Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thanks for the French Toast… and the Memories

Me and 30,000 of my closest friends got our run on at the Shamrock Shuffle 8K this morning—the unofficial start of the Chicago race season. Between the incredible weather (70 degrees and sunny) and the four days off from the gym, I felt strong and finished the race in 57 minutes and some change. If you’re counting—and I am—that’s four minutes faster than my 2006 Shuffle time.

I realized around mile three why I love running (and I use the word “love” loosely—it’s usually more like love/hate). When you’re running a race, there’s a kind of clarity that surfaces. There are so many parallels between running and life, and it’s completely cheese ball, but it got me to mile four (gut-wrenching determination and luck got me to the finish line). Here goes… feel free to ridicule me:

Life/running lesson 1: Chances are you’re not going to be the person who finishes first, but you’re here and you’re going to finish—one way or another—so might as try to enjoy it and do the best you can. And really, it’s all about you. It’s not the guy next to you, or the ass-hat who won’t get out of your way… it’s your race, your life and you have to live it/run it for you.

Life/running lesson 2: There will always be people along the way who want to see you succeed, who cheer you on, and there will be those who don’t care, and sometimes, you’ll be alone. Luckily this time I didn’t feel alone—in reality or in spirit. My sister Sarah ran a half marathon in New York City this morning as well. Thinking about her, knowing that she was running at the same moment I was running, made five miles seem doable compared to the much hillier road ahead of her. And Megan, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t read my blog (but should—everyone should), a running buddy of mine, stuck with me the entire course. I doubt I would have done as well without her there.

Life/running lesson 3: Eating always was, always is, and always will be paramount in any endeavor. Thank goodness there was stuffed French toast, courtesy of Gallit and Peter, to greet us at the finish line… OK it wasn't exactly “at” the finish line, but close enough. Oh yeah, and my trainer has promised me sushi (at Tank no less) for beating my time from last year. Yes… eating will always be the most important thing ever. (Have we learned nothing from A View from the Park?

Next stop… the Chicago Distance Classic. Here it goes again… most likely. I’m like 90 percent there.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Restoring Faith

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about something that I was already thinking about. Allow me to digress...

It occurred to me about a week ago that I was officially six months out of a relationship or, to put it another way, six months single. Yes, I tried Match.com in the fall, and managed to have two mediocre dates with two mediocre guys, which served to first, sour my online dating expectations, and second, help me understand that I had jumped the gun when it came to jumping back in to the dating pool. Plain and simple: I wasn’t quite there yet.

So, I spent the last several months doing, what I lovingly refer to as “my thing,” blissfully detached from the pitfalls that surround dating and new relationships. Sadly, alone time is not without its mental health hazards. Sometimes I sit on the couch, in the dark and wonder, “Why would I ever want to get into another relationship after all the crap past relationships have caused me?” and, “What if I’m alone for the rest of my life?” and perhaps the most disarming, “What if I want to be alone for the rest of my life?”

(Seriously people, would I even have a blog if I didn’t use it—on occasion—for a thoroughly melodramatic moment? You love it as much as I do.)

But now time has passed; I’m this close (imagine my thumb and forefinger being approximately an inch apart) to being so over my last, failed relationship; I’m fitting into a smaller size of jeans; I’m looking forward to summer... and the possibility of kissing a boy without the threat of waking up next to someone who’s name I can’t remember...

That has never happened.

So dating... maybe? I’m thinking about it, with one teeny, tiny caveat: I don’t want to go back online (yet anyway... never say never... I’ve learned that... many, many times), which led me to ask this question:

Do people even meet the old-fashioned way anymore?

“Well, Lou,” you ask, “can you be a little more specific, perhaps, define what you mean by ‘old-fashioned.’”

Absol-fuckin-lutely.

