December 31, 2009
Remember Y2K, when we all thought computers might explode, ATMs wouldn’t work, and planes wouldn’t be able to land, all because a plethora of computer code had been written without accounting for the fact that, totally predictably, after 1999, the new year would begin with a 2?
Similarly, the version of Wordpress I’m using wasn’t aware that, just following the end of 2009, 2010 would begin. So I have to manually send you now to the magical new 2010 blog page:
If you have bookmarked my blog — which would be an honor! — you will need to update your bookmark as well.
Thank you, and see you on the other side! By which I mean a page on my site whose URL ends in “2010.”
December 21, 2009
I started off the day with breakfast at Mumedi, a design museum/bookshop and cafe. The huevos a la Veracruz were delicious. I read a chapter or two of a math book I’m working through.
Salsa de frijoles!
Then, I went back to the Zocalo in search of a particular scarf I had seen yesterday but for some reason not purchased, although the scarves off the street cost about $4. Amazingly, I found it! The exact scarf I had been kicking myself for not buying! The girl I gave my fifty pesos to was kind of taken aback at the quick sale. Then I saw that everyone else was walking around eating something that looked delicious, so I got one too:
It had some mild green chiles or something on there. It was tasty, and as awkward to eat as it looks like.
About an hour later, I started feeling kind of bad, but I was able to duck into the (free!) Museo de Arte Popular and chill for a bit. This picture kind of sums it up:
Throughout my stay in Mexico, I’ve spotted all kinds of things out of the corner of my eye and thought: Oh, that must be from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Now I’m just thinking Tim Burton kind of ripped off Mexico there.
More popular art!
This one gives me my doubts about pregnancy, the same way the movie Alien did:
Also today, I wandered into a little Chinatown:
And walked a really long way to get the a supposedly gentrified neighborhood where there might be things I (the gentry!) would like. At Cafe Libelula, I had a cappucino and a Nutella crepe while the couple next to me played Scrabble en español. The art on the wall is totally NSFW, but I figure you’ll survive; it’s pretty small on my blog.
I wandered past the big park next to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where there was a giant festival with rides and carnival games and taco carts and flan and 20-by-20-inch pork rinds and bootleg DVDs and tiaras for little girls and Santa hats and cotton candy and pretty scarves and even more pork rinds, which I discovered are served on a plate covered in sauce, which kind of softens them up, but means that people are eating meals composed entirely of skin and fat.
Another thing happening at the fair was that families were waiting in line to pose for photos in huge Christmas- and Disney-themed dioramas, many of which featured live actors playing Santa Claus. Wow:
Then, despite my esophagus, duodenum, and general sense of well-being warning me away, I decided to try a new food I had seen several times but been unable to identify:
I nodded in assent as hot sauce and lime were added to my mystery squiggly strands. I walked away with a cup of this stuff and a fork, and ten bites later still could not determine of which basic food group I was partaking. It was a little like gummy worms, but more … organic. I wondered if it was some interesting fruit or vegetable. It was unobjectionable, almost tasteless. Inscrutable. It looked a bit like calamari, but definitely wasn’t, yet it certainly struck me that I might be eating, say, cartilage. It was more solid than fat, but struck me as … animal. Or … candy. I looked around for anyone who looked like he or she might speak English. No dice. I finally abandoned my cup of mystery squiggles, not wanting to eat an entire cup of what may have been … anything.
So, can anyone identify the mystery squiggles? What did I eat?!
December 20, 2009
The Metropolitan Cathedral (i.e., the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María) took 277 years to build and is slowly sinking into the mud. In the plaza in front of the Cathedral are several clear panels in the pavement through which you can see the steps that used to lead up to the Cathedral; however, both Cathedral and steps have sunk so much that the Cathedral is slightly below ground level and the steps are totally underground.
When Mexicans say “baroque,” they really fucking mean it:
Here’s a giant organ. Ha ha, giant organ. I’ll bet your mom likes a giant organ.
