Monday, November 26, 2007

Drinking Coffee, Saving Turtles, Expanding Horizons

So, the short story is this: I am taking 24 Scriber Lake High School students to Costa Rica this spring to scan the Caribbean beaches and rescue eggs that are laid by the endangered Leatherback Turtles (which might otherwise be collected by poachers and sold at local bars with a beer).
The somewhat longer story is here: The kids going on this trip are special - I know them really, really well. Many of them I have taught for four years -- since they were freshmen. I have seen them struggle with difficult family situations, drug addictions, and learning disabilities. All of them have overcome many obstacles in order to graduate in 2008. Scriber is a school of choice, and many of them chose to attend simply because they needed a place where they wouldn't get lost in the big crowds of the mainstream schools.

Anyway, I kind of love these kids, and there is nothing I would like more than to see passports in their hands and an experience like this to expand the shape of their horizons prior to graduation. This will be the first taste of international travel for all but one of them, and they are thrilled with the idea of making a difference for our planet and creating environmental awareness in our community.

In addition to the work with the Leatherbacks, we will also trek to a school in the mountains to experience a cultural exchange with indigenous students. We will learn about rain forests and cloud forests and volcanoes. We'll be looking for monkeys, sloths, iguanas, coatis, and a large variety of birds and hummingbirds. Our trip is being organized through EcoTeach, an organization with a strong commitment to supporting community-based educational and environmental groups in Costa Rica.
Each student is committed to raising the $2200 fee required for the trip; however our students are predominantly free or reduced lunch kids, not very well- connected to relatives or businesses available to help with our cause.

So here is where your coffee drinking can make such a huge difference: We have hooked up with an award-winning coffee company that buys coffee from small, family owned farms in Costa Rica, and our group will receive $4 for every bag sold in our name. Tortuga Coffee is purchased from cooperatives where participating farmers receive living wages, family medical/dental services, high interest savings and low interest loans and free sustainability support for their farms. For easy ordering instructions (orders are shipped directly to you), see the directions below.

Or, of course if any of you would like to donate money, that would be great, too. Checks should be made out to Edmonds School District (Scriber Lake Costa Rica Trip) and can be sent to: Scriber Lake High School, 23200 100th Ave W.,Edmonds, WA 98020. EcoTeach is a 501c3 organization, so your contribution is tax-deductible.

OR...another choice...they are putting together a PowerPoint presentation about the trip and we would love to come and present it to whomever will listen - businesses, a collection of friends, etc. Just let us know where and when!

We will be inviting all supporters to share in a fun night of pictures, videos and dessert following our return (Tiffany, will you help me with this?).

To order Tortuga Coffee:
1.) Go to
2.) Place a coffee order for yourself, family, or business.
3.) When checking out, under “Organization Selection,” please be sure to select “Scriber Lake High School” on the scroll down menu next to “Please select the organization you are fundraising for:” This ensures that your order(s) will be used to support our trip.
4.) In addition, you may select an individual from our team that should be credited with the coffee sale. There is a scroll down menu here that contains the acronym SLHS (Scriber Lake High School) and each of our team member’s last names. Even though my trip is covered, my last name is listed, too. I plan to credit a student's account with anything in mine. Or, you may simply choose “none” from the scroll down menu, making the donation one that would be evenly divided among the students going on the trip.

Thanks so much for your support--every little bit will help us. Please...forward this link to anyone you know who is a lover of coffee, turtles or teenagers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

JP Knows Good Humbao

by Brian

It was the best of bao, it was the worst of bao. Our quest had the focus of JP's list (see previous post) and, therefore, very high expectations (although we tried our own thing three times before getting on JP's righteous track). Here's our list of humbao joints from worst to best, which is also, coincidently, from first to last:

Winner! No Humbao: Shanghai Garden
This place had no humbao, and they weren't even nice about it. Just a terse, annoyed, repetitive response from a lady who said "No bao! No bao!" Sorry we asked.

Winner! Worst Humbao: Honey Court Restaurant
This place had humbao, but the humbao had no flavor. It was lukewarm and very sweet, but that was it. You couldn't taste the pork, it was just sweet. Like honey. Like their name. Clever? No; just disappointing bao. (I mean, look at my fish face when I'm eating it).

Winner! Second Place Worst Humbao: Purple Dot Cafe
At this point we were still doing our own thing, not yet getting to JP's recommendations. In Marjie's previous post about humbao, she had listed Purple Dot as being tied for her favorite, and JP shamed her for it. We were here to set the record straight. They gave us baked bao instead of steamed bao. It was heavy on the onions, and again, it was lukewarm.

