Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Adventures in Chinatown

Last week, I had some allergic reaction stuff going on so I went to Urgent Care. Who kindly set up an appointment for me with a conveniently-located, in-network allergist. 

You've already guessed that the allergist isn't in network and I didn't find out until I got there. Right? Because of course that's how that went down.

But there's so much more to this story.

According to MTA Trip Planner, there was no difference between taking the Q and B trains. Thanks to construction, I had to walk to the express station, so I'd be able to take whichever train came first. Only the B train was a 10 minute walk from the doctor's office while the Q was a block and a half away. 

You've already guessed that I took the B train, right? The heat and humidity were just delightful.

While I was getting my bearings, I was stopped by a rich-looking, older white couple. Who thought I was an MTA information kiosk. Apparently. 

"Does the B train go to Manhattan?"
"We're in Manhattan."
"Well, 50th street."
"Depends on whether you want the West Side or East Side."

I suggested she check out the map to figure out which stop was closest to her destination. Then she asked what the senior fare is these days. Because I obviously know that information off the top of my head. 

Anyway, 10 minute walk in the heat and humidity and about to pass out. I decide that I must have a pork bun when I'm done with the doctor. I see a bakery that looks decent, but also see several others that are closer to the doctor's office. And the fucking Q train station.

The doctor (who is inexplicably in charge of billing) has a, shall we say, lackadaisical approach to insurance coverage. She kept telling the receptionist to make me pay $200 that they would reimburse me if my insurance company paid them. Which they wouldn't do because I don't have out of network coverage. Which isn't a secret - Obamacare plans don't have out of network coverage because if you can't fuck people over with the in/out of network game, then life has no meaning.

So I left.

By then, I didn't want any goddamn pork bun. I wanted the best fucking pork bun in a two-block radius. So I googled. Which led me to a restaurant that specializes in steamed buns. Which turned out to be 5 blocks away, including a stroll down the stinky fish block of Mott Street (you know the one).

And that's when I saw the big C in the window. This tiny hole in the wall with no seating had a C grade from the health department and didn't even feel the need to hide this with a Grade Pending sign. That's how much they don't give a fuck about hygiene. 

Hard pass.

So I walked back towards the Q train, popped into that first bakery I'd noted and bought a pork bun and some moon cakes, which I've always wanted to try. I should've gotten a steamed pork bun, because the baked one was cold, which is weird but fine when you really need some goddamn protein.

I've now walked more steps than if I'd gone way the hell uptown, changing trains 3 times. And I still don't know what the fuck is going on with this whole allergy thing.

Healthcare should not be this difficult to obtain.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

They're My Roots Too

Over the years, I've had plenty of opportunities to be disappointed in my fellow white people. From Vanilla Ice to All Lives Matter, we keep giving the world cringeworthy examples of how we need to do better.

Like how very few white people are tweeting about watching Roots. Maybe they're not watching. Or maybe they're watching, but not tweeting because they feel they shouldn't. This isn't just because Roots is about slavery because the same thing happened with The Wiz Live. One of my white tweeps even tweeted about how much she was enjoying reading black people's tweets about The Wiz. 

Either way, it's not OK. I'm not saying that it's racist not to watch musical theater or an epic 9-hour miniseries. What is racist is white people not feeling a sense of ownership or involvement in anything with an all (or predominantly) black cast. We expect people of color to watch movies and TV shows with all white casts but don't reciprocate. Because we're clueless assholes. 

(I have a theory that the history of civil rights in America is really the history of white people becoming less and less dickish. People of color haven't changed - white people's attitudes and treatment of them has.)

Sure, The Wiz is the black version of The Wizard of Oz. It's also an updated, citified version. Living in NYC in the 70s and 80s, The Wiz was closer to my reality than the Judy Garland version. I was able to like both. I loved The Wiz Live and live tweeted the fuck out of it. (It was a better production than the pretty good Grease Live and that trainwreck Sound of Music Live, and as a musical theater geek, I will fight you on that.)

It bugged me that more white people weren't watching, enjoying and tweeting about The Wiz. It was a damn good show. 

(I have no idea if this phenomenon extends to Scandal and Empire. I had my fill of nighttime soaps with my Dynasty addiction back in the day, so I don't watch or live tweet those. I could find out, but that's the difference between journalism and a brain dump blog post. No time or energy for research. Can anyone fill in that blank?)

Back to Roots. I was a bit young for it the first time around, but did watch it in my 20s. I was a bit of a curmudgeon about the remake until I discovered the reason behind it. One of the producers showed it to his teenaged kids and they couldn't get into it. It looked too dated and they didn't know any of the actors. Essentially, teenagers really need to see this story, but teenagers are little shits so they needed a remake. 