Outside the Cathedral, you can buy souvenirs from small children dressed as Aztecs. Despite the location of this souvenir cluster, virtually all of the souvenirs were Aztec-themed: not a kitschy Virgen María or fat cherub in sight. The TimeOut guide to Mexico City contained a helpful history section that discussed how Catholicism adapted many existing traditions from the local polytheistic religion, and, resultantly, the Catholics aren’t necessarily as Catholic as you might assume; the practice of totally ignoring Jesus in favor of Mary and the many saints maps pretty well with the pantheon of household gods worshipped before the conquistadors.
Below is a small portion of the Diego Rivera mural at the Palacio Nacional. Incidentally, my alma mater is home to a mural, by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco, which similarly depicts the history of colonization; it is somewhat controversial among our crustier old alums.
Do not take over people’s land and poke them with very sharp things. Incidentally, after seeing the Diego Rivera mural, I saw the movie Avatar (with Spanish subtitles), which I had not realized was actually about the brutal oppression of (blue) indigenous people.
The Palace had a big courtyard, which was surprisingly empty considering the throngs of people in the Zocalo, and the fact that entrance to the Palace is free. Here is the first of several photos featuring a single side of my face!
New Yorkers, why did you have to vandalize this plant?
You know who lives in harmony with the cactii? KITTIES!
Here’s the side of my face again! With giant cactii!
You know how many pictures I had to take to get one this pretty? A lot. It’s my blog and I can present myself any way I want.
This is a nice part of the Palace. It’s pink. It seems to be the outside of the Benito Juarez Museum.
This was officially labeled as “The Empress’s Staircase”! I’ve never really thought of a staircase as something a lady might need. But I’m sure it came in handy for grand entrances.
I think somebody uncovered part of an Aztec pyramid while renovating.
And now, here are the things I ate today!
This morning I had the breakfast buffet at the hotel, which included two kinds of chilaquiles, and something translated as “head of cattle belly,” which looked like brains attached to sodden fat that was separating in layers. Don’t eat the head of cattle belly.
Corn from a cart! The corn cart! Interestingly, I also ate corn from a cart in Kuwait. I’m starting to think we’re the weird ones, with our crazy total lack of corn carts. The corn was very fresh and firm and cooked in a light sort of chile broth, and then was served in a cup with mayonnaise, queso blanco, chile powder, and lime juice. It was fucking delicious. I walked around a street festival with my cup of corn, happy as a Neolithic person whose society has just discovered maize cultivation.
Later I bought flan from a couple who had brought their baby with them to sell little cups of flan from a folding table. The flan looked charmingly lumpy (a sign of high egg content, which I admire in a dessert) and was truly the best flan I have ever had. Happy happy flan!
After Avatar ended around 11, I walked back to the Zocalo, where the ice skating had ended, the official food vendors had closed up shop, there was trash everywhere, and lots of people were selling food from shopping carts and vats attached to the fronts of bicycles. One cart was selling cups of something that looked, in the dark, a little like French fries. I read the sign: Ricas Patitas. “Rich little feet?” I thought. Then I saw a little girl chawing down on a terrifyingly pale and declawed chicken foot. Yep: styrofoam cups full of chicken feet. With hot sauce!
I found a taco vendor and ordered what everyone else was having: mystery tacos. After seeing the feet, I was delighted that the first taco contained potato. The second, beans. The third contained a substantial quantity of gristle.
Funny, in New York, I would never consider eating tacos from a vat attached to the front of a strange man’s bicycle, but once you’ve seen the Ricas Patitas, anything seems reasonable.
December 19, 2009
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t tell you, dear reader, but I do hope you will forgive me. I didn’t tell my mother, because I’m 31, and that one time I skydived but didn’t tell her until afterwards seemed to work out well. The Prestidigitating Suitor knows I’m gone, because he’s taking care of my cat, and also because one tends to notice when one’s a-courting goes on hiatus.
So, I’m in Mexico City! Just because I can! I’m staying in a hotel just a block off the Zócalo, a large public square with an enormous Mexican flag flying in the middle of it. On the Zócalo is the Cathedral, which is way more gorgeous than Wikipedia lets on, although the Wikipedia page does inform me that, should I actually enter the Cathedral, I can see something called “Lord of the Cacao Beans.”