Old-fashioned: When to people meet initially in person, either through friends, acquaintances, coworkers. Wildly romantic scenarios also apply and include, but are not limited to, the self-check out line at Jewel, the produce section at Wild Oats, the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s (groceries turns me on) the train, the gym, any and all types of cultural outings and, last but not least, the neighborhood bar (I mean, come on... you really can’t discount the bar. While most of the boys in bars are looking for one thing and one thing only—and seriously, it’s not like woman are absolved of all guilt in these types of situations, sometimes we’re looking for one thing too… sure, it’s a marriage proposal—but we all know somebody who has met their future bride or groom in a bar).

That was one heck of a definition. I’m exhausted, so I’ll get to the point real quick-like.

Amazingly, my question has been answered with a resounding yes, it is possible to meet people the old-fashioned way—between the guy who struck up a conversation with me on the brown line Wednesday night and a recent friend-of-a-friend encounter—I am almost convinced that once in awhile strangers will still talk to each and mutual friends can be the bridge between two people who could potentially hit it off... it’s a step in the right direction if nothing else.

Why do these scenarios seem so much more appealing than online dating where you can assume that the other person is single (hopefully) and looking for a date/mate? Doesn’t that remove all the potential variables from the equation? In theory… sort of, but…

Services like Match.com simplify the dating process by putting all of us lonely people in one place with one goal. Smart right? Problem is, that one goal causes pressure from the beginning. You know why they are online; they know why you’re online; and everyone is eager to make a love connection. Anything short of that is disappointing, so people put their best face forward and craft clever profiles and write witty emails, and cross their fingers that the person they are meeting looks at least similar to the picture—likely taken half a decade ago—that was posted online. And what happens? Disappointment. Turns out, you have nothing in common with this cute, witty, clever profile-writer. True… if you’re willing to pimp yourself out four or five nights a week, something has to stick eventually, but the process can be exhausting, if not disheartening.

The old-fashioned way is often low-pressure, sometimes no-pressure—having a conversation with the boy sitting next to you on the train about the loud cell-phone user doesn’t usually have high expectations attached to it. Why? Because it was unexpected. If you hit it off, great! If not, no one is the wiser, except maybe a few friends (“This weird guy on the train kept talking to me.”) While the old-fashion way has its own issues, the connection has been established; else you wouldn’t bother to make an effort to follow through. No money wasted, no extra time spent, no unnecessarily pre-date nervousness.

So I guess the only question left to ask is, "Will either of my recent old-fashioned scenarios have the potential to lead to additional communication or even a first date?" It’s anybody’s guess… but, I suppose if I want to do things the old-fashioned way, I have to be prepared that it’s not as “easy” as signing up for a service designed to get me a date… probably a bad date… but a date nonetheless.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

And I Quote...

Props to Sarah who found this on CNN.com:
"It's definitely hard to get through that rope, but once you're in, you're in and you're part of the party," Pellegrino said. "But you know there's going to be a lot of people outside waiting."
Wow.

Ok...

Wow.

I just don't even know... it's like a train wreck and I had to look. So I did. You'll notice on the front page that there is a slide show of pictures... potential suitors waiting patiently for me beyond the velvet ropes, I imagine.

I decided that a lot of the guys on the slide show of hottie's I could potentially meet (if I'm rated an 8 or above) were actually kind of hot. Sure, they look like douche bags (this is one of those very, very rare times I think using the term "douche bags" as an insult is appropriate, sorry if anyone finds it offensive), but yeah, they're kind of hot. The women... kind of look like strippers.

But, then again, I guess that's the idea.

@ and I are headed to Glamour Shots after work. We think we're 10s, but we're not taking any chances. It is, after all, a very exclusive club and we wouldn't want to be left waiting in line.

On the Horizon

Spring in Chicago: Isn’t life grand? The birds are chirping; it’s not dark when I leave the gym at 6:30pm; I put away the "big coat" and broke out the red trench I love oh-so-much... At this point we should only have one, maybe twelve, more days of subfreezing temperatures.

