Sunday, September 12, 2010

Getting Reacquainted with Fall...

A year ago this time, doused in stinking sweat, covered from head to toe in unyieldingly agonizing mosquito bites, all I craved was one very simple, American beverage: a refreshing, effortless pint of pumpkin ale.

Not too demanding of a request, right...?

Wrong! This was actually quite the foolish craving on my part because...well, because I was then currently living on the diagonally-opposite side of the world.

You see, folks, for me, the hardest part about my four-month stint in Vietnam had nothing to do with uncontrollably pungent body odors or abundantly irritating insects. Nor did I have exceptional beef with the exhaustive language barrier, which had me emulating the most admirable of sign language enthusiasts after only three weeks in Asia. (Almost positive I've single-handedly invented a new language that constitutes the frequent use of eye-rolling, wild hand 'n arm gestures, and funny gurgling sounds, induced by the many frustrating encounters with the motorbike taxi men of Can Tho.)

But, putting my insignificant communicational achievements aside, back to my initial declaration:

During those four months abroad, I was most nostalgic about one thing, and one thing only: this would be the first time, in my twenty-three years of existence, that I would miss out on the progression of the autumnal season. The one season, I am naturally inclined to believe, that nobody quite enjoys, or celebrates, like Americans.

There is something so superficially comforting, so expectantly routine about the commercialization of Halloween in the United States - the haunted hayrides; the apple and pumpkin picking; the unnecessarily large bags of calorie-packed candy that can be found in any domestic grocery store, crammed with individually-wrapped packets of crappy chocolate but loved, nonetheless, by millions of Americans, myself included. The fake spider webs adorning corners of coffee shops; the cardboard cut-out gravestones clumsily entrenched in your neighbor's front yard; the distant glow of a lunatic-looking Jack-0-Lantern, crooked smile and all. These are, at their core, what make up the glorious season of autumn for me, along with the smell of cinnamon permeating the air, and the taste of warm apple cider, rather poorly confined in a cheap Styrofoam cup, on sale for 50 cents at Conklins' family-owned farm in Rockland County, NY - sadly, one of the only few farms left in the area.

This year, my participation in fall activities will not be unaccounted for. I will drink apple cider until my stomach hurts. I will carve the craziest looking Jack-o-Lantern, simply because I can. I will, in effect, make up for last year's loss - but also, at the same time, I will be recollecting the following thoughts in my head:

Last year, I was eating pho every morning, enjoying unheard of tropical temperatures in the month of October, and teaching English to foreign children who, every day, managed to put a smile on my face. And I will miss that.

Funny how nostalgia works...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Live the Life you Love

There's something very wrong with me.

Here I am in Room 6320 of Aruba's one and only Holiday Inn - a hotel that was infamously and reluctantly pushed into the spotlight following the fishy disappearance of high school senior Natalee Holloway in 2005 - with full access to a breathtakingly beautiful beach, and an unlimited supply of all-inclusive alcoholic beverages.

But all I keep thinking about is Vietnam.

The mental probing started yesterday when I went for a run. I needed the solidarity. I needed time to reflect about my life, which direction it's going - and what the hell my "plan" is come the end of the summer. As if I'll ever actually figure that one out. But my comfortable and somewhat-lucrative lifeguarding gig terminates in five weeks. So, therefore, must my characteristically-Kelly procrastination.

I was pondering just this when the course of my run took me past a native Aruban, grilling something in the back of a (his?) truck. Exactly what he was cooking, I couldn't tell you. And where safety hazards are concerned, this probably wasn't the best location to set up shop. But whatever it was, it smelled fucking delicious. He looked at me and smiled. And waved. He uncannily resembled a man I used to pass by on my way to and from school every day in Can Tho, also contentedly stationed at his grill: same bronzed shoulders, same ragged tank top, same genuine smile.

...I regret, in many ways, coming home early from that assignment in Vietnam. Sure, it was difficult to wake up every day and go to bed every night in the sweltering heat, constantly combating mosquitoes and trying, effort after effort, to communicate my needs and wants to the locals, as my attempt at making any progress in Vietnamese was just plain comical, to put it nicely.