Since her record could not be set straight, Marjie said, "Well, JP is kind of a know it all," because she hates it when other people know more than she does about where to get good food. But, after three failures, she was on track to a place on the JP List.

Winner! Very Close Second Place Best Humbao AND Dumplings that Approach Ultimate Dumpling Status: Jade Garden
Marjie cannot pass up a dumpling recommendation, and thankfully, she did not today, either, even though dumplings were not the day's quest. These shrimp and chive ones were packed with shrimp with a rice flour wrapping. Yum. The bao were delicious, and, finally, HOT. I thought that they might have some kind of bean paste added to thicken them up, and the dough was soft yet moist...just right. Suddenly, JP was a likable know-it-all.

Marjie said, "These humbao kick the last humbaos' ass!"

I said, "JP kicks ass!"

So we headed to our last, and best, JP List destination:

Winner! First Place Best Humbao: New Kowloon
Yep, the restaurant you always see from the freeway when traveling north on 1-5. Tasty, not as gooey but even more flavorful. If only the dough was as good as Jade's, but oh well, what's inside is what matters most.

Winner! Best Non-Humbao, Sandwich and Jello Thingies: Saigon Deli
At this point we got off the humbao track and headed to Saigon Deli for a bahn mi sandwich, since I had never had one before and Marjie loves to prey upon people who have never tried something that she loves. We got carried away with all of the colorful jellos, cakes and coconut flavored thingies, too....and something called Pork and Sour, which is a deceptively cute but actually evil, more sinewy cousin of Spam (pictured, center, the only non-green thingy). The ID pigeons couldn't stomach it either, if that tells you something. Although they tried really hard to.

The sandwich was delicious, and I am eternally indebted to my sister for introducing me to this sandwich (I already owe her my existence because of the turkey wishbone...another story). Toasted tofu, shredded carrots, cilantro, daikon and jalapeƱo peppers in a crunchy French roll. Sound un-American? Yeah, obviously. But also a truly delicious combination.

Hey, JP, where to next?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Left-Over Heaven

Even three days old and cold, humbao is a little taste of happiness for me. Especially when it's hand delivered by Marjie!

Eat your heart out, everybody else in the world!

-Bro Brian

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Humbao Research, Seattle, WA

Avocado bubble tea from Bubbles in West Seattle, Jaci's bicep and humbao. I'm going to connect all three in this post.

We'll start with Jaci's bicep. She competed in the Danskin Triathlon on Sunday, and here are her results:

107th out of 3496 and 21 out of 481 in the 35-39 age group.

My friend is impressive, for sure. I've attended two triathlons this summer (Lake Padden, afternoon and sunny, Danskin, EARLY and WET) and at both I hoped to be inspired to participate in one some day, but that didn't happen.
I do, however, take a killer circuit training class at Anderson's, and Cris, the trainer, is as energetic as five "energetic" people combined (unless you know Jaci, then it would be more like two energetic Jaci's combined.)

Well, this morning, he asks me, "Hey, when does school start?" (because he is as nice as five nice people combined) and my tone is really edgy when I answer, "WHY does EVERYONE have to know when school starts? Why is THAT INFORMATION so important to everyone?" And poor Cris, he is just baffled at my bitchy response. So I apologize and explain that I just get really depressed when I have to say goodbye to summer.

"Clinically depressed?" he asks.

Well, not clinically. But that got me thinking about what I could do today that would ward off the dread a bit. And then I thought of my brother's comment from a few days ago when I suggested a taco truck contest.

He said: "Oh, I'm too scared to put my taco truck up against yours; I haven't eaten there for 5 years. I don't even know if it's still there. But I would drive to Seattle in a heartbeat if your adventure could include tacos and humbao..." Which can be translated into "I love you and I understand what makes you really happy."Taco trucks make me happy, and so do food missions.

So I came up with a plan to ward off depression while preparing for my brother's humbao visit: a little lunchtime humbao research before my haircut appointment (which was close to the International District). I have to admit, I have been a little stand-offish to my city since my return from New York. Like, I didn't really feel like talking to it since it didn't have a subway when I first got home, and I was like, "you're so small and not all that cosmopolitan." But I was wrong to treat my city that way, because it has been very good to me and it does the best it can being so far west and having such a small harbor (in comparison) and so I thought I would try to work on our relationship by ending the silent treatment and actually doing something active with it by conducting a little humbao research, even though I would have to drive my own car and park, and pay for parking, etc.