Oh Chicago... you’re such a tease.

From March it's a straight shot to April, then Memorial Day, at which time the temperature will catapult from balmy 45 to unbearable 90 degrees and humid. That’s way it works here. We gave it a fancy name: lake effect... or global warming. One of those.

The thought of heat gets me thinking. It gets me thinking about drinking (I love that I just rhymed right there, it was... liberating) on patios, on Fridays, after work, at a little thing I like to call Happy Hour. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Not so fast compadres. Before you log onto www.Southwest.com and reserve your ticket to a sun and fun summer Chicago retreat at Casa de Lou where every hour is Happy Hour, there’s one last decision that needs to be made...

Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

Do I want to train for the Chicago Distance Classic?

There. I said it.

Yes, it’s true—the warm-ish weather evokes images of Lake Michigan and the path that curves its way around the shore, the skyline of the city glistening in the early morning sunlight… serene… Then there’s the hundreds of people—runners, bikers, rollerbladers, dogs (dogs aren’t people)—the occasional biker/runner collision and the random use of profanity inspired by a close call; the sun beating down on you, and the lake, and then reflecting off the lake back on to you; and lest we not forget the over-heating, dehydration, blood, blisters, swelling, stomach cramps, general pain…

Sign me up.

So, I’m thinking about it. And I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime... Sunday is the official start of the Chicago running season with the Shamrock Shuffle. Five miles of nothing but love. Nothing but love my friends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Remind Me Again

Once in awhile, when you’re strolling through Trader Joe’s for the third time in one week, you stumble upon an item that inspires this reaction:

OMG. It’s [Insert Food]. I haven’t had [Insert Food] in forever.
I used to love [Insert Food].

I filled in that blank with… wait for it… DRIED MANGO. I am so not kidding about this.

Back in the day, when I lived in Columbus, I frequented the Wild Oats in Upper Arlington… that’s where I found the infamous fat-free hummus and black bean dip featured on the list. It’s also where I stumbled upon the bulk bin filled with dried mango. If I remember correctly… and it’s unlikely that I remember anything correctly… the dried mango cost $14.99 a pound or something… it was expensive. But cost rarely serves as an effective a barrier between me and food I want to eat.

From first bite, I hearted dried mango. And, as I stood there in Trader Joe’s, face-to-face with prepackaged dried mango, I wondered why I ever stopped buying it. I checked the nutritional information (120 calories, 0 fat, 2 grams of fiber for 4 pieces). “What an excellent midday snack!” I exclaimed in my head, “And it’s only $2.99.” Trader Joe’s always come through in a clutch (except for that time when there was the whole Go Lean bar fiasco). The decision to buy the dried mango was made and into my basket it went… along with three different types of crackers, eight Go Lean bars, and crumbled goat cheese.

Good times.

Back in my office, I couldn’t wait to partake in my new snacking sensation. I cut open the bag of dried mango and went to town. It was sweet and it was chewy and it was delicious and I realized I could potentially plow through a bag of it like nobody’s business.

And then, four servings of dried mango later, it occurred to me…

I had stopped buying dried mango because I couldn’t stop eating dried mango. Crap. Back on the list you go.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rewriting the Story

Couch time: quality time I spend sitting and/or laying on my couch. I need a little bit of couch time everyday in order to function like a normal human being. Couch time relaxes, rejuvenates, revitalizes. Couch time is ME time. Couch time is also TV time.

On weekends, couch time inevitably increases exponentially, invoking the theory that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Too much couch time can cause side effects including, but not limited to: hours wasted watching marathons of True Life, The Hills, The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency and other reality shows that even I, a self-proclaimed crappy TV-lover, think are complete crap. I get dumber by the episode. So dumb, in fact, that I actually spelled dumber D-U-M-M-E-R and couldn't figure out why it was coming up in spell check. True story.