Here’s me in my hotel room!
A department store window had a Nativity made of Lego! The baby Jesus looked kind of like a racist caricature of an Asian person!
The Zócalo in winter! The tents all have different winter activities involving snow and ice that have not occurred naturally!
It’s Santa’s Mexican workshop! These people are all making tiny snowmen out of artificially-generated snow!
At the Salon Corona, I sat at a counter and ate tacos made of bacalao (salted cod), nopales con huevos (cactus with egg) and lomo (beef tenderloin) with some kind of vegetable. Note the server in his swine flu mask!
More Mexican adventures to come!
December 18, 2009
My Prestidigitating Suitor and I went to the Union Square Greenmarket to drop off the compost that had been composting for quite some time in his apartment. While there, we noticed many strange species of vegetable. I was finally prompted to make a purchase when I saw…
A CARROT THAT LOOKS LIKE PANTS!
I bought it from Keith’s Farm. There were some other funny-looking carrots as well. Turns out carrots come in all the United Colors of Benetton!
I had some Freshdirect carrots at home already, and when juxtaposed, the Greenmarket carrots looked like tasty little weirdos and the Freshdirect carrots looked like the vegetable equivalent of a big plastic Ken doll.
Here is Pants Carrot posing with Hand Turkey. Hand Turkey is based on my hand, with the addition of a caruncle and wattle drawn by the Prestidigitating Suitor.
After taking these photos, I gave Pants Carrot to my math bee co-host Soce the Elemental Wizard, since he was having a frisée-themed party for his birthday. Naturally.
December 17, 2009
Congratulations to Wilson Southerland and all our finalists, and thanks to Eric Walton for the photography.
All (well, most) of the Finalists!
The top three!
The bee starts up again on February 1, 2010 — save the date!
December 16, 2009
US Helicopter is a company operating out of a heliport a few blocks from my Wall St. apartment. They offer helicopter rides to the airport. $165 and you’re there in 8 minutes.
But it’s better than that! I went in there once, to ask a question, and saw that you get to go through airport security at the heliport, with just five or six other people, thereby skipping the line at the airport. This is because the helicopter is going to drop you on the tarmac, inside the airport, not out front like a taxi.
I first heard about US Helicopter when they started running ads on the top of taxis; the ads said — if I may paraphrase — “$165 to JFK. Bill that extra hour.” I laughed and laughed when I saw it; certainly the helicopter service will save you an hour or more. And naturally, you will spend that extra hour at the office, where you will bill at least $165 for it! Only in New York, I thought.
For the non-New Yorkers, though, keep in mind that a taxi to JFK or Newark (the two airports served by USH) will cost $45 for JFK, and at least $80 for Newark. There are trains and shuttles that go to both airports, but unless you live in exactly the right place, you will almost certainly have to shlep your stuff up and down numerous sets of subway stairs, etc., to even get on the shuttle or AirTrain. So, an extra $85-120 to skip taking your luggage on the subway, save you probably several hours, and allow you to skip the security line really doesn’t sound so bad. Also, you get to ride in a helicopter. I really haven’t mentioned that part enough. You get to ride in a helicopter! Right past the Statue of Liberty! Then to the airport! Also, I can walk to the helicopter from my apartment!
So, I have wanted to do this for some time. Readers of the blog have seen that I have recently traveled to Sweden, Edinburgh, and Toronto. There have also been trips to Virginia and Ohio in the last eighteen months or so. But every time, for some reason: no helicopter. Once, I didn’t realize until I had booked my flight that the helicopter doesn’t go to LaGuardia. Once, I didn’t realize that it doesn’t operate on weekends, at all (the Wall St. location and the “bill that extra hour” thing should’ve made the target market pretty obvious). And now, just as I am headed out for another trip this Friday, I was hoping to take the helicopter (to Newark! on a weekday!), except that all service has been halted for an indefinite period of time. Probably something to do with that target market.