Here were my rules:

1. I had one hour to complete my mission, paid for at the Uwajimaya parking lot.
2. I would taste as many humbao as possible within this one hour time limit.
3. If the humbao wasn't good, I would throw it away (waste of taste and calories).

Before leaving, I googled "best humbao, Seattle" and the Honey Court Restaurant on Maynard came up...perfect place to begin. They were serving dim sum for lunch, and the humbao only came in orders of three. I thought of Elsa freezing her humbao for lunch, so I agreed and paid the $2.25. Getting humbao kind of blind is just don't know what is going to be inside the sweet, puffy dough. It could be ground pork, could be barbecued pork, or it could be a hunk of Chinese sausage and a hard-boiled egg. You just don't know. But I love the Door #1 and Door #2 kind of excitement. The Honey Court buns were sweeter than usual because of their custardy-sugary coating (they were baked, not steamed, as is the classic). The pork inside was nice and barbecue-y and it would have received an excellent rating had it not been on the "luke" side of lukewarm. Certainly not bad enough to throw away, however. Probably much better steamed at home, which I will try later.

Across the street was the Purple Dot cafe, and though they did not list humbao on their menu, when I asked, the woman removed three traditional steamed buns from her dim sum cart and charged me $2.13 for them. I could find absolutely nothing wrong with these buns. They were hot and delicious. How is this for a close-up? Across the street from that, I went to the huge China Gate restaurant and purchased three more buns, which were almost exactly the same as the Purple Dot steamed ones, and they are pictured at the top of this post. If you were to ask which ones were better, I would have to say the China Gate bao were and if you were to ask me why, I would just say "I don't know why."

A few places after that were so crowded that I couldn't even get in the door to ask about humbao- like Shanghai Garden and Imperial Palace. Some places didn't have humbao, like J & L Cafe. The woman at the counter there pointed at her wrapped banana leaves tied with string and said these were the equivalent, but with sticky rice. I've had them before, and thought I should try them for my brother since they are an "equivalent" to his favorite.

"Peanut and pork, or mung bean and pork?" the woman asks me. I choose the peanut and pork, and a man sitting at a table near the counter can't help but interject why he likes the mung bean and pork ones better.

"OK, the mung bean and pork one, then," I say to the woman.

The man rolls his eyes a bit and says, "Oh, you've got to try both of them. They are only $2 a piece!" Like, you aren't buying two cars, lady! Obviously he didn't know that I had six leftover bao in my bag at that moment and was planning to buy more, but I gave into his bullying because it was food bullying and that kind of bullying I can respect. Here is a picture of one of them, tied up so neatly.

But by that time, I only had twenty minutes left on the clock, so I decided to wait to open the sticky rice surprise since it was cold, anyway, and I had to run to Uwajimaya to buy $7.50 worth of stuff to get my "free" hour of parking. I bought some origami paper and made my way to the food court, where I purchased my last humbao, from Yummy House Bakery. It was bigger and much more expensive, at $1.25, but it was nice and the pork was shredded and there was lots of it. This one was also baked.

When I got to my car, I unwrapped the banana leaves and took a big bite of the sticky rice, which was a mistake. I don't recommend biting anywhere near the leaf, because it doesn't smell very good. I decided to save it and heat it up later (which I did and it was excellent).

While getting my hair cut, I reflected on my humbao mission. Here I had taken an hour to reconnect with my city and had eaten so many good humbao, but I had to admit that I still had the memory of that humbao spot on Mott street in New York (the one where I took that rushed blurry picture because I was so hungry). I can't explain why, but it was much better.

I knew what I had to do. I knew a place in Seattle that did something better than New York, for sure...Bubbles in West Seattle makes the best avocado bubble tea. In New York they just didn't get it quite right...maybe not cold enough, maybe too much sugar...I just couldn't get it perfect (and don't try it on Queen Anne, either....ewwww it was bad and ruined my perfect record of recommendations to Dennis). So that's how it all connects, see? And that is the end of my story. Thank God Cris asked me the dreaded question this morning, and that I have tools to work through my depression, and that he works us out hard enough that I can go on these kinds of missions without doing too much damage.

And I am back with Seattle.

Oh, here is the sticky rice package when I got it home and away from the smelly leaf and heated it up: I loved it.

