So here's something weird: now that I live in California, I almost never go to Chipotle. There's even one right by my place but, though I've long loved the chain, I almost always skip it in favor of something that feels more uniquely Californian. I mean, if I'm in the mood for sorta- kinda-Mexican food, I have tons of choices, regardless of what part of the town, county, or region I'm in.
It's not about avoiding chains, either. I think it's more that, even after nearly six months (!), I'm still in tourist mode. When I'm in a foreign country, I might be tempted to visit a McDonald's, but only to see how it's different from the US version; for most of my meals, I want to try something I can't get back home. Just so, in So. Cal things as commonplace as Rubio's, Wahoo's, even El Pollo Loco, have the benefit of feeling novel, because we don't have them back home.
Today, I discovered a strange, added bonus to my somewhat illogical avoidance of Californian Chipotles: as I walked through the front door, that familiar Chipotle aroma hit me, and it instantly reminded me of home. I wasn't at the Chipotle of Orange, CA, I was on State and Grand, or on Ontario in Streeterville where we used to take our lunch breaks, or down on Jackson by the library. Through avoidance, I managed to make a national chain feel like home.
The catch, now, is that I'll only be able to experience this feeling maybe once every month or two. I figure if I walk through those doors too often, the smell of the restaurant will lose its transportational powers.
But I can live with that. After all, it's just Chipotle.
In college I was lucky enough to spent a quarter in Rome. I learned about the Arch of Titus, the Forum of Augustus, and Baldassare Castiglione.
And I learned how to treat every mass transit ride like a game of sardines.
On Roman streetcars, or "trams," morning commuters don't utter a word of frustration as their fellow humans cram onto the cars at each successive stop. While it struck me as a little gross the first time, there was a certain sense of safety in numbers, With so many people, it was unnecessary even to hold onto a bar or handle; fall over a little bit, and the compression of your fellow riders in the car would keep you from crashing to the floor, or even moving more than a few inches.
Last Tuesday afternoon, the eye of an epic blizzard neared the city of Chicago. As I waited for one, two, then three Red Line trains to arrive at the Monroe station, I found myself wishing that Chicago commuters would take a tip or two from their Roman counterparts. One train operator told the hundreds of people on the platform that they flat-out were not allowed to board the train, and would just have to wait for the one right behind him. Seven minutes later, when the next train came, passengers near the doors hissed at those trying to cram in, rather than packing further into the car themselves.
When I did finally get on a train, the first stop (Lake) was even busier than Monroe had been, and still those who'd just gotten on with me tried to prevent additional people from boarding, rather than sucking it up (and in) and pushing toward the side. Meanwhile, a few feet away, there was an empty inside seat staring me in the face. This was really bad – not only did riders not want to crowd together, they didn't even want to ask a guy to scoot over so they could use the other seat!
Spotting space in the sides of the cars, a few enterprising boarders got up the nerve to tell off Mister "None Shall Pass" at the front doors. Once some communication started up, we were able to make room for at least ten more people. I was relieved when I alit at Chicago and State, where , just as in the Loop, the platform was totally full of people waiting to board. In a hurry, stressed, and lacking the time or authority to break out the cattle prod, our poor train operator spoke to the masses in uneqivocal terms: "Step away, this train is going to start moving." She was no doubt hoping that nervous travelers would take a different cue from Rome's dolce vita handbook and just relax.
ook! A new Daily Drop Cap! I couldn't resist using this one since it has my blog colors in it. Of course, having a drop cap doesn't make much sense unless I extend this paragraph so that the letters and words pile up to the left of the letter. What would be really great would be if the paragraph got so long that the words started to wrap to the underside of the pretty letter. But that might depend on the size at which you're viewing this text. Let's move on then, shall we?
In this post, I'd like to add to the above pretty thing by showing pictures of a few other pretty things that sum up my past few weeks:
Thanks to Mary, I am now officially obsessed with The Mighty Boosh. I'm not super proud of this fact, but Mary is. Today, I posted a review of Get Him to the Greek on Cineplexus. In honor of these two facts, let's enjoy a picture of Russell Brand and Noel Fielding in a tender embrace.
If that's not pretty, I don't know what is.
Pretty boy! Maybe that's what Slater's calling Zack in this still from Saved by the Bell, which I used in my Sweet Valley Diaries post about how often the guys on Sweet Valley covers look like Tom Cruise. Sounds interesting, right? You'll have to read it to figure out how this image fits in.
OMG guess what this is???? It's a still from my showchoir documentary, which, yes, still exists, and is in fact closer than ever to being finished. Aiming for the fall. Isn't it lovely?
Let's close up with some more traditionally pretty things...Finally, here are some pictures from my trip to New Mexico. I was actually born there, and my parents are both from there, so it's not an unusual place for me to visit. That said, this was kind of an unusual trip, as it was in the Spring, just for fun, and involved a trip to my cousin's boyfriend's goat ranch in the high desert. It was truly lovely.
