june, 2004

Tue Jun 1 23:13:30 EDT 2004

"Next time, bring liquor." -- Sergio after rehearsal tonight, eyeing the bag of cherries Winston had supplied -- "not these ... cerecas." There's one direction in the Tango Ballet arrangement we're playing that calls for a passage at once "obstiante, obsessive, and sensual." The exhausted Fan-Fan raised her eyebrows at it, and Sergio himself dismissed it as ridiculous -- but that's him, those three adjectives. And that's most of Piazzolla as I've encountered it.

A new quartet, like a new relationship. Learning how to breathe together; how the others play, or indicate what they're about to do. Six individual relationships (ten if you count each player's with her instrument). Made easier in that verbalization and intellectualizing of the action is de riguer, even encouraged sometimes; difficulties compounded however by the square of interactions. The cello and I will have opposing chromatic lines; the first violin and I will be in thirds but she under me; the upper voices take the harmony; the lower voices drown them out. And, unlike Mozart, it shifts every bar, sometimes more frequent. A six-fold relationship that changes every small multiple of ninety-six beats a second.

And, in a new one, each of these must be painstakingly reëstablished. I remember that Oliver and I started out by grinning at each other during loud passages of the lower strings; Alexis, when I played a Glinka duet with her for my high school senior recital, would crack up whenever I looked at her.

Four years was a long time for Midnight; a few months, but a short time for this new one. Until I know how each one breathes, and they know mine and each other's, we will remain new and cautious; and the obstinate, obsessive, and sensual Piazzolla, a man bewitched by his own voices.

Fri Jun 4 10:19:01 EDT 2004

Drinking Tazo's Passion tea (one of those names I was always embarrassed to ask for at the Kohlberg coffee bar -- like their green/black Om blend(!) -- which is why I'm glad I now have my own stash of it in the cabinet above Claire's desk), a throwback to sophomore year. Appropriated the Swarthmore College Alumni mug floating around the office for this purpose. (Apt that it's one of the mugs in circulation here, as maybe half the employees are indeed Swatties.) As of tomorrow, I will have been down in DC for one whole year; as of Tuesday, it's been a year since graduation.

And it's showing, kind of. The newest class of alumns is loosed upon the world. Claire musing about grad school on her way to work this morning. My ideas of music school have returned, seemingly cyclically, like a season. Back at Carter Barron last night for the Shakespeare Theater's Much Ado -- well-done -- as I did the first day of work (first Thursday in June) last year.

I'm glad I wasn't at graduation last weekend. It's sad, in a way; this is the only class beneath me to whom I really have any ties, and looking at photos of them beaming in their caps and gowns is gratifying. But I need to put the school (and a certain person associated with it) out of my head, out of my immediate nostalgia for a bit. Kelley Brooke mentioned over margaritas last weekend that she hadn't been back since her graduation in '91. No reunions? No drunken rendez-voux in Philly? No plopped in Adirondack chairs on the Beach, eating strawberries and drinking Yuengling as the class of '04 finishes honors week? -- It's a much healthier method of severance, I suppose: no bafflement that they're building new science centers and admitting new classes without you. It's still too early to situate my time at Swarthmore in a more general context, and the constant proximity and overpowering reminiscences to which I inevitably yield likely doesn't help.

That said, congrats to '04, now also qualified to drink out of the Alumni mug with the dregs of my tea. There's life after Swarthmore -- I've had a year of it.

Mon Jun 7 11:08:58 EDT 2004

I'm ravenous. This is unsurprising: between the recently-altered diet and ever-rising mileage, my appetite's bound to be escalating. Last time, the exponential binge started at eight miles -- I recall eating just about constantly throughout that day in October, surprised at my own sudden voracity.

Saturday was not quite akin to that first (eight-)milestone. Having run a full marathon before, eight miles doesn't seem like the Olympian feat that it did nine months ago (so long!), rather an average weekend run. Fellow runner Anita marvelled at the distance as we covered it; I tried not to be blasé about it.

And yet, my belly notified me that I had indeed just accomplished something, screaming like a newborn to be fed and ministered to. A bagel and almond butter constituted but a drop in the bucket; after Looney Tunes at the National Gallery (a room of orange Rothkos! I stood transfixed) I trailed Claire and Philip to Jaléo, ready through sheer exhaustion and hunger to succumb to the licentious manchego I knew I would find twirling its sash. Patatas bravas, fantastic chick peas, and a plate of morels came to the rescue, however. Morels! I'd never met them before. In a caramelized onions sauce, the shrunken little Christmas trees have such subtly powerful woodsy flavor, curled up under a conifer with a book. That plus a glass of rioja palliated my exhaustion, deferred the mind-numbing hunger that comes on after eight miles before nine in the morning.

