Shameless in Seattle

Where Gabby (mis)advises you on how to travel, eat, drink, and read.

Month: January, 2014

BREAKING NEWS REGARDING TEENAGE ANGST

Studies have shown that 4/5 teenagers experience Angst. The other 1/5? They revealed themselves to be teenage-shaped lawn ornaments during the final stages of experimentation, at which time it was too late to subtract their results from those of actual teenagers.

All this to say, it is scientifically proven that teenagers are Angsty.

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It doesn’t matter what their circumstances are either. An orphan teenager slinging cocaine on the corner of Bad News Street in a hand-me-down, periwinkle du-rag is just as likely to be Angst-ridden as the upper class beauty queen and valedictorian whose parents wrote Happy Birthday Perfect Sunshine! on her birthday pancakes.

I know this from personal experience in both of the above situations. Angst is not circumstantial.

So what does cause Angst?

All the parents in the room are nodding their heads. They know the answer. Hormones.

WRONG.

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“But, but, but… the doctors said…”

Just shut up and listen. You may want to pull your beanbags closer, too.

Psychologists will tell you that everything is the result of Nature and Nurture. This is a lie, as well as a terrible title for a horror movie. Psychologists are just saying this so you will leave them alone to conduct their weird rat drug experiments in peace.

But I am here to tell you, without personal agenda or secret motive, the truth.

Teenagers get Angst from novels.

Preposterous! You say in your head. “Preposterous!” you say out loud, if you are an old British man with hairy ears. My child was never exposed to novels! Well, they were in school, but those things were dense and depressing even when I had to read them “back in the day”!

Not preposterous. Just true.

Novels have filled our once-children with more passion, sadness, and frustration than can be expressed in a rational way. Ever heard of John Green? I rest my case.

“So let’s ban novels!” you say. “Let’s burn them all!”

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Keep your pants on, crazy. We can’t ban novels.  What are you, a character from Fahrenheit 451? You of all people shouldn’t want novels banned!

Plus, if we banned them, teenagers would be Angsty about the fact that they weren’t allowed to read them, so it would be a really expensive overreaction with zero benefit for our superfast texting mini me’s.

So why am I writing this? Clearly I am not writing to cure Angst. It is an affliction that cannot be cured except, in some cases, by Time. I am simply informing you of its cause, that you might understand the teenagers in your life more effectively.

You could even ask them about the latest novel they’ve read. Who knows? Maybe they won’t burst into tears and rip their shirts before slamming the bedroom door in your face.

One can only hope.

How to make friends in a new city (in Ten Easy Steps)!

So you just moved to a new city. Maybe this is your first stint in what college seniors like to call “The Real World.” Suddenly, you realize that meeting people is hard. You’re not looking for a Best Friend… that slot is already occupied by someone who now lives many states away from you, probably someone with whom you once played Little League Baseball or double dog dared to kiss Kacy Tucker. You’re just looking for someone to go to Wine Tastings with you when your boyfriend has the flu, or to meet you for Margarita Monday at the Greasy Gringo.

I feel your pain, and so I have come up with these 10 easy steps, a simple roadmap through the unmarked back roads of life to the destination of Friendship[1]:

1. Quickly brainstorm five things you like, but are not sexually attracted to.

      Example: 1) Books 2) Sweet Potatoes 3) The whiskers on small rodents 4) Jamie Lee Curtis 5) Kleptomania

2. Get dressed as if you are going to the grocery store.

3. Do not go to the grocery store. Instead, locate the largest reflective surface you own (ie. refrigerator door, shard of shiny glass, mirror, etc.) and stand in front of it. Attempt to stereotype yourself based on your appearance (ie. “Cool Mom,” “Unwashed Sportsfan,” “New Vegan with Chip on Shoulder,” etc.).

4. Say to reflection: “I am a ______________ (insert stereotype here) and I deserve a friend.” Example: “I am a New Vegan with Chip on Shoulder and I deserve a friend.”

      Repeat until hungry.