The last time (and the first time) I rode in a helicopter was when I went on tour in the Middle East.
We (three other comedians and I) did two shows on the USS Enterprise in the middle of the Persian Gulf, and were flown by helicopter to the USS Gettysburg to do another show there.
For some reason, I found these buttons funny.
We landed on this!
The show we did in the tiny mess hall on the Gettysburg — I don’t think there were microphones, and the comics just stood behind a lunch table — I remember as being one of the best of my life. I’ve never heard a packed room laugh so loud. I still have a USS Gettysburg belt buckle, which I keep intending to put on an appropriate belt and wear in a non-ironic way.
I hope USH gets its act back together. Because I want to be in a helicopter as soon as possible. Thank you.
December 15, 2009
My Prestidigitating Suitor and I made yams. Two great big yams, baked in the oven. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with them, exactly, but since it takes about 45 minutes to bake yams, I figured we’d throw them in the oven first and contemplate later.
Once they were cooked and cooling on the cutting board, I suggested that we mash them into two separate dishes, and season them differently, and have two different kinds of yams (along with our stuffing and roasted brussels sprouts). This was the result:
I made the one on the left, Yam with Mango Chutney and Orange:
Get a giant yam, a jar of mango chutney, and an orange. Cook the yam and mash it into a dish. Cut up half an orange. If the orange has seeds, remove them. Mix the orange bits and a bunch of mango chutney into the yams.
The Prestidigitating Suitor made the one on the right, Molasses Happyface Yam with Macadamias:
Get a giant yam, some macadamia nuts, and some molasses. Cook the yam and mash it into a dish. Smash up some macadamia nuts. Mix the smashed nuts and some molasses into the yams. Place two whole macadamia nuts as eyes. Carve a mouth. Harvest the remnants of someone else’s orange to make eyebrows. Make someone else take the first serving so you don’t feel bad about eating the face.
This has been today’s yam idea post. Hope you enjoyed it.
December 14, 2009
On Saturday, I stepped onto the 1 at 23rd St. and was in a train car almost completely filled with people dressed as Santa.
This would’ve been fine, except that they were shouting Christmas and pop-rock songs at the top of their lungs. At one point, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; more offensively, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridge. Literally shouting, at an ear-splitting volume that defied the production of the different tones necessary for “music.” At least I’m only on here for two stops before I transfer to the 2/3, I thought.
I transferred to the 2/3 at 14th. More Santas. Also singing. One lady Santa had no pants. I was wearing a winter coat and doing that two-pairs-of-tights-at-once thing that ladies sometimes do when it’s cold. You know how much alcohol you have to consume before your asscheeks are warm under these circumstances?
The 2/3 stopped at Chambers Street at the same time as a 1 train, and more Santas got onto the 2/3, but then I wondered if somehow our 2/3 had moved exceptionally slowly and they were the same Santas I had previously been trapped with on the 1, because: the Santas again started singing Under the Bridge. Kinda ruined that song for me. I really liked it in the eighth grade.
Even worse, all the Santas got out at my stop, apparently to drink on Stone St.
Turns out, this thing is an annual event, partly composed of a pub crawl. From my angle, it was entirely composed of douchebags. It was really just the shouting. I don’t actually mind the asscheeks, or the nightmares undoubtedly given to children who were already a little skeptical of the besuited man who will be breaking into their houses this Christmas.
December 11, 2009
I wrote a quiz in City Scoops Magazine!
Here’s the print one, of which the Manhattanites among us received personal copies in our mailboxes, along with, um, packets of coupons.
December 10, 2009
After the spelling bee, I often go to the deli that is on Metropolitan right near the Lorimer L stop, where I pick up some groceries, am sometimes flirted with by the staff (once, in 2005, I said I wasn’t feeling well, and the guy who makes the sandwiches offered to leave work and drive me home to East Harlem), and often buy my favorite sandwich, cryptically entitled “Marry Me Omar” (it contains chicken, bacon, apples, avocado, and horseradish).