Brian, when are you coming down?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Columbia City Taco Truck=Happiness

Taco trucks are popping up all over my neighborhood, but I still choose to drive the twelve miles to Columbia City in order to get this $1.25 carnita taco from my favorite truck on Rainier Ave. S. in the Bank of America parking lot.

Fortunately, I can always find reasons to go to Columbia City, so I pretend it's not just about the truck, but really it is. I just buy cute clothes at Andaluz and go to my fruit and vegetable stand to add legitimacy.

But for me, Mexico=Happiness, and this taco is Mexico, so twelve miles to happiness is not bad at all...

is it?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Maybe You Should Have Tried Harder on the Quiz

This is my #1 fan, Karyn, and her wild, beautiful hair drinking a Corona on my roof. You know her because she wrote the witty comments responding to every NY blog entry (she represents "The Norris Clan") and because she won the prize for my New York City quiz from a few weeks ago. My mom told me one day that she enjoyed Karyn's comments almost as much as my blog entries (yes that kind of hurt but actually I felt the same).

Maybe the rest of you didn't play the game because you thought I wasn't serious about the prize, but here is the proof. And I think Karyn is enjoying her mole (again, a mixture of chiles, almonds, raisins, chocolate, pronounced "mo-lay"), which is covering a pasilla green chile stuffed with black beans, rice and cheddar cheese. I'm including a picture of the food-- even though it really doesn't photograph very well. She also tried beets for the first time, but I will let her comment on those when she returns from Chicago. (I can tell you, though, that she chose a chocolate croissant over a picked beet for dessert).

This is only the second time I have met Karyn. She is my brother and sister-in-law's friend and somehow she became my #1 fan. Which is funny, because she is another one who should be on Broadway (she sings, dances and acts), and her husband is down in LA as we speak, hoping for a record deal (is it still called a "record" deal?) which will enable him and his band to carry on and transcend the spirit of the 90's Seattle music scene. So, actually, I should be their #1 fan.

Brian, maybe you should have tried harder on the quiz...? You've been wanting mole for a long time. But, anyway, thanks for providing me with my #1 fan - I really like having one and would like some more.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Crime Scene Photos

My mom and I murdered about 50 garden beets's a summer tradition. We pickled half and roasted half, then spent the rest of the evening washing up beet blood. I'm sticking to my "high maintenance" description. How does The Veggie Evangelist do it? She must have someone cleaning up after her killings.

I can't stop taking pictures of my green and red garden food. Here's a caprese salad with a deep red heirloom tomato, and open-faced BLT's with a mixture of tomatoes on grilled panini. I think I could eat green and red food all summer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Post for The Beet

This salad has to make an appearance on my blog...look how pretty it is. My dad dedicated three rows of beets to me in his garden, and here are the results. The beet is so misunderstood (it hasn't had a chance since it was pickled and canned and sold by Del Monte), but I guarantee it deserves much, much more. The beet deserves a post of its own, at the very least. (Maybe the misunderstood eggplant will be next.)

OK, and the MEN at the roof party all requested this recipe. Ahem...

So, scrub them, cut the tops and bottoms off so they sit firmly in a 9x13, then fill your pan with about an inch of water. Douse them with olive oil and a bunch of red wine vinegar because they will soak it up and their sweetness...well, that's all the beet is ever asking for--to be able to soak up other flavors and to be amazing. So just let it. Cover with foil and roast at 350 for about an hour, until a knife slips in easily. I put on rubber gloves and peel them right away because if you wait, the skin is harder to remove. Either way, you will have a bloody mess when you are done with the whole thing. Beets are high maintenance, but don't be like everyone else and just give up on them. (That bright magenta color looks good on everything, too!)

Anyway, here's the blog recipe I use:

For the dressing, I used mostly apple cider vinegar and then threw in a T or so of balsamic, which tasted great. I love how you get to mix and match fruits and nuts with beets in this recipe. For the salad in the picture, I used blueberries, dried cranberries and figs; last time I used dried apricots and fresh strawberries. I think any combination would be fantastic. I have also used pepitas and goat cheese instead of almonds and feta. I tell you, you can't go wrong. And the avocado? I know it doesn't seem like it would work, but it really does.

BTW, I didn't mean to dis the pickled beet above. My grandma makes them best, and here is her recipe:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cups water
1/3 cups cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves and salt

Bring to boiling, add two cups sliced beets and simmer five minutes.