5. Scramble yourself some eggs, and eat them.

Dear Gabby,

                  I am allergic to eggs. Does this mean I am destined for friendlessness forever????  PS. Big fan of your column!                                                                

                                                                  Sincerely,

                                                                  Allergic to Egg but Not Friendship

                                                                  North Dakota

Dear Allergic Egg But,

                  I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that yes, you are destined for friendlessness forever. The good news is that it’s not because you’re allergic to eggs! It’s because you live in North Dakota!

                                                                  Cheers!

                                                                  Gabby

6. Wait until Saturday.

7. Go somewhere where people who stereotypically look like you go to hang out on Saturdays. For example, if you have dreadlocks and wear rainbow clothing made of hemp, go hang out near a rainbow! Or if you wear heels and enjoy burnt coffee, go to Starbucks and say things like “The company budget does not allow for such frivolity!” into an imaginary Bluetooth headset.

8. Scan the room (or meadow, lighthouse, underground fortress, replicated American colonial village etc) for Conversation Starters. Top CS’s include Visible Tattoos, Clothing Logos, Headphones, and Pets.

9. Stand in the vicinity of Potential Friend and say something that could be directed at them or to no one. Tone is key.

      (For example, “I want to get a tattoo, but I’ve heard they’re addictive so I’m scared.” Or, “What time is that Big Game tomorrow?”)

      When they look up at you uneasily (don’t worry, they will if you repeat yourself enough), pretend to notice them for the first time. Laugh. Say, “I’m sorry.” Then introduce yourself, and employ the first interactive hand gesture that comes to mind.* Unless the first one that comes to mind is a karate chop to the face, in which case, refrain.

10. It’s all downhill from there! Exchange phone numbers, strategize weekly rendezvous, and exchange $10 edible gifts at Christmastime. 

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Enjoy your new friend!

[1] I have a degree in Creative Writing. 

Why you should change out of your onesie on MLK, Jr. Day

Yes, sleeping in is great. So are three-day weekend trips to the lake, America’s Next Top Model marathons, and the ability to alternate between checking Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on an endless loop without ever changing out of the red onesie your mom got you for Christmas. All these things are great, but Martin Luther King, Jr. Day shouldn’t be (entirely) about that. 

Growing up, MLK Jr day wasn’t presented to me as a day off of school; it was presented as an opportunity to go out into the community and do something. There are TONS of public service opportunities organized for that day (by United Way, local churches, etc.) and all you have to do is sign up to join or show up to help out. Sure, I grumbled some when I was fifteen and my dad got me up early on my day off, but when I look back now at, say, the MLK Jr Day I spent painting the walls of an inner-city school, I’m so proud of that. I’m more proud of that than my GPA, ACT score, and Who’s Who award combined.

I always thought, as a kid, that everyone approached Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in this way, but as I get older, I realize that not everyone was lucky enough to have a dad like mine.

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This morning I looked up MLK Jr events in Seattle, and I saw that there was an event at Mt. Zion Baptist Church at noon. Michele Norris (Yes, THE Michele Norris aka Voice on All Things Considered) would be the keynote speaker, and it was a no-brainer. 

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It was the most diverse crowd I’d ever been a part of, and one of the sweetest experiences of my life.

Everyone looked so happy. The Greater Works Chorale sang (AMAZING, by the way), and a group of children and adults took turns reading “Race Cards,” 6 word sentences about how they felt about race. Then a scholarship was awarded to a man who used to be a gang member and an alcoholic (cue the tears). He is now a single father, sober 10 years and pursuing a degree in social work and developmental disorders. He stood up there in the nicest suit, and we gave him a standing ovation that almost brought the roof down.

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And Michele Norris was as wonderful as I’d expected her to be. Funny, thoughtful, challenging. She talked about her own family’s reluctance to talk about race and how it had shaped their experience in America. She invited all of us to engage in conversations about race, to write our own 6-word race cards.

The event ended with everyone holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome” together (I know, right? Cheesy as all get out). But it was awesome. All I could think about was how unheard of something like that would have been fifty or sixty years ago: a 20 year old white girl holding hands with two black men, them holding hands with a Chinese woman, an Indian man, a teenager wearing a hijab…

We still have a long way to go here in America when it comes to race. (All you have to do is listen to some people’s stories to know that). But events like this always leave me with the most positive sense of hope. If we actively pursue equality, we will keep getting closer to it.