Fine, whatever it takes. And we've learned more about Kunta Kinte's hometown (it was a city, not a village) in the intervening decades, so there was something to add. I also like that they didn't have a different actor playing Kunta as an older man. LeVar Burton and John Amos were both wonderful, but the change was jarring. (Of course, LeVar was a college senior at the time, so maybe they couldn't make him look convincingly older. Or maybe they just wanted to cast another actor. Seriously, the original has more stars than a season of The Love Boat.)

See? There's more to discuss about Roots than the horrors of slavery. But here's the thing - slavery is white history too. Yes, it happened to black people. (And do not come around here with that nonsense about Irish indentured servants being slaves because that it the stupidest shit I've heard in a year with a lot of stupid shit flying around.)

But slavery wasn't an act of God. It wasn't a hurricane. It didn't just happen. White people did that. Our ancestors built and maintained a system that supported slavery. To this day, we go through mental gymnastics to justify how much black Americans have been screwed over. 

This is white American history. As a kid, I felt smug because my ancestors are all Northern so I assumed they didn't own slaves. Then I learned that slavery existed in the North and just ended earlier than in the South. So it's possible that my people owned people. Which sucks. But I don't need to get defensive about it. No one's saying I bear any personal guilt for slavery. There's no reason I can't acknowledge how horrifically wrong slavery was. 

But not everyone feels that way. They say that slavery was so long ago that ever should just get over it and move on. (Even though the racism that white people created to justify slavery is still very much a thing.) They point out how bad they and their ancestors had it too. (I think every white American should at least watch the bit where the poor, downtrodden Irish guy complains about his social standing to the people he owns. Seriously, dude? Juneteenth should be Slap a White Person Day.)

They don't want to watch a show where the bad guys look like them and the good guys don't. (Even though we expect people of color to watch shows like that.)

When I was in grad school, I went on a road trip with some family. Out West, we visited some small museum on a spot where white people committed an atrocity against Native Americans. My aunt explained to her 6-year old son that "our forefathers killed them" referring to the overall genocide. He misheard and said, "YOUR FATHER? Your father was a bad guy."

That's all it takes people. Acknowledge that our forefathers were bad guys, and decide to be good guys instead.

So stop being big babies and watch Roots. It's an engaging story full of hope and the strength of the human spirit. If you have to, start with the last episode (airing tonight) which is about emancipation and reconstruction. (Not that those weren't sucky times to be black, but they sucked a bit less than earlier eras.) Then go back and watch the whole thing because it's a damn good story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rap Battle

I have been angrily rapped at. As a forty-four-year-old white woman, this is not something I ever expected to happen. Because - and please correct me if I'm mistaken - rap battles only happen a) on stage, B) in movies, and c) between rappers looking to show off their skills. 

I dunno. Maybe youthful hooligans break out into rap battles all the time and I'm just really out of touch.

But, like professional football and high-heeled shoes, it has nothing to do with me.

Or so I thought.

I live a block and a half from the subway station, but one of those blocks is frequented by chipper youths with clipboards soliciting donations for Greenpeace or whatever. I always blow right past them. Today, there were 2 non-Greenpeace guys in my way. One stopped me (or tried to) and said it was for their basketball team. Which is code for, "This is a total scam."

I said, "I'm late for a doctor's appointment." Which was the god's honest truth.

This young man (tall, skinny, wearing a backwards baseball cap and earbuds in his ears) starts rapping about the white bitch who doesn't help out n-words.

Because that's a completely normal reaction that people have all the time.

Me being me, I turned around and screamed, "Excuse you?"

He ignored me and continued rapping loudly about white bitches. As one does.

Now, in a perfect world, I would've started rapping about assholes who think they're entitled to my time and money. In the world we actually live in, that's nowhere near my skill set. I repeated the Excuse you and finally went on my way because (to quote Samantha Bee) you can't fact check bluster. 

I ended up taking a Lyft home from the doctor because I was dunzo with human beings.

I then spent almost 2 hours lying flat on the couch scrolling through Twitter because what the ever loving fuck?! Who does that? Who raps angrily about someone while refusing to look at them? Was he passive aggressively challenging me to a rap battle? Is that a thing?

What scammer scares off other marks like that? High school basketball coaches are all about making their players wear suits and teaching them sportsmanship. So there's no way this asshole was legit.

My complete helplessness in this situation is the worst part. I stood up for myself and he acted like I wasn't there and he was rapping about a completely different white bitch. I would've been justified in calling the cops, but they can get all Yosemite Sam around African-Americans. Which means that I had to put the bad guy's safety before my own. 