OK, beet, you are going to share your post with Henry and his red wagon (which he and Casey pulled five blocks to get was filled with salads made from organic produce from the Phinney Farmer's Market and beer) and the Women of Meadowdale on the Roof (I'm still one).

p.s. Casey (pictured below: Rita, Julie, Natasha, me, Casey)just sent me some "Beet Poetry" by Tom Robbins, so it has to go on the post:


the beet is the most intense of vegetables

the radish admittedly is more feverish

but the fire of the radish is a cold fire the fire of discontent not of passion

tomatoes are lusty enough yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity

beets are deadly serious

the beet is a melancholy vegetable the one most willing to suffer

you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip . . .

the beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime

the beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot

the beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon

bearded buried all but fossilized

the dark green sails of the grounder moon-boat

stitched with the veins of primordial plasma

the kite string that once connected the moon

to the earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies

tom robbins

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


This is my detox plan: I got up and went to circuit training at Anderson's (after getting home at midnight--3 NY time, wore my "Columbia" t-shirt and felt very smart), then straight to PCC to get a bunch of organic vegetables, free range chicken and fish, then came home and made this salad. Some details: cucumbers from my parents' garden, heirloom tomatoes (which should give anyone a reason to live and which are pictured here with the ceramic turtle one of my students made), red onions, kalamata olives, fresh feta and chicken marinated in fresh oregano (2tbs), one lemon, a few T of good quality olive oil, salt and pepper and a bit of garlic powder. This dressing is so good, I have to share the food blog I got it from, here it is:

I was in heaven eating this (I was eating it for weeks before I left, too). I walked by every chocolate bar (even the organic ones) and packages of (healthy) chips and red licorice at PCC without experiencing any desire whatsoever. I am having nothing to do with any of it for at least a week. OK, I did just gaze across the street and dream for a moment about the Honey Walnut Shrimp at Chef Liao's, but that will be there next week after I drop the five pounds I gained from eating chicken and waffles and junk on the plane.

Two days at the airport. My plane last taxied for TWO HOURS before taking off! But the day was good. I found a soul book, called The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky, which is a "great tale of the growth of (New York) as seen through the rise and fall of the lowly oyster." Really entertaining (Like, Broadway fans, did you know that "the long path through the entire length of Manhattan used by Indians delivering fur pelts was called "Beaver Path" but once it was broadened, it was changed to 'Breede Wegh'- or Broadway.")

Then I went to get a salad ("No guilt grilled chicken with low fat dressing") at Chili's before my plane boarded and the table next to me was so close that the couple there asked me to just go ahead and join them. They had just spent a week in NY and they were beginning their detox plan with this salad, too. Shamus and Athon are lawyers from Ireland ("it's not as bad to be a lawyer in Ireland" Athon tells me) who flew to NY to get engaged at the Rainbow Room. I thought it was pretty cool that I had just been there, too, and I learned that the cocktails cost $22 each. I didn't know this because Jon bought drinks for both me and Kristin and he didn't even flinch when the bill came. Impressive. Anyway, we had a great lunch. This is what I love about airport are trapped so you may as well be trapped with a good book and meet the people coming and going.

One thing my mom asked me last night: "You never mentioned making the dumplings. What happened to that?" Oh yeah, I meant to tell all of you that the Dumpling Maker left for China on vacation and they couldn't replace him. Oh well, I didn't even notice it until the last week. Actually, I already know how to make dumplings anyway.

So now I am home doing laundry, catching up on Entourage (don't judge me), listening to Lyle Lovett (good for any mood or transition), discovering what kinds of treats my angelic renter, Elaine, left for me this time (five kinds of gourmet cheese, tapenade, nuts, pomegranate juice), figuring out my finances (I made so much money on this summer!) and plotting my next three weeks of break. Interesting, last night was one of the first homecomings I have had that I wasn't completely relieved to come home. I think it's going to take a while.

I'll leave you with a few things: up above, a picture of St. James Cathedral, just a block or two from Columbia, and the mission statement of I-House. I talked about it kind of negatively, but really it is a great dorm, and I liked this plaque. Every day in the elevator I heard different languages and stories about where people were from and what they were doing in NY.

And, finally, I loved this reminder I got from my Aunt Lyda yesterday, on the subject of mice. I remember hearing my grandma tell this story, and I think it's why I'm OK with mice:

Your Grandma Glady taught in a small country school
in North Dakota. She told about when she would pull
out her lunch, there was a little mouse that would
come out and she would share it with him or her.
Anyway I guess it was her lunch partner for the
school year.