Here are some of the other sandwiches currently on offer:
December 9, 2009
Last year, for my thirtieth birthday, I held a Man-Pageant. It was glorious. These men all signed up to compete. There were free foot massages for women, and male models handing out bon-bons. Because, quite frankly, omnipotence really only takes some SAT tutoring money and access to Craigslist.
Or so I thought! This year, I posted the same damn ad on Craigslist, seeking contestants. I thought maybe I’d get even more of them, since it’s clear I didn’t rape any of last year’s. Also, it’s a recession! What kind of hot guy doesn’t want a 1-in-10 chance of winning $200, plus a near-100% chance of being publicly fawned over by lots of women?
Alas! The second annual Man-Pageant was supposed to take place this Sunday, but has been postponed until warmer weather, when the menfolk are more likely to take their shirts off on stage.
I had a pageant-free birthday. It was weird.
For some eye candy, please see last year’s results.
If you are a hot man, ages 21 to able-to-convince-me-you’re-younger-than-I-am, and you would like to compete in the rescheduled Man-Pageant, please contact me.
If you are a hot man, ages 21 to able-to-convince-me-you’re-younger-than-I-am, and you would like to compete in the rescheduled Man-Pageant, please contact me.
December 9, 2009
I’ve never posted a recipe on Jenisfamous before, but before this holiday season, I had also never cooked a vegan Thanksgiving for a magician before. And now I have!
After I mentioned on Facebook that I had invented a holiday-appropriate main dish, a few people asked for the recipe. With the help of the aforementioned vegan magician, I made the dish again, and he took photos.
I like to think that a few dozen concerned suburban mothers whose suddenly vegan children are returning home from college will be out there Googling “vegan Christmas dinner,” and ending up here. Hi!
Also, I don’t measure anything when I cook, so you’ll just have to go with it. I’ll describe the steps as best I can. Also, this whole recipe, including side dish, only takes about 15 minutes, so don’t make it a day ahead of time or anything crazy; in fact, it’s much better fresh than as leftovers, so if you want a lot, just make it again tomorrow.
- One bag of frozen gnocchi (or fresh gnocchi, or you can look up on the internet how to make your own gnocchi. Just get some damn gnocchi. My bag of frozen gnocchi was 16 oz., but this recipe makes enough sauce to accomodate a bit more gnocchi than that).
- One can of pumpkin.
- Unsweetened Almond Breeze Almond Milk. I am serious about this. Do not use soymilk. I will beat your ass. Soy tastes like beans. Do not use rice milk, or hemp milk, or any other hippie-ass thing. You must use Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Milk. Not that other brand of almond milk that’s basically just water and almond extract. If you do not need to make this recipe vegan, you may use regular whole milk, or even cream. But do not put the Silk fucking soymilk you put on your cereal into this dish. Thank you.
- Fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano. I bought the Satur Farms Fragrant Herb Trio. I’m actually not totally sure I identified the herbs correctly. Probably some slightly different fresh herbs would also be okay. I’m not a fascist. But don’t think you can substitute the stuff in the jar. Part of the point of the recipe is to have the fresh green bits visible in the sauce. You want fresh herbs that are actually fresh, like leaves, not ones that have already gotten a bit crunchy, like potpourri.
- Sea salt. I promise you it’s different from regular salt. And it sounds fancier. I’m assuming you already have pepper. What are you, some kind of pepperless freak?
- Vegetable bouillon. I used “Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon” and it was freaking delicious.
- Vegan margarine. I know you are going to think to yourself, “I can just use olive oil,” but I’m telling you, holiday food is delicious because it tastes like butter. I used some Fleischman’s (Note: “parve” is Jewish for vegan! Sort of).
- Pine nuts (a small handful thereof).
- White cooking wine.
Please don’t mind my coffeemaker in the photo. You don’t need one of those. I don’t have a lot of counter space.
Also in this post, I will be making a side dish of roasted haricots verts. To make this, you will need:
- Haricots verts, also known as French beans. The skinny green beans. Cut off the ends, please.