This Sunday—the day after St. Patrick's Day, in case you're counting—I woke up with a mild hangover ready to nurse myself back to health with a solid dose of couch time. I spent the morning watching the movie Just Friends—approximately two hours of my life that I will never get back. In case your wondering… Just Friends is just about the worst movie I've ever seen… it's up there with Raising Helen. Just FYI.

The movie ended, and I realized it was a beautiful day. Now, in general, an argument along the lines of "it's a beautiful day" never really convinces me to curtail couch time in favor of sunshine and fresh air though admittedly, I do feel an occasional twinge of guilt when I neglect the few nice days we have in the winter. Regardless, a hangover is a perfectly good excuse to barricade oneself in ones apartment. But as I laid there wondering if it was worth standing up to try and block out the few rays of light that were streaming through the slots in the blinds, I had a thought… the thought went like this:

I should go running.

I know… crazy, right? Trade couch time for a jog around the 'hood? That doesn't sound like the Lou I know.

Then something amazing happened. I skipped the mental debate over the pros and cons of couch time versus running (it's likely that couch time would have prevailed), got up, got dressed, brushed my teeth, chugged a bottle of water, and left my dimly lit apartment for 40 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

I only ran a mile (to be fair and, in an effort to maintain my street cred, I logged four miles on the treadmill on Saturday). But it didn't matter. I went outside. I did something different. I saw parts of the neighborhood that I had never seen before. And everyone smiled and said hello as I passed by… because it was a beautiful day. Beautiful days (and temperatures above 30 degrees) make people in Chicago happy.

I returned home after about an hour of jogging, walking, and patronizing my local CVS for eye makeup remover. Sweet eye make-up remover. Immediately I resumed couch time until I went to Tank for 1/2 price sushi at 5pm. But somehow, couch time felt more meaningful. I could embrace couch time guilt-free because I had gone outside. And finally, after all these years, I understood what those hippies in college meant when they rambled on about trees.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Mind Is A Beautiful Thing to Waste

Sarah gets mad if I don't post everyday, so in an effort to appease her and for lack of a more cohesive topic, I've decided to give you a rundown of stuff that I've been thinking about this week.

Spring: Good News/Bad News
I should have written this a few days ago when it was 70 degrees and sunny outside. Regardless of the fact that the weather guy wasn't joking when he said it was going to be cold on Wednesday, this past week gave Chicagoans a glimpse of what is to come: spring and shortly thereafter, summer.

Good news first: Warm weather equals cute boys… and they were everywhere over the weekend—hanging out on patios, biking down the street, running on the lakefront path. Either they go into hibernation during the winter or they just can't work a hat, but spring is here (sort of) and they are out and proud. And frankly, I'm out and proud for them. Let's hear it for the boys! Let's give the boys a hand!

Now before you start tossing your panties like you're front row at a Wayne Newton concert in Vegas…

There's bad news: Warm weather equals couples. I first noticed this on Saturday morning, when riding the #11 bus southbound. As I stared out the window, I noted a inordinate men and woman locked in intimate embraces on the sidewalk, gazing deeply into one another’s eyes as if to communicate to the passerby’s, “It is spring and like the flowers our love is also in bloom.” Somehow I managed to keep my Go Lean bar down.

Right Now, I'm Concerned About…
Second Life. You may or may not be familiar with this. If you're not, I'll provide you with a mediocre, if not flawed explanation otherwise known as: how I have come to understand Second Life.

Second Life is kind of like the Sims (I think. I’ve never actually played Sims). It’s an online program that allows you to create a virtual life and interact with other people who have created virtual lives in a virtual world. Hence the title… it’s literally your Second Life.

In your Second Life you can meet people, date, have sex, open a business, go dancing, fly, buy an island, visit a GM dealership, and purchase genitalia. True story. Of course you have to learn to walk first. Oh and you actually have to pay real money for these virtual goods. Apparently some people are making mucho dinero from selling virtual crap on Second Life. Corporations have also jumped on board and set up virtual shop in order to feed the ever-hungry marketing beast. You can even pick a virtual baseball cap with a Best Buy logo to wear in your Second Life. Reuters even stationed a virtual reporter in Second Life to, apparently, report the virtual news. Brilliant.