Who says you can't eat a ton and be vegan? ["Dragon"] bowls of brown rice, carrots, bok choy, pine nuts, tofu, dressing; the baba ghanoug (hard 'g' like they do in Egypt) I made out of my new The Garden of Vegan yesterday -- not a delicate pâté but a ravening eggplant, purple and yellow, dramatic and finger-painted, like the canvases I started to produce in eleventh grade before the same asshole art teacher I'd had in kindergarten drove me away: asymmetric and less straight-edge like the orange Rothkos; assertive like the morels and as mouth-watering ... more than I can eat, and that's saying something. I'm a bit thrown off, though, trying to deal with these two changes simultaneously -- ascertaining how much of this is nutrition, and how much pure metabolic frenzy. As long as I can run fifteen miles an week and maintain muscle mass on morels and rioja, I'm happy.

Tue Jun 8 10:52:57 EDT 2004

I glance at myself in the mirror -- one last look at my brief life as a blonde (albeit more of an Aranciata, d'après Luigi) -- and smear the Vaseline on my forehead. I'd almost, in the ten or so years since I last did this, forgotten how disgusting petroleum jelly is. A necessary evil, however: I haven't, in the last ten years, forgotten how deep this dye can stain unprotected skin.

A hairline border seems to suffice, but recalling blue ears, I extend the coverage down the bridge of my nose; onto the folds of my pinnae; ('feather', recalls ex-classicist Claire); down the back of my neck.

(Always this preparation before the actual event, something I've learned very slowly. To pin the corduroy on my purse before beginning to sew; to grease my neck and find rubber gloves before breaking into the manic panic.)

nori in 1994, blue hair
me in 1994, faded-out blue hair
The dye goes old-toothbrushed on; Claire follows me around with a bottle of bleach. I used to stain my mom's bathtub (and then laundry sink, after she wised up) with the blue dye I rubbed into my long, eighth-grade hair. Stayed azure for a day or so; faded quickly with each wash to a mermaid seaweed. Suited me well, considering my sushi namesake. (Photo at right is from back when Dad was still photographing non-avian subjects, sometime around when the classic Freudian paternal estrangement set in. This is probably the last picture I have he took of me.)

Drips on the back of the neck and tips of the ears. I hope the Vaseline's doing its job, and wait.

Washing it out turns the sink a bright ("shocking," as the color name would have it) fuchsia; magically, no reminder except the dyed toothbrush is left in the morning. I do a double-take in the mirror at 5:30 AM, up to try and descry the transit of Venus across the sun, having dreamed of wildly orbiting psychedelic planets on a collision course.

Nominally to freak out the lawyers on K Street, this is probably more about doing what I for some reason didn't in college. Long hair; unwilling to chop. Or maybe it's just a ten-year itch.

Sun Jun 13 22:09:43 EDT 2004

Soy milk and vegan cookie dough: not your typical midnight snack. But it's before midnight, and anti-soy Claire has eaten all the rest of the dough before I could bake it. This veganism thing is fantastically easy and faintingly hard by turns, I'm finding, but since it makes me feel the best I have in several years (maybe ever), I'm sticking it out.

Easy: cooking for myself and others. Cookies get some olive oil; the coffee cake I brought into work on Thursday added a bit of tofu. Fantastic things like ginger and cinnamon are still vegan, after all; all that's changing is total elimination of cholesterol(!) and a bit of structural integrity to the cookie. I don't miss the yogurt from atop curries or the cream from within soups; I think longingly of cheese from time to time but wasn't at all tempted to reach for a slab of bufalo mozzarella with the tomatoes and loaf Gabe brought out to the porch between preparing martinis and finishing his avowed last-ever pack of cigarettes last night.

vegan waffles -- better than the dairy kind! And there's nothing you can't make that's not already better! Waffles after my run on Saturday, bananas inside as usual (but this time as thickener), walnuts on top, drenched in maple syrup. "So much natural!" commented the Aunt-Jemima-weaned Russell. So much good.

nori runs against bush! Difficult: eating out. Kramer Books wouldn't give me peanut butter on my bagel last week, the fuckers. Java Joe's this morning -- perennial favorite! I out-ate all but Rafa there before my first marathon! -- was predictably disappointing: I don't even want the maple-butter-heavy morning glory pancakes. Ended up with a no-cheese mushroom omelet, which I ate half of despite huge matinal caloric deficit, and then felt coated and heavy.