- Olive oil.
- Sea salt and rosemary, which you should already have from the gnocchi recipe above. The “large grain” sea salt totally looks cooler.
- A cookie sheet.
Step 1: Start drinking. I’m drinking Chimay Rouge. Also, you will want to ask a magician to draw a hand turkey, and then tape it to your kitchen cabinet. If your magician is not a vegan, don’t let him touch the food.
I’m slicing margarine on the dotted line!
Step 2: Melt about two tablespoons of margarine in a large skillet. Add a bouillon cube and push it around in the margarine with your spatula until it looks delicious.
Step 3: Get about this many herbs. Rip them off the stems. Any parts that are too much like trees to eat, throw away. Take the little leafy bits and chop them very, very small.
Step 4: Add the herbs and sautée them until they are nice and soft. Add a bit of salt, but if your bouillon was already salted, then be sparing.
Step 5: Add about a fourth of a cup of cooking wine.
Step 6: Dump the entire can of pumpkin into the skillet and move it all around.
Step 7: Add about a cup of almond milk, or more or less, so that it all looks creamy and delicious. Simmer a bit. If it looks like it could be creamier, add more almond milk. It’s kind of hard to fuck up at this point.
Step 8: Boil a pot of water. Follow the instructions on the gnocchi package. Note: frozen gnocchi only needs to boil for THREE MINUTES, so don’t put it in before you’re ready for it.
Step 9: Add some pepper to the sauce and stir it around.
Step 10: Heat up a separate skillet. Don’t put any oil or butter or anything in it. When it’s medium-hot, put a small handful of pine nuts in and DON’T LEAVE THEM ALONE or they will burn. Move them around with a spatula for thirty seconds or so until they’re slightly brown, then take them off the heat. You just toasted some pine nuts!
Step 11: When the gnocchi are done, drain them, and add them to the sauce, or put the gnocchi in a fancy serving dish and put the sauce on top. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
You’re done! You made gnocchi in pumpkin sauce! Your vegan should now make out with you, if appropriate.
Side Dish Instructions (and don’t forget to keep drinking!):
Step A: Rip a big bunch of rosemary off of the stems and chop it pretty small. Keep in mind that most of the rosemary is going to kind of fall off the haricots verts, so use more than you think you should. It’ll look fancy.
Step B: Put the haricots verts on a cookie sheet. Drizzle a SMALL amount of olive oil on them and move them all around with your hands so the oil is evenly distributed.
Step C: Sprinkle with sea salt, and distribute the rosemary on top.
Step D: I would’ve told you to pre-heat your oven, except I’m pretty sure that modern ovens just get hot whenever you tell them to, and also I just put food in when the oven is cold and let the food heat up as the oven does, which is totally fine if you’re not doing something really precise and involving chemical reactions, which pretty much only describes baking, which is only for fat people. Did I say that? I did. Oh wait, Step D is to put the cookie sheet in the oven on some reasonable temperature, like 350 or so.
Step E: Cook for 10 minutes or so — until the haricots verts are nice and (partially) brown.
If your vegan has not made out with you yet, stand near the food and look adorable.
December 9, 2009
In Williamsburg Speling Bee news … congratulations to Season Ten Winner Wilson Southerland, who spelled twelve words correctly at Monday’s Season 10 Finals! Ben O’Donnell took second place and Lilli Heard took third in a very difficult bee! Professional-quality photographs were taken and will be posted soon.
Congratulations as well to all our Finalists (each of whom placed in the top three during a regular-season bee):
A few words spelled by our competitors include imprimis, overslaugh, gramineous, avenaceous, moue, materfamilias, coetaneous, dermatoglyphics, quodlibet, moirologist, and schwerpunkt.
Join us at Pete’s Candy Store on February 1st to start up Season 11 of the Williamsburg Spelling Bee.
December 6, 2009
There are only two more Chelsea Mind Games on the calendar for 2009 (or, at all, actually) — after this, you’ll have to find your own forum for intellectually dominating others and/or hitting on smart people.