You can’t make this stuff up. And, just in case you’re still leery of this whole “second life” madness (oh how I wish it was just a figment of my imagination) I have proof… from real live journalists:

Companies Are Finding Second Life
Educators explore 'Second Life' online
My So-Called Second Life

I, for one, am staying far, far away from Second Life. Why, you ask, other than the fact that it just sounds a little creepy (I mean, come on, you have to buy your penis… that is, if you want one).

Here’s what concerns me… My first life—the one that is real—not too exciting. If I start building a Second Life, who knows what crazy virtual adventures I’ll have? Maybe I’ll be famous, like a star of a virtual reality TV show called "The Virtual World," or maybe I'll crown myself president of a virtual island, build a virtual military, and eventually attack another virtual island for reasons I will later not be able to articulate or justify. The possibilities are endless. My Second Life is sooooo awesome, I might as well stop living my first one. Reality, who needs it?

Ya’ll see what I’m saying…

St. Patty's Day Apparel
I’m going to wear my Christmas-themed t-shirt that says, “Re-gift Responsibly” for St. Patty’s Day celebrations. It’s the only thing I have that’s green… other than my green coat… and my green blazer…

I’ll post a picture of the t-shirt sometime soon. Maybe tonight if I’m feeling all photog-y.

Beyond “A View”
Most of you—or at least half of you—don't have the opportunity to experience a real-time, play-by-play of my life either via daily gmail chats or because you sit approximately 10 feet away from me for eight hours a day like @ does. You can go ahead and consider yourselves the lucky ones; however, you miss out on classic Lou moments, i.e. me trying to brainstorm a name for my new blog (like the day when I was determined to come up with a name for the blog using CTA automated messages, “Doors Closing,” “Crews Working on the Track,” “Please Give Up Your Seat,” or “Waiting for Signal Clearance”). Classic Lou.

Did I mention that I am officially the proud owner of a domain name? That's right… lou's got herself bonafide Web site and eventually, her new Web site will be the home of her new blog… if she could just come up with a name.

Sorry, I slipped into the third person momentarily, but I’m back.

I had only one criteria for this new blog name… it must be awesome… so awesome that when the site debuted my readers would breathlessly mutter, "awesome" in awe of the awesomeness before them. And yesterday, after weeks of brainstorming, I decided on something even more awesome than just one singularly awesome name: several awesome names.

Ultimately, my new blog might one day come to be called something along the lines of, “The Blog Formerly Known as A View From the Park,” or maybe just, “Lou’s Blog.” But, for the time being, I plan to change the name of my blog regularly depending on my mood or just something clever I said… or someone else said.

I do heart stealing clever phrases.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Deserted Island, So Peaceful, So Tranquil

I don’t remember life before cell phones. It must have been hard. If you can’t text someone, how do you find him or her in a crowded bar? It’s just not possible. Before the early 2000s, it’s as if we were all just feeling our way around in the dark, clingingly to walls for safety, accidentally groping one another, from time to time putting our hands into something unidentifiably wet and sticky. Gross.

Then suddenly, cell phones. The switch was flipped. We could find anyone, anywhere, anytime. We gladly entered a new, enlightened age of electronics…

And now... cell phones, shmell phones... that’s a given. If I’m shipping off to a deserted island, I decidedly can no longer live without the following:

My MacBook

Back in the fall when I spilled vodka on my six-year-old Titanium G4 Mac laptop, my computer options looked bleak… no longer a designer, did I really have any business shelling out the cash for a new Mac?

Would I have to buy a—GASP! —Dell? Say it ain’t so!