But there aren't many places like Vietnam. And Aruba is, despite its slightly bluer waters and "tanner" citizens, more or less an extension of any commercialized beach town in America. There's a TGIF's, a Burger King and a Dunkin Donuts right across the street from this resort. Signs of these familiar chains comfort most of my fellow countrymen. To me, they're an eyesore of the worst sort - a painful and ugly reminder that our world is globalizing and therefore, shrinking, at a rapidly dangerous pace.

It makes one think, and fear: is there still enough time to see everything in its most authentic form before it evaporates from the face of the Earth?!

I want to believe, try to believe, that there's still time, despite my foolish choice to leave a part of the world that I had yet to truly discover, to see more of what I lust for - and that is, something different.

So why did I leave it in the first place, when I was already there?

I still don't know the answer to that.

But I do know that I want to live, like most people, with minimal regrets.

As the old saying goes:

"Live the life you love, love the life you live."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Irish Beer Cheese

Like most normal human beings, I love cheese. And I'm talkin' all kinds of cheese: my likes range from the nuclear orange awesome-ness of Velveeta to the unbearably pungent imported products that one can find at an international cheese shop (or, in most cases, at your local supermarket.) And what's even cooler is realizing how many different products go into cheese making...

In this case, I discovered one made with BEER! (If you're reading this and you already knew about it, you should have told me!)

If you're not a beer person, this type of cheese may not sound appetizing to you. I get that. But I can assure you that it is quite delectable. The hint of Irish stout is just right - doesn't overpower the cheese at all. In fact, this may be the best tasting fromage I've ever brought to my lips.

However, to ensure maximum satisfaction, accompany this cheese with a kick-ass Irish Stout. You surely can't go wrong with that ;-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Revelin' in Reggae

I'll confess: I have no idea what's going on in this song. But that doesn't stop me from liking it. There's something about reggae music that just makes me feel all tingly inside. Lame, I know. But it's the truth. How can you hate on guys that are just pot-lovin, peace promoting island boys, preaching love and unity to all of God's chillin'? I mean, for all I know, this dude Gyptian could be advocating underage prostitution. That's how indistinguishable his words are to me. But hopefully, for the sake of the happy mood that it puts me in, this song is about what I think it is: good ole fashion love.

Listen to it. It'll make ya feel good, even though you probably won't know what the hell he's talking about...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jerey Shore Goes To The Big Screen...


Sorry for the recent blog absence. Hasn't really been much going on in my life lately. But I felt like it was appropriate to come back with a BANG and inform you good people about this:

What is it, anyway?

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week! Duh!

When is it?

Monday, March 15th - Sunday, March 28th

Who participates?

Over 140 restaurants in Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Duchess, Ulster and Colombia counties. One of the restaurants, in fact, is Peter Kelly's famous X2O Exaviars on Hudson, featured on a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations, where Bourdain dined with none other than long time adored movie actor Bill Murray, a Hudson Valley resident himself.

What's the deal with pricing?

Restaurants will be serving three-course prix-fixe lunches for $20 and three-course dinners for $28. Drinks are not on the house, though. However, one must consider the deal they're getting here - most of these restaurants are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive!

To find out more info, go here:


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Practicing Painful Pilates

Now, I know what you're thinking. Pilates doesn't look painful. After all, the girl in the above picture is smiling, ain't she? But let's assume that she's been practicing for a while - for weeks, months, years even. And by assume, I mean let's come to a definite conclusion, because nobody that I know can hold their legs up like that for an extended period of time and actually look happy about it.

To bring some visuals to the table, let me start off with this: my instructor resembled Linda Hamilton's character from Terminator 2. Or as I like to say, Bad Ass Bitch. The sight of her biceps alone were enough to shut the whole class up when she came strolling through the gymnasium doorway, decked out in an off-pink Yoga suit, clutching the same colored Yoga mat under her bulging right arm.


Unlike her physical exterior, though, our instructor's voice was very soft and mellow. She kept reminding us that Pilates is all about breathing and not so much about body movements. In fact, your body should move very little - your breathing should do the moving for you (?). But many participants had difficulty grasping this concept, and released their air in other ways...

...or should I say, through other ends. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you know what I'm talking about here. And what can possibly be more embarrassing than passing wind in a room full of complete strangers, knowing that you've got nine more weeks left to go?

Note to self: Do not eat beans before Pilates class. Ever.