(The mileage really kicked in Saturday -- after nine miles wearing my new Run Against Bush shirt, I packed food in my body the whole day only to need ever more. Woke up with my belly crying for sustenance and being denied due to the lactose content of everything within sight. Legs felt it, too; muscles having forgotten the lovely ache of an hour-forty run.)

Verdict: carry more Clif Bars; learn to love salad; choose where I go out more carefully, I suppose. Because, tempting as the manchego might be, my belly just doesn't want it anymore. I have no idea how I ran the first marathon with dairy in my system; this second one will be vegan.

Thu Jun 17 12:49:48 EDT 2004

Project Clarification commenced this morning, well after my eponymous roommate left around five AM, on a jet plane to San Antonio, back for a visit before her yearly stint in Pompei. Once I awoke, I began veganizing my fridge: into a grocery bag goes the two and a half sticks of butter we have left, and the entire non-moldy contents of the cheese drawer (lucky StreamSage, the recipient of so much gruyère!). All the powdered hot chocolate packets. Clarifying the kitchen, in one sense; but in another, that would mean filling it with prosciutto and veal. Would the antonym then be obfuscation? Perhaps it's norification (or would that mean papering it with seaweed?). The only remnant now is the queso she's still got sitting on the counter, that probably-not-even-cheese, doesn't-need-to-be-refrigerated Texan monstrosity that is only liquid enough to dip chips in during Fiesta because the heat down there can scorch through even processed orange plastic to melt it. Ew. That leaves the premises as soon as I get home.

A vegan kitchen! The luxury! Maybe it will only stay as such until Emily moves in this afternoon, but it still will have been. My shelves are filled with walnuts, cranberries, tamarind extract, nutritional yeast, Braggs; my freezer with edamame, herbs, and gin; the frigidaire itself with four-bean dhal, an experimental pad thai, deliciously salty baba ghanoug from The Garden of Vegan (fast becoming my new Bible, supplanting the beautifully-hippie-yet-cheese-laden Moosewood -- there goes that pilgrimage to Ithaca that Lizzy and I planned for so long in middle school, I guess). Just looking at my shopping list makes my mouth water:

  • garlic
  • scallions
  • rice noodles
  • soba
  • sliced almonds

(I'm finding it increasingly difficult, incidentally, to recover from hangovers on this vegan diet. Gone is the perfect post-indulgence meal, eggs florentine with fatty béarnaise over buttery English muffins; in its place, a bagel and almond butter doesn't quite have the same neutralizing qualities. The rice-pudding-y jook, as described in a cutout from the Times from last year, looks enticing, but requires two hours' prep -- something one plans ahead for. Vegans, what do you do -- just learn to take your likker?)

Claire & I watched a bowdlerized, utopian (that is, Disney) Hunchback Tuesday night, drinking white and fast-forwarding through any scene in which gargoyles were anything but stationary and dumb. Toasted to a year of living together, and to another to start in August. (And the second, of course, like they do in the Ukraine, right before you do a somersault over a couch into a mirror in a disco: to women!)

Sun Jun 20 11:22:29 EDT 2004

I'm standing in a car of the green line Friday night, braced against the wall with a springform pan cradled in my forearm. Unbaked. (There was a dinner party; as usual, I was bringing dessert; as is not atypical, I was late -- no time to cook beforehand.) A woman comes out of nowhere: Is that a cake? --Yes, it is. She gives me a raised eyebrow (what would you be doing with a cake on the Metro?) but accompanied by a half-smile (is it my hair? With it still very short, I'm fascinated by people's assumptions about me based on it). What kind of cake? --Ginger. No. I love ginger. A bit nonplussed: --yeah, ginger.

What's in it? It's so light and fluffy.

[It's vegan, but she would look at me even more quizzically were I to tell here it contained Egg Replacer and my last-minute scramblings for a sour cream substitute: tofu, half a banana, soy milk, and a dash of lemon juice.]
--No butter, just four eggs, and a cup of sour cream.

[fetchingly wistful]
Ohh. I'm vegan.

[Damn! What're the odds?!]
--Oh! Actually, I was lying. It's actually got tofu in it.