So, I am gathering the Shaw family from the airport
and Holland tomorrow night. I wish all of you could
have heard their stories, too! Bug Casey about it so
she will blog next time.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Proper Goodbye, with a Mouse

I’m sitting at JFK airport at an empty gate, just me and a mouse. “Um, excuse me, did you know there’s a mouse running around in there?” I say to a security person outside the gate. She answers, “Honey, if there’s only one mouse in there, then we are doing good.” It’s OK, though, because mice are so cute compared to rats. I would take a mouse over a rat any day—that rodent species has not violated my sandaled feet. But my feet are up and so I can just watch him weave in and out of the chairs. The Carpenters are on...the song is “For All We Know,” so I am as content as possible at this very ghetto airport, waiting because of a four hour delay...I guess the air traffic controllers are overwhelmed or something.

This seems to be my travel pattern: not a glitch getting to where I’m going, but coming back, it’s always tornadoes or liquid terrorists. I was supposed to fly out at 7, but now it looks like 10:30, and they keep moving the time forward in increments of thirty minutes.

So, anyway, here is my true New York goodbye story: I gave my air conditioner to Elsa (we didn’t realize that the $200 we paid bought them) and she called this morning and said, “I’m taking you to Chicken and Waffles.” Again, do I need to tell you why I love this girl? So we (along with Lorena and Noemi, the last survivors of the program) took a cab to Harlem where Amy Ruth makes them best, according to Elsa. A few more details about Elsa: the other day when I tell her how conflicted I am over not making it to Ellis Island, she shrugs and says, “Oh, I haven’t been there, either.” She’s lived here for years...born in Taiwan, raised in Southern CA, but went to school at Cornell and now teaches near Chinatown in a dual English/Mandarin school. She hasn’t been to Ellis Island, but she knows almost every eating establishment in Manhattan, which seems so much more relevant to life. The other day, Noemi (born in the Philippines) is describing a place where she ate oxtail in peanut sauce (“it’s pretty true to the real stuff” she says) and Elsa literally jumps out of her chair and says, “Let’s GO. Right NOW. C’mon everyone, let’s GO!” So, the chicken and waffles? Yes, go to Harlem just to eat at Amy Ruth’s, and go with people...remember it is wrong to go alone. In fact, try to go with Elsa. Look at Noemi's face and you will see how good they are:

Here are a few more stories to introduce you to people from my program:

I took a cab to the airport with Lorena from San Diego, and here is the story she told me: She was raised in a very traditional Mexican home where she was expected to stay until she married, which is exactly what happened. She was married young, at 22 or so, but she told her husband that they would not have children until they traveled to Europe. I love the way this idea got placed into her head...from Madelaine books. I only have a slight idea about what a Madelaine book is, but evidently this character travels all over the world, and Lorena could see herself in Paris and Madrid--anywhere Madelaine went. Anyway, she went to school, they worked, and they never got to Europe. At seven years, "he got the seven year itch" and told her he was leaving just a few months before her 30th birthday. A hard few months, yes...but what did she do? She booked a trip to Italy for her 30th birthday. “The first thing I ever did by myself.” And ever since, she has traveled, just like Madelaine.

Another one: Bec from Raleigh, North Carolina. You met her at her 24th birthday party during the first few days of the program. I thought of a great way to describe Bec the other day...seeing her walk into a room is the equivalent to entering a room full of balloons. Colorful balloons. She has only taught for two years, and has not only completed this NEH program, but also went to China on a Fulbright last summer. She is sharp, and fun. She didn’t sleep the entire month. I'm pretty sure she took taxis to class on more than just a few occasions, but she never missed and was never late. If Elsa was the restaurant resource, Bec was the wine bar expert. We even made her into a verb. “To be Becked” is to be taken out and dragged from bar to bar until early in the morning with class the next day.” One night I was becked to The Knitting Factory to hear a reggae band because she had met one of the band members at another concert and he had invited her. “Which one is he?” I ask her. She looks all of the band members over for a long moment, then says, “I think it’s him,” and she points to a dark, Dominican looking guy. “Wait, though.” She looks them all over again. “It may be the guy in the gray shirt.” The guy in the gray shirt is white. Granted, it had been dark when she met him, and she may have had a few beers, but isn’t that a beautiful story? It was the Dominican one. Another time, at a blues club during the band break, the saxophone player tells her he likes the way she dances and asks if she is going to do some more sexy dancing. “Oh, no, I’m more just awkward and cute.” Which is the best response to an uncomfortable advance I’ve ever heard.