But you know how it is: once you go Mac, you never go back. My new MacBook was well worth the investment. It provides me with more entertainment than I ever imagined including: a built-in camera (I can just sit in front of the computer and take pictures of myself), iLife (I thought the iLife programs would be useless, but turns out... not so much. I’ve been using iWeb to create my new Web site), and of course the Internet. Thank goodness the island comes with wireless Internet access.

The Dual-tuner Tivo
The island also has electricity… and a television… and a couch.

Tivo changes lives. Ten years ago, you had to cut Thursday nights with your friends short because of those other Friends… and, admit it, most of us were willing to give up our social lives in order to passively view the only slightly more exciting social lives of Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Ross. Now we shake our fists defiantly at networks and their hit shows as we fast-forward through the commercials.

Some baulk at the idea of having your favorite television shows on demand, but those are also the people that think television is rotting your brain and you should go outside instead, breath fresh air, maybe hug a tree or drop peyote. I’m on an island people! How much closer to nature can I get? I personally reconciled the fact that I like television a long time ago.

Did I mention that the island is cable ready?

Lou’s Pod 2.0 (aka my iPod, and yes, I named my iPod Lou’s Pod 2.0)
Bringing SexyBack to the island is going to be quite the challenge if I can’t bust a move to JT on Lou’s Pod. The time I spend not watching my favorite Tivo-ed shows will probably be spent having my own little Dance Party Desert Island on the beach. And, I will need to stay in (and by "stay in," I mean "get in") shape since the island dress code is “clothing optional.” I certainly don’t want to be known as the island prude. And I do not hit the pavement, much less the sand, without my iPod and my Running Playlist.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Exciting Conclusion

Scene 3: Wednesday at work. Lou is still suffering from her lack of Go Lean bar goodness.

Lou: You know what goes great with my medium Dunkin Donuts coffee?

@: What?

Lou: Sighs. A Go Lean bar. But instead, I had to bring a hard-boiled egg for breakfast.

[Long Pause]

@: The city must be experiencing a shortage of Go Lean bars.

Lou: I can’t allow myself to believe that @ Sign. I know—in my heart of hearts—that there are Go Lean bars out there… somewhere in this big city… just waiting to be bought and taken home by someone who really loves them.

@: Right…

Lou: I’m going to find them. I’m going to make it my mission to find the lost Go Lean bars today.

@: Good luck with that.

Lou: Hey, @ Sign, where is that Jewel anyway?

@: State and Grand. Near the El stop.

Lou: I don’t want to walk that far. I hope Trader Joe’s finally got a shipment in.

@: It’s not that far.

Lou: Well, it’s farther than I want to walk.

[Lou leaves the office around 11:30am in search of Go Lean bars. She returns at 11:40]

@: That was quick.

Lou: Holding up a TJ’s bag for @ to see. I bought nine. They didn’t have even have them out yet. The Go Lean Crunchy Chocolate and Peanut bars were just sitting in their boxes in the aisle waiting to be unloaded.

@: Seriously?

Lou: I triumphed over adversity once again.

@: Yeah… whatever.

And… scene.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Did You See the List? It’s Not on the List

@ and I lead charmed lives. So charmed that we both accidentally took jobs at a place of business a mere two blocks away from one of this country’s greatest resources: Trader Joe’s. In addition to supplying me with many healthy, low-cost food choices, Trader Joe’s generally stocks an endless supply of my beloved Go Lean bars. I like to pick up about six for the week. But yesterday, TJ’s failed me… they were out of Go Lean bars. Eager for my daily treat, I brought up Monday’s incident today with @ while I was heating up my lunch of Taco Soup. The following is gross interpretation of the conversation:

Scene 1: Go Lean Bar Sparks a Heated Conversation Between Co-workers
Lou: Do you think Trader Joe’s got a shipment of Go Lean bars in today? Should I go over there and check or should I call?

@: I’m going over to Trader Joe’s. I’ll check for you.

