Saturday, March 2, 2013

An attempt to master

I am sick of trying to conjure a snappy opening from the depths of my uninspiredness, so I've decided to begin this one in medias res.

I had a draft of a Valentine's day post in the works but considering that Valentine's day was three weeks ago,  I think I may have missed the boat on that one.  On the plus side, I did clean my bathroom twice more than usual last month.  So there you go.  That's what I've been up to.  You're officially caught up.

I recently read an article in the New York Times on a new study that claims that women are heavier these days than in previous eras (like the 1960's) because they are less active in the workplace and at home, specifically when it comes to doing household chores.  Or something like that.  Everyone's outraged about it of course.   I'm not really.  Partly because science says less activity=less calories/fat burned but mostly because I am comforted by the fact that I expend much more energy avoiding housework than I do actually doing housework.  I would much much rather do three Jillian Michaels exercise DVDs than wash a single dish.

But I'm rambling.

My real reason for writing today is--spoiler alert--not to discuss alleged sexist New York Times articles or my shameful avoidance of anything remotely resembling housework, I am writing because I learned something today.  Something sad.  Something that made me inexplicably break down in tears.  Today I learned that Thai Cuisine, the family-owned restaurant in Ithaca where I worked for nearly six years--that has been in business for almost twenty-five--has closed for good.

Now before you get all there-are-starving-orphan-refugees-in-Somalia on me, just know that my inner catholic has already listed off enough atrocious things (far worse than this) to give me guilt complexes for a century. And while I am perfectly aware that I should instead lament the state of the abused one-eyed puppy on the Wendi Malick Humane Society of the United States commercial, I can't help but dwell on this.  I can't help but feel somewhat heartbroken by this news.

So much of my time and effort was put into that place.

So many many holidays and weekends spent hustling tray fulls of curry between tables and baking over the steamer while shaping perfectly domed bowls of rice.

So many carpet stains scrubbed out and bathroom floors mopped and all purpose cleaner fumes inhaled.

So many cappuccinos made with a busted espresso machine.

So many tamarind stained linen sorted and sticky menus wiped cleaned.

So many bottles of bad white wine that had turned to vinegar returned by disgruntled customers (note: not my fault, I warned them that our cases had gone bad).

So many untouched shrimp fritters pilfered from plates (before they made it into the bus bin...and sometimes after).

So many broken or lost tea strainers and missing and mismatched saucers.

So many stories of crazy cake customers like that one girl who asked my friend Amy to choose a protein for her and when Amy chose chicken the girl, disappointed, replied "Oh.  That's not the one I wanted."  Or that guy who once said that he wished he could smear prig pow sauce in his mustache so that he could smell it all day and I couldn't help but think: ew, you know that's primarily shrimp paste, right?  Or the infamous pad thai girls: pretty, thin, blonde usually (sorry, I hate to stereotype), good complexion, cute outfits.  They usually come in groups of four and speak with that accent--you know the one--the ditzy rich girl accent.  They all order a variation of pad thai: pad thai no bean sprouts, pad thai no tofu, pad thai no peanuts, pad thai with extra beansprouts and extra chicken, etc, etc.  Even now, I'll see a girl walking on the street in LA and I can just tell immediately that she's a pad thai girl.

Naturally, one of the things that I think I will miss most about Thai cuisine is the food. Anyone who has ever met me, nay had a ten minute conversation with me, has probably heard me rave about the food at the place where I used to work.  I am obsessed with it.  It's the standard that I hold all Thai food to and only one place here in LA has even come close.  Of course, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the reason I feel this way is because Thai Cuisine is like my mother's cooking or my grandmother's cooking; I'm biased towards it because I grew up on it and nothing else will ever taste quite like it to me. I've probably mentioned this before, but when my Polish grandmother died, almost all her recipes died with her.  She was an amazing cook and I find myself craving her food all the time now.  Thai Cuisine will be like that and it's just so utterly depressing because I love food almost more than anything (Moses wins by a very thin margin).

But perhaps what I will miss most about the restaurant is what it represented--this vague yet immutable thing which even now I'm struggling to phrase.  The owners were like my family.  I spent nearly six years of my life working with them, helping them.  Some of my best friends worked there.  My brother Scott worked there, his best friend and our next door neighbor Mason worked there.  I spent a significant part of my early adulthood there.  And even with all of it's frustrations, it is the setting to some of my fondest memories.

Not to wax too philosophical on you, but a little while ago, I was interviewing for a job and one of the questions they asked me was how I dealt with change.  I remember thinking that it was a bit of an odd thing to ask but said something to the effect that I have become very adaptable because of all the change I've had to face over the past five years: moving across the country, graduate school, career shifts, etc. 

But just because I've seen a lot of change over the past few years doesn't necessarily make me an expert at dealing with it, especially when I'm partial to habit and when my hobbies include feeling nostalgic about things that happened only thirty minutes before.

I've been thinking a lot about that question recently. I've always prided myself on being someone who embraces change, especially because it seemed like so many people fear it, but more and more I am realizing that I can only embrace change when I have control over it.  Redecorating--sure thing!  Let me find some new prints and bust out the the paint swatches.  Moving? Really?  Just give me a few minutes to hug it out with myself in the fetal position...

I think this need for control is pretty common, which in turn makes me feel generic and because I hate feeling generic, I am trying to let go of it.  After all, I suspect my life will change a lot over the coming years and I really doubt I'll be calling the shots in any or all of those instances.

So in an effort to master the loss that so often accompanies change, I will do my best not to feel fitful or sullen and I will be grateful for what remains.

I'm sorry. This post probably should have ended two years ago.  Oh well.  You'll live.

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