We came up with other verbs, too. “To Melissa” is to ask a very good question right before the break that elicits a twelve minute answer from the speaker. And “To Gordo” is kind of like “to Google.” Gordon knows a lot about New York and we could just go right to him with our many questions. Gordon, are you still reading? “To Jane” is to turn every sentence into an innuendo. A funny Jane story...we had a speaker in who was talking about the Chinese calendar. “Do all of you know which animal you’re compatible with (animals correlate to the year you are born)?” she asks, and Jane, also from North Carolina, with bright red hair and one of the veterans among us, says, “I know who I’m not compatible with. I’m not compatible with rats, dogs, or roosters.” Her answer was so quick, it was true comedic timing. Jane, evidently, has been married to three incompatible animals.

Another story about good timing: Jon from upstate NY, Kristin from Cambridge and I are all dressed up, walking from the Latino film festival to the Meat Packing District...remember, the place I felt very uncomfortable even though I was dressed up (by Seattle standards). We pass a stairway full of homeless men and one of them who is standing in front asking for money says to Jon, “Now this is bad luck. Here you are with two beautiful women, and I’m standing on this corner holding a cup.” Jon does not miss a beat and answers, “And this is a slow night for me, too – usually I have three or four with me.” Again, timing. His audience on the steps laughs and applauds him; I think a few of them even give him a standing ovation.

I just talked to my friend Dennis, who made me a little self-conscious about my blog. He said, “I know you enjoyed the food, but I have no idea if you enjoyed the program.” Dennis wrote me one of the recommendation letters, so I think he feels that maybe I didn't deserve the high quality education or something. Like he can talk, hello...refrig

erator story~. I loved the program, Dennis. It was well organized, thorough, filled with excellent speakers and activities. I’m coming home with tons of ideas, etc, etc. But I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t inspired to write about it too much. Now, be honest, don't the rest of you feel like falling asleep just at the thought of reading my thoughts on China lectures?


Venue change: I am now at The Ramada Inn, lying in a Queen sized bed (no plastic) with Conan on the TV, free wireless internet, and....this is the best part...a BATHROOM about ten feet from me. I have gotten out of bed about five times already just to go and stand in the bathroom because it is there. This toilet doesn't flush randomly. And you know what? I don't have to wear flip flops in the shower tomorrow morning! And I have also just made $400 and spared my good parents from a three a.m. airport run.

Yes, I got bumped. I had left my mouse friend to venture to my gate only to find chaos. 10:30 came and went and they finally announced that they were taking volunteers to reschedule for tomorrow. I am a great fan of being bumped; I have gotten business class

back from Europe, extra nights in Vegas, Amsterdam and Switzerland and a few flight vouchers. Tonight I got a $400 dollar voucher, a night at the Ramada Inn and three meal vouchers. When they announced this opportunity, the only thing that made me hesitate was that I really wanted to brush my teeth and didn't have toothpaste with me, you know, because they will throw all liquids away. People were all yelling at the poor counter guy, saying "Who the *&^% allows you to overbook flights?" "Who can we blame...the government? The city? The State?" I kind of felt like saying "Blame God" but instead, when the guy asked for the third time if anyone would volunteer, I raised my hand from the back of the line and I think he thought I was an angel in my white Columbia sweatshirt by the way he looked at me (not one other person volunteered). Since I knew I had a lot of leverage, I was going to barter for the addition of toothpaste, but chose to just be an angel. The only bad part was that I had to stand next to a wailing man from India while they worked out the details, who was crying and whispering, "I cannot go tomorrow, because tomorrow will be too late" since he missed his flight. He wailed for an hour before I discovered that his mother was on her death bed and he feared he would not get to see her alive again.

To transition from that I will just say that I did get toothpaste and a toothbrush here at the front desk, so now the $400 is really worth it. All I have with me is my pillow (thank God), an orange, and my laptop. Three essentials.

Dispersed among my above ramblings are pictures of the whimsical benches that circle the entire back of Grant's Tomb, right behind the I-House and in front of Riverside Park. I love the contrast of stately Roman columns with funky mosaic. The picture at the top is graffiti right next to Amy Ruth's in Harlem. And here is Grant's Tomb (I thought it was part of Columbia when I first got here, so it ended up in the Columbia University post).