Uh huh. Okay, you getting off here?

Still learning to interact with the vegan and non-vegan world, I guess. Polly's Cafe yesterday tried to push poached eggs on me; the portobello burger they eventually brought me blew my mind: pico de gallo; avocado; vinaigrette.

Unbaked vegan cakes on the Metro. You just never know.

* * *

In the grass under a tree in DuPont, the northwest quadrant is out. Hetero couples sitting on laps and gazing in eyes; gay men strolling peacefully hand in hand. Women with orange plaid purses reading summer fiction with titles like The Matter of Desire. Sidewalk obstruction in the twenty degrees of the outer of the two concentric paths, silently following games being played out against the clock on the rooted chess tables (where I always half-expect to see Girish, pursing his lips in concentration). Wiry, strong-calved men, one with a "Bike Guatemala" t-shirt; one with a small stud on one side of his nose, a small ring on the other: two brief flashes of metal. People on cell phones calling their fathers. Paper cups of coffee. Joggers. Flip-flops.

And me prone, inking up torn-out ads with free white space from the New Yorker.

A berimbau! And suddenly, seven shades and shapes of skin are spinning in a semicircle, scrimmaging, singing.

A beautiful summer day -- the kind that, along with a weekend infused with beautiful new people, almost makes me like this city. Low seventies. Afternoon P-Street sunlight on the flowers in the truncated lawns of townhouses. A diversity of people and interactions; a glut of stimulus in my weekend.

An ostentation of experiences; richness of situations; flavor of people ...

Fri Jun 25 16:26:29 EDT 2004

In a brief exchange with Justin yesterday (whom I haven't seen for a bit over three years, since we met), we exchanged passwords and offers of context. A lovely way to put it -- because really, that's what I've been looking for these past six months, maybe more. When the fast-paced DC summer fades, people retreat into warmer jackets and conserve energy by torpor, and I get disillusioned with the present and start dreaming about music school.

But as the weather warms up -- such a marionette, I feel like, to be so controlled by external forces! -- the city, its energy, and its people pick up, begin looking side to side, up and down, swiveling their hips, isolating the torso, then bringing in the arms, a Brazilian three-step in the feet, something loud with a beat in the background -- and before you know it, the place is dancing.

Tagging along with Emily to two classes this week: African on Tuesday; Afro-Brazilian samba yesterday. Writing them off as cross-training; in fact, they're exhausting me. And yet I run. I stay up late. I cook; I stretch with Emily to the hip-hop coming through her sexy little iPod (I love the sleekness, but I hate that it doesn't support ogg, and the GUI hasn't earned any points with me yet, either); I go to parties at the Botanical Gardens and then out to scarf udon until midnight with friends old and new. Weeks -- every night, something new -- packed like weekends last summer. I caffeinate to try and placate my exhausted body.

And this context I like: the dance, the movement, the new people (who work next door and kiss their boyfriends on the street; Swatties -- the young population is out and social, spurred on by the surfeit Vitamin D to new levels of extroversion). If the summer stays like this, I won't think about going back to school for another six months.

Mon Jun 28 11:37:19 EDT 2004

Dear Apple,

I've got to say, your iPod is far and away the sexiest digital music player there is. My roommate's got one, and I've all but fallen in love with it; I'm now coveting my own.

me & emily jamming to her iPod

The only thing preventing me from going out today and buying one, however (aside from the slightly prohibitive price!) is just one small issue: you don't support Ogg Vorbis.

Just about all of my digital music is is Ogg format, my compression of choice. It's not caught up in proprietary issues; it's Free; it's superior audio to many ears. And yet, your players don't support it. I (and many of my friends) think this is a serious drawback to the otherwise-beautiful iPod. Were you to add this capability to it, you would greatly expand your market.

Think about it -- while it's true that a large percentage of people who use Ogg are computer-savvy and/or self-described geeks, these characteristics also describe your young, technophilic user base. By placating (not even catering to!) the Ogg crowd, you could tap into a market of people who love form AND function. For now; we're stuck with the Rio Karma, which, while it supports Ogg, is nowhere near is pretty as the iPod. And as you well know, half the battle is the sex appeal of your product.

I hope this comes as a drop in a gradually-filling bucket, and that soon you will wise up to the needs of the geek contingent and add Ogg support. We'd love you forever, instead of just conditionally (mad props, by the way, for the UNIX-based OS X).

Thanks very much,


all this ©nori heikkinen, June 2004

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