So I encourage you: Enjoy your day off of work or school, but try to spend at least part of Monday doing an act of service Dr. King would be proud of. At least watch the “I Have A Dream” Speech in its entirety on Youtube, or read a sermon of his. I promise, you won’t regret it.

10 Things You Don’t (Might Not) Know About Portland

I just got back (fresh off the train, actually) from my very first weekend trip to Portland, Oregon. So, obviously, I am now an expert, and it is my duty to inform you of 10 things you may or may not already know about Portland.

1. 75% of Portlanders dress like they’re starring in a Wes Anderson film.Image

Fur. Athletic bands. Unruly facial hair. The whole nine yards.

2. And the other 25% dress like The Capitol on a budget.

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3. Places that shouldn’t serve breakfast, do so. Proudly. Bowling alleys, strip clubs, furniture stores… Doesn’t matter. You can get yo vegan pancakes on.

4. Movie Theaters only show one movie.

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Well, the one we wanted to go to did. And it was such a cool theater, I didn’t even care! Also, the wine helped. McMenamins Bagdad Theater and Pub.

5. Portlanders love food trucks

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Yes, even more than you do. Downtown, there is a congregation of about fifty that takes up an entire block. And they offer every kind of ethnic food available. (Every wanted to try Georgian food? As in, from the country of Georgia? Now you can!) Personal favorites include the PBJ’s Grilled cart and the Cultured Caveman.

6. It rains…

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Even more than it does in Seattle (by 0.4 inches a year) AND YOU CAN TELL. Seriously, if you’re going to Portland, bring a lined windbreaking rain coat and waterproof shoes.

7. It’s weird if you’re NOT vegan.

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Almost. But really, if you have any sort of food preference (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free), Portland is the place for you.

8. There is an abundance of moss.

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Moss on steps. Moss on house. Moss on boots. Kate Moss. You name it.

9. There are bridges (huge fancy bridges) EVERYWHERE!

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I mean, I knew there was a river running through Portland, but nobody told me how awesome the bridges were. I highly recommend walking over one if the weather isn’t too bad. Killer views.

10. People in Portland are nice.

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They may have purple hair and wear metallic lip stick and own their own chickens and have tattoos of cats on their arms, but they smile, hold doors, and are genuinely happy to see you in their city.

Ever heard of a sunchoke?

Neither had I, until yesterday at the Ballard Farmers Market when I saw some tall bearded man practically upturning the entire crate into his eco-friendly tote bag.

It's like a weekly circus... for food!

It’s like a weekly circus… for food!

I asked him, as one must ask tall bearded men so enthralled by mysterious vegetables, “Excuse me. What do you do with those?”

Enter scene from Forest Gump. “Well you can make roasted sunchokes, sunchoke parsnip puree, slice em up raw, make grilled sunchoke, sunchokes on a salad, sunchoke soup, sunchoke key lime pie…” He went on and on, and before I knew it I had a handful of the ugly things and I was giving Andrew a look that said Trust Me. I have the endorsement of a Tall Bearded Man with an Eco-Friendly Tote.

Oftentimes the ugliest vegetables taste the best... They've had to compensate with personality.

Oftentimes the ugliest vegetables taste the best… They’ve had to compensate with personality.

Sunchokes: Otherwise known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes are the root vegetable at the bottom of a pretty yellow flower. They look a lot like ginger root, and raw they taste a lot like a water chestnut. Cooked, they taste like a much tastier potato.

Slicing sunchokes

We prepared them very simply (as I tend to prepare all things) by slicing them fairly thin and coating with olive oil, fresh ground sea salt, chopped garlic, and fresh rosemary.  Baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until they were soft on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside. (We also saved some raw for chopping up to add crunch to a spinach salad.)

Served with some roasted balsamic beets and baked salmon with ginger and soy. Two thumbs up.

Sunchokes, beets, and Asian salmon

Moral of story: Don’t be afraid of sunchokes! If you like potatoes, you’ll LOVE them. And personally, I might even like them better raw.

Until next time,

Gabby