Okay, this is apropos of nothing, and I should be writing about my trip to New Mexico or the gross coffee drink I just consumed. But I just came across a paragraph I wrote when I was in Italy (Rome, specificamente) and I am so impressed with 21-year-old me that I have to post it. I'll even throw in a bonus picture of St. Francis of Assisi's tomb church, where he is buried, robed in thick, thick fog.
In Rome, St. Peter is supposedly the focus of attention. Peter, the rock on which the Christian church would be founded, had a devotion to Jesus so strong that he could never seem to find the words to express it, but even he denied knowing Jesus after Jesus was arrested and taken to Pilate. Here, in the capital of Christendom, is it possible that the same thing occurred? Were the popes of Rome’s past guilty, too, of denying Jesus? – not through their words, certainly, but perhaps through their actions. This thought never occurred to me as such until Saturday, when a combination of two things happened: I visited Assisi, and I read Lorenzo Valla’s thoughts on the donation of Constantine.
Upon reading this, I had two thoughts simulataneously. (1) "Did I write that?" (2) "I read Lorenzo Valla's thoughts on the donation of Constantine?"
I have a feeling he thought they were bad news. Constantine was not history's most forthright guy. At least I remember that. Any way, here's your picture!
I just purchased and downloaded a new app for my iPhone, Pano. The app allows you to take several images, using the edge of the previous image as a guide for the next, and then stitches them together. It was $1.99, and I couldn't have come across it at a better time. I'm in New Mexico for post-Christmas celebrations with the family I couldn't see during actual Christmas (my parents are both from Albuquerque). It's a pretty good place for panoramas.
I tested the app several times today and came up with some pretty great stuff. I consider myself an above-average iPhone photographer, but this cracks the realm of possibilities wide open.
Tim, Erin, and Corrie at Hannah & Nate's in Corrales, NM. This one was three portrait-shots stitched together. I love the light from both windows! This shot would have been impossible without the app, because of how close we were to the west wall of the building.
Albuquerque lies at the foot of the Sandia Mountains, but the view is even more dramatic from some parts of the farther-west Corrales, where my aunt and uncle have a newish house. Trust me when I say that even these images don't do it justice.
Here's one more, from a little higher up and father back:
For the first time in my life, I'm in California. In Los Angeles, to be precise, though there's little precision to be found in the area. This visit has been a long time coming, and to be honest, there's a bittersweet aspect to it all. It's like going backstage at your favorite theater or meeting an esteemed celebrity - a little bit of mystery has disappeared from life, and even if the experience is better than you'd imagined, it's never exactly what you pictured. And while experience and knowledge is gaIned, that old fantasy disintegrates and is difficult to recall.
Yesterday, I attended one of the lowest-key weddings I've ever been to. It was also one of the loveliest.
In addition to the elaborate rules regarding bagging, scanning, and payment, there is a certain etiquette involved in using a grocery store's self-checkout stations. So, at Jewel just now, I was a little concerned that I might be cutting in front of two confused-looking older gentlemen who stood staring at the young woman across from the station I was headed toward. Just as I decided that I was in the right, the woman turned to the two men, visibly skeeved. In what, for accuracy's sake, I'll describe as a Germanic accent, one of the men explained, "we are tourists, so we are staring. Not at you, but at the machine."
I swear. That is what he said.
She still seemed weirded out, but she humored them as I looked on, amused. "Do you pay with a credit card? Where does it go?" She nodded and pointed, and went about her business. The tourists moved on to me. Now, I was using the self checkout for 3 reasons: I was only buying one item, the lines at this particular Jewel are notoriously long and slow, and I love robots, which I consider the self-checkout machine essentially to be. Noticing the cash in my hand, the gentlemen asked me if I could pay that way. I live to explain things, so I showed them the cash slot, and where the change comes out. Then it got serious. One of the men said, "a lot of people are going to be out of work." I don't like that kind of Debbie Downer talk ruining my robot time, so I posed a counter argument in the form of further explanation. The machines were pretty finicky, so many people don't like to use them (my dad, for example, HATES them). They are also less personal which people without my robot affinity find unpleasant. And no matter what, there are so many things that need attending to with the machines that someone has to be staffed to watch the stations all day long. Because of this, stations are often closed at smaller stores (live CVS) because only one person is on duty, and they need to be ringing rather than helping people use the machines.
I don't know if they bought it. But if they're really interested in boosting the American economy, maybe they, and other overseas visitors, would be interested in buying tickets to the self-checkout lanes at other grocery stores and pharmacies, or even to other American marvels like PIN pads at McDonalds or those ATMs that an read what your checks say. There are thousands of locations nationwide. You just have to figure out where to stick the money in.