Lou: Really? Awesome. Hey, if I give you $5, will you buy me $5 worth of Go Lean bars?

@: Um… I don’t know.

Lou: Seriously? You won’t pick up Go Lean bars for me?

@: It’s just that… I don’t know… I feel like your dealer or something.

Lou: You saw the list. It’s not on the list. I don’t have a problem with Go Lean bars. I mean, I don’t think having a Go Lean bar for breakfast and maybe one in the afternoon is a big deal @ sign. It’s not like I’m eating four a day or something—just one or two. And they are healthy! [Pause.] You know what… it’s cool… I’ll go myself. I can get my own Go Lean bars. I don’t want you to feel weird about it or anything.

@: It’s OK. I’ll get them.

Lou: Are you sure? Cause, you know, if you don’t want to…

@: It’s fine. I’ll get them.

Lou: OK. Cool. Well, I appreciate it.

… and scene.

Scene 2: @ Returns from Trader Joe’s Sans Go Leans Bars.

Lou: Seriously? They’re still out of Go Leans bars?

@: Yeah.

Lou: That’s crazy! I mean, who doesn’t stock enough Go Lean bars? People need their Go Lean Bars! What am I supposed to do, substitute this crappy granola bar in its place? It’s not the same! It’s just not the same…

Sad face.

... and scene.

The Watch List

What’s wrong with me?

Don’t answer that. I’m going to tell you what’s wrong with me, at least today... in terms of food.

You see, my problem is that every time I kick one bad food "addiction," I immediately replace it with another. What makes this even worse is that I’m really good at finding semi-healthy food that is so yummy I end up eating way too much of it. The result? Semi-healthy food no longer so semi-healthy. Sad face.

Oasis Hummus, Black Bean Dip, and Greek Pita Bread
Imagine my delight four years ago when I stumbled upon fat-free hummus, black bean dip, and pita bread in a Columbus, Ohio Wild Oats Market. And not only was the fat-free fare good, it was great! Game on! I could now eat hummus and pita bread like it was my job. And I did. It became a problem… real fast like. The more I ate it, the more I wanted it. I figured when I left C-bus that my affair with the dips and pita was O-V-E-R. Not so fast. I have been able to find the beloved brand of hummus and black bean dip, as well as the pita, in every town I have lived in since (that includes Evanston, IL, Detroit, and Chicago—I can’t remember if I found it in Boston or not). Finally, in Fall 2006, I banned myself from the hummus.

House of Wah Sun Crab Rangoon and Chicken Chow Fun
Oh takeout food… the single, city-dwelling girl can survive on it. What do you mean cook? It’s so much easier to call for Chinese takeout, especially when you’ve programmed the number to House of Wah Sun into your phone. Probably not one of my best-laid plans. For a few weeks this winter, I became that girl who, though slightly embarrassed, calls the same restaurant, several times a week with the exact same order: crab rangoon and chicken chow fun (there's nothing healthy about that meal!). I tried to keep the portions under control, only to unwrap the leftovers and eat them within an hour or so of putting them in the fridge. Bad Lou! I had to stop. House of Wah Sun is still in my phone. I should delete it. Like the ex-boyfriend I worry I may one day "accidentally" drunk dial, no good can come possibly come of having easy access to that number.

Amy’s Cheese Pizza Snacks
You’ve probably binged on Totinos Pizza Rolls once or twice in your life. There's no shame in it. We've all been there. Enter Amy’s Cheese Pizza Snacks—the sort-of healthy, organic version of the pizza roll and they are oh-so-good. It’s hard to eat just one… or just 12. Plus, at $3.50 a box (and a box only includes 12), they are a pretty pricey item. I’ve decided it’s time to start sidestepping the organic freezer section of the grocery store. Two boxes of Amy’s Pizza Snacks and I can get into serious trouble. It’s better not to have them in the house.

