "And the Glory of the Lord" will do just fine.
3. "The Belt Pose." Unlike the other two, you need a little room for this stress reliever. According to my yoga teacher, if you were to only be able to do one yoga pose for the rest of your life, this one would be it. The relief to the hips, back, and legs is marvelous. Its official name is Supta Padangusthasana, or "Reclining Big Toe Pose."
HP_220_SuptaPadagusthasana_248.jpg
Basically, you lie on the floor, straighten out one leg, and stretch the other in the air using a strap (or belt). For more detail on this and other "restorative yoga poses," go here.
Whether mourning the King of Pop, sweating a relationship, or just fighting the day-to-day drag, give something uplifting a try! I am sure all of you have great little tricks for turning your day around and keeping you centered. What are they? Please comment!

"You make me feel good like a rock & roll band, I'm your biggest fan, California" -Joni Mitchell

Dear Readers,

 

I (of course) must begin this edition with an apology. I always go too long. But, this Bonney post is definitely worth the wait! In the past month, I have loved, lost, moved, and... traveled. Yes, indeed,  I traveled to the beautiful state of California for the first time. And what better place to start than San Francisco? Winding streets, delicious food, fragrant sea air, and a good friend to share it all. What a time. I would write for days about my experiences, but as they say in Italy, "Al contadino non far sapere quanto è buono il cacio con le pere."  Oh wait. That's "Don't tell a peasant how well cheese goes with pears."  

What is it I am trying to say? "El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo?"  Wait... that is Spanish for "Anyone who wants fish should go get his/her butt wet." Darn it.

I know there was something. What was it? "Un petit dessin vaut mieux qu'un long discours."  Ahh yes.  French for "A small drawing is better than a long speech." Well, I don't have any small drawings, but I do have some pictures, taken by the lovely and talented Caitlin Montgomery. Forgive the gratuitous use of my image. I just happened to be standing in the way of the view most of the time.

Muir Woods
is pretty gorgeous.
Don't you agree?

I'm now thinking about the possibilities of making that tree my permanent home. 

 

The next day, we went the other direction and saw the sea. The only sight that rivals the astounding Redwood is the Pacific Ocean. Scraggly coastline and twisting caves look out onto a blue expanse. 

Concrete has never been so lovely.
Taking flight!
Pottery cave.
Opens to yellow splendor: 
Not too shabby, eh?

Remember to play. 

And never be daunted. A good lesson for the month. Or life.

 

Caitlin, your pictures are beautiful, as are you. Thank you for being an inspiring friend and a perfect hostess. I can't think of a better way to see California.


 

Be Not Afraid

Dear readers.  I come to you with a humble offering.  In my former life at Furman (my metaphorical womb) our dining hall was my version of an umbilical cord, feeding me nutritious meals for the delicious price of $0. Thanks, Mom and Dad. However, we all have to be born sometime. Since my delivery from Furman, I have sought to re-create the healthfulness of dinner--and maybe up the delicious factor a notch.  Sometimes I have succeeded, sometimes failed miserably. Tackling the kitchen by myself can be a daunting task.

For all of you who are also faced with the frightening notion of COOKING, fear not. I have a recipe that sounds wildly complicated but is really quite simple. Risotto. Light, delicious, easy. A true triple threat.
And yes, you read me correctly. For although traditional risotto (one of the staples of Milanese cuisine) may strike fear into the hearts of novice cooks and health nuts--what with its creamy texture and use of multiple pots--this recipe is easy and much lighter than typical risotto. Behold.
asparagus-and-ham-risotto.jpg picture by abonney
Springtime Risotto
Dishes Needed
One sauce pan (for heating the stock)
One large non-stick pan for making the rest of the dish
Food Ingredients
One large box of vegetable or chicken stock (contains about four cups).
One cup arborio rice. Don't try to use a different rice, it won't work. The way that type of rice is meant to be prepared is perfect for a risotto dish.
One half cup dry wine. Cooking wine is fine, but I prefer to make my dishes with the same wine that I will serve. Makes the flavors blend better. But don't go with a sweet wine.  A dry pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc works much, much better.
One half cup freshly grated parmesean cheese.
Two tablespoons (or as I say, a glug) of olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
For seasoning, a few strands of saffron are delicious.
spanishsaffrontreads.jpg image by abonney
However, if saffron is a. too expensive or b. unavailable, a pinch of turmeric works, too.
0013729c050d0931f7f201.jpg image by abonney
Not as light a flavor, but gives the dish a little kick.
Now to the vegetables. That is where you can have some fun.
The original recipe calls for leeks and green garlic. And while I agree that leeks give a light "oniony" flavor without being to strong, and green garlic gives that much-needed garlic punch without being to heavy--I don't believe either are necessary. Go for leeks and green garlic if you want to go for broke, but otherwise I say don't worry about it. Onion and garlic work just fine. Just don't get too much of either. And whatever you do, cut them thin thin thin. These are meant to be compliments, not overpowering agents.
I say half a small-medium onion and one garlic clove is plenty.
And there are the basics. As for vegetables, you can go wild. I think peas, artichokes, sauteed mushrooms, or asparagus would be really delicious in this dish. I tried it with  frozen peas, and it was great. So feel free to try anything. Half the fun of cooking is the experimenting.
Directions
In your saucepan, bring your chicken/vegetable stock to a simmer. It needs to be heated up when you add it to the rice.
In your large non-stick skillet, add your olive oil, onion and garlic, and put to a medium heat. You want to cook these down to release their flavor, but do not brown them. Three minutes is probably good. They still have alotta cookin' to do.
Once those are in good shape, add your rice, and maybe a little more olive oil. It's your call. The coolest thing about arborio rice is that you toast it first. Stir it all around to make sure it is all coated with a little olive oil, about three minutes.
Then turn up the heat a little and add your spices--turmeric or saffron, a pinch of salt, and the wine. Cook until it is absorbed.
Then start adding your stock, about one cup to start.  The broth should bubble. Continue adding a little more as your rice absorbs all the liquid. A half cup every few minutes does it. And keep stirring. You will be adding new liquid for 20-25 minutes.
Once all the liquid is mostly cooked down and your rice is taking on a creamy texture, add in your cheese and other vegetables. I put in my peas in their frozen state and the heat from the rice cooked them right away. Canned artichokes are already cooked so they can go right in. And if you want mushrooms or asparagus, I recommend cooking them seperately in a little olive oil and maybe a little wine before you put them in. But that does use a third pan. I know. I know. Lotta pans for one dish.
Once all that is stirred in, your rice is soft and creamy, and everything is fragrant and delicious, serve it right up with a little pepper on top! I promise you, it sounds complicated, but it is easy. Really. A perfect spring or summer dish to be served with white wine. If you want to make a full meal for it, I suggest a crisp salad with a little olive oil and lemon juice as dressing.
Happy cooking!