Good night, my comfy bed is luring me to sleep! Oh, but did you all realize that my brother posted the last one...I don't talk about myself in third person!

Never miss a post!

Did you know that sometimes Marjie posts to her blog when she's not a huge trip?

"Really?!" you might ask, "How would I know to look for it??"

Eliminate the fear, folks, of missing a future post by Marjie! Now there are two ways to subscribe to her blog:

To the left you will notice a "Subscribe" section with two links in it. One allows you to subscribe using an RSS reader, which is a great way to keep up with subscriptions from multiple places.

But if RSS sounds unfamiliar or frightening, there is also a new link to an email subscription service that will send you an email when ever Marjie posts a new entry! Just click it and fill in the simple form and that's it! Even Blackberry users should be able to do it!*

* The author of this post does not guarantee compatibility with Blackberries, would-be-Broadway-stars or people easily frightened by RSS Readers.

Goodbye New York

"Are you ready to go home?" is a question I have gotten from all sides in the last couple of days (I leave tonight at 7). I don't really know how to answer it. Here's an attempt:

I saw plenty of Broadway.
I didn't see enough Broadway.
I ate my way through New York.
I didn't eat enough in New York.
I learned a ton about China.
I still know nothing about China.
I hate my little dorm room with the bathroom down the hall.
Dorm life twenty years later has been more than "fun."

See? I can't answer it.

I have had the last two days to myself because the people in my program have trickled home or off to somewhere else. Originally, I had a list of museum-y, Ellis Island-y kind of things to accomplish. But what I really wanted to do, I realized, was walk...just like I did my first two days here. Fortunately, my feet are broken in, because yesterday I started at 122nd and walked downtown all the way to 1st. There's a math problem I can do: 122 blocks ("gorgeous blocks" for you Holden fans).

I knew my final destination because two weeks ago when I was in Alphabet City (East of the East Village) I planned to come back to see more of the community gardens and to eat at this cute little Italian place called Max at 51 Avenue B. In between I walked fifty or so of those "blocks" through my favorite place, Central Park, did a little shopping at the street fair and ate a few treats, (which, of course, I will explain in a second) and ended up at singer/songwriter night at The Bitter End-- a full twelve hours of walking. OK, the food:

This is an Indian Roti Roll, filled with spiced potatoes and sweet peas and topped with cilantro sauce and yogurt. Really greasy and good. I also splurged with a sushi stop: before I left, I found this very cool "Sushi Spreadsheet" - made by a New York lawyer who eats sushi every day and listing his top 100 recommendations: :

Well, the other night I tried the lobster roll at Neo Sushi on 83rd and Broadway (best on the Upper West Side according to the spreadsheet) as just an appetizer before heading to the Village for dinner, which just made me want to see what more this place to offer, so I stopped in again for a few (extravagant and expensive) tastes. Now, I have had some great sushi experiences, but these pieces were worthy to be called the best of my life so far. Neo doesn't even place soy sauce on the table, which I love because I just don't understand the soy sauce need with good sushi. Pictured here:

Left to right: Yellowtail with tofu sauce and avocado, kumomoto raw oyster, salmon miso and eel tempura. I also had four more which are not pictured, but I chose this picture because at the end, I had to get one more salmon miso and one more of the oysters. After each bite, I just sat there for about two full minutes tasting. Truly amazing flavors.

Oh, and the dinner at Max was great, too, but it was just ordinary Linguine with meat sauce, so I don't need to describe it.

Friday night was our final ceremony and it was held at The China Institute, which is on the east side. Everyone dressed up and they had drinks and appetizers and closing words, but the highlight, by far, was the music. Bonnie from Indiana surprised everyone with her bluegrass guitar (I don't know the name for it) and haunting mountain songs, and Craig backed her up with his saxophone. What a treat, and what a great group of people.

So, yes, I am sad to leave. How lucky can a girl be, anyway, to get this, and then to return to beautiful Seattle summer for a good solid three more weeks? I am excited for my bed and my kitchen, friends and family. Thanks for tuning in to my summer, and a special thanks to everyone for participating on the blog because that was really fun for me. I think I have one more post in me when I return, so tune in in a few days, too.

Oh, one more note for Seattleites: the other night we were heading to the train and a group of people were setting off fireworks yelling something about "A-Rod" and ".500." They were BIG fireworks, too.

And one more Imagine photo, from yesterday (see the John Lennon glasses in the middle?):

See you at home!