Tank ½ Price Maki on Saturday and Sunday Afternoon
The equation is so simple… almost too simple: Sushi=Healthy, ½ Price=Cheap. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s examine, shall we? When I eat sushi and it’s not ½ price, I tend to get a couple of pieces of salmon, some unagi, a spicy tuna roll. Healthy, yes. Controlled, yes. I steer clear of those high-priced rolls that include fun stuff like cream cheese, spicy mayo, and tempura crumbs. But, at Tank ½ price maki Saturdays and Sundays, all bets are off and it’s a sushi free-for-all. My favorite rolls:
  • Alaskan Night: salmon, rock crab meat, avocado, covered with black tobiko, sesame seeds
  • Crazy eel: avocado, cream cheese, sesame seeds topped with eel, sweet soy sauce, crushed peanuts
  • Ocean Sundae: shrimp tempura, cream cheese, avocado, tobiko chili sauce, scallions, sesame seeds, covered with tempura crumbs, wasabi mayo, sweet soy sauce
  • Orange Crush: rock crab meat, asparagus, avocado, masago mayo, spicy sauce, sesame seeds wrapped outside with salmon, topped with wasabi tobiko and ikura
Yeah. All in one sitting... not so healthy anymore, is it? I’m getting hungry thinking about it...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Props to Coffee Lady, If Only I Knew Your Name

The rumors are true… I’m an addict.

A Dunkin Donuts coffee addict! (Had you fooled for a second, didn’t I?)

I frequent a tiny, cash-only, coffee-only Dunkin Donuts kiosk in the Chicago Avenue Red Line subway station, approximately two and a half blocks away from my place of business. I don’t necessarily stop to get coffee every morning, but I’m regular enough that the Coffee Lady—as I fondly call her—recognizes me and knows my coffee order (medium, black) by heart. She usually has it waiting for me before I even reach the counter.

Today, like many other days, I disembarked the Red Line train and bee-lined it to the coffee kiosk. Coffee Lady, who was serving a customer, saw me and smiled. I returned the smile, happy to be recognized, confident that my coffee order would appear without even having to ask. It was that moment, a wave of doubt washed over me, “Did I forget to bring my wallet today?” I searched my purse. The answer was, in fact, yes... I did forget my wallet.

Crestfallen, I stood there, paralyzed by the reality of what forgetting my wallet meant. I had been pinning my hopes and dreams of Dunkin Donuts coffee since at least the Fullerton El stop. Realizing that Coffee Lady would just present me with a cup of hot, smooth, luscious Original Flavor Dunkin Donuts coffee, I stood there waiting for the customer in front of me to move out of the way so I could stop Coffee Lady from making a terrible mistake. In vain, I searched my purse one last time. Finally, I signaled to Coffee Lady just as she began to move toward the pot.

"Um… I don’t need the coffee today. I just realized I forgot my wallet at home. Sorry." This was not OK with Coffee Lady who immediately responded with, "Don’t worry about it." She never missed a step. Before I could protest, my coffee was on the counter in front of me.

"Are you sure? Thank you so much. I’ll pay for it tomorrow," I practically jumped for joy.

She smiled, assured me that it was OK, and made a gesture that suggested she would not accept payment for the coffee tomorrow.

Coffee Lady is amazing. I’ve many times discussed Coffee Lady with my other Dunkin Donuts coffee drinking, Red Line riding co-workers, and we all agree—this woman deserves a raise-a big one. She is the epitome of great customer service. She’s there every single day and never fails to remember a coffee order, to smile and say hello, and ask how you’re doing. She makes every customer feel like he or she is her personal favorite.

Up until that moment, the morning had been a little rough—I woke up late, missed my usual bus, and forgot my wallet—but when I walked out of the subway station, the slate was wiped clean, the day felt renewed. I realized that when you interact with a person who is that pleasant and friendly, it's impossible to start the day off on the wrong foot, regardless of what happened pre-Coffee Lady.