Not that I felt physically threatened, but I do have the right to live without street harassment. Even new and unusual forms of street harassment. But since I didn't think he deserved to die for what he was doing, I had to just take it.

I absolutely feel that black lives matter more than white feelings. I feel just as strongly that women don't owe anyone their time or attention. I just wish I could call the cops and know they won't overreact.

I'll leave you with this. In the Lyft, I tweeted a song parody of Up With People. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Things My Dental Pain Taught Me

Maybe it was dino dentistry that killed the dinosaurs.
Some theories of pain management would have us figure out what our pain is trying to tell us. Learn the lesson, and the pain lessens. Allegedly.

I guess what my pain was trying to tell me was that one checkup with no cavities is no reason to not bother with the dentist for two years. Even when you have way too many migraines to deal with much else.

But I learned many other things.

We had popcorn Friday night and a while later, I noticed that I had some tooth pain. I looked in the mirror and saw a dark patch on one tooth near my gum.

Since I hadn't noticed it before, I assumed something was stuck in there and made with the dental floss and toothbrush. Nope. Still there. Either something was really stuck in there or my tooth was disintegrating all of a sudden.

So I turned to the google.

Lesson #1: Whatever you do, do NOT go a google image search for dental problems. You can't unsee that shit and oh dear God, you will see stuff that no one should. I saw some pretty gross stuff as an EMT, but nothing compares to what dentists deal with.

Lesson #2: There are few things funnier than forums on bodybuilding websites. 

"You need to see your dentist, brah."
"Brah, I don't want to go to the dentist if I don't have to."
And so on.

Saturday morning, I called my most recent dentist. Who doesn't work weekends. Just as well since we have dental insurance and he's not in network. The dentist the insurance company assigned to us had horrible online reviews, so I kept looking. I got through to one place and was told "we're not open for emergencies today" and I should come in on Monday. I explained that he and I seemed to be working with different definitions of "emergency."

I googled "emergency dentist Brooklyn" and called the first dentist listed. And was told that "we're not taking any more walk-ins today," even though it wasn't even 10:30. 

Lesson #3: Emergency dentistry is for morning people. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.

We went to the drug store to buy some Orajel to numb the pain. Note that not one dentist or receptionist I spoke to suggested using Orajel to stave off infection and make the pain go away until normal office hours. Because, see lesson #3.

Lesson #4: Orajel and the like is in the same aisle as the toothpaste, and not with the first aid supplies as I'd thought for some stupid reason.

Lesson #5: Orajel is pretty damn effective. Use that first before trying to find a new dentist in a hurry.

I was starting to get a migraine, and I wasn't sure if it was from the tooth pain or from the phone calls. I got lucky, and the headache pain went away with the tooth pain.

His Awesomeness googled the problem and learns that popcorn hulls are notoriously hard to remove because they're curved and conform to the tooth. He gets me some chewing gum to help it work loose, but no luck there.

Sunday morning I got a call from one of the dentist offices I'd called without leaving a message. They checked my insurance and discovered that my coverage is terminated. Which, OK fine. I'm not feeling the love with the in-network dentists anyway. (We got a new credit card with a chip in it, which means we had a new expiration date, which messed with the automatic billing. Oh well.)

But my old dentist doesn't work weekends, so I go see this other dentist. Because I just want this foreign object out of my gums and I have a doctor's appointment on Monday and actual work, so let's just do this before it gets worse, gets infected or whatever.

I pay him $60 so he can stick a sharp metal thing in between my teeth where I can reach with dental floss. He asks how I feel and I say I don't feel much of anything because of the Orajel. So I look in the mirror and the dark thing is still there. 

I point it out to the dentist, who says in a thick Russian accent. "That? That cavity."
Apparently, he didn't think that was the source of my dental pain.

Lesson #6: Russian sentence structure is just like Cookie Monster's. Seriously. Imagine, "That? That cavity." In Cookie Monster's voice. See?

He doesn't want to fill the cavity because filling a cavity on the front of a tooth near the gum can lead to a filling that keeps falling out. He tells me to just brush it more diligently than usual and it won't get worse.

I didn't believe him, and wondered if I'm just spoiled. We get our insurance through Obamacare, which is awesome, but also means that we see a lot of doctors who accept Medicaid and don't offer the same level of service as doctors who don't. Maybe in poor people dentistry, you let cavities go for a while. (Possibly until you need a root canal, which the dentist can charge a fortune for.)

So I made an appointment with my other dentist (the one whose office is closed on weekends) for a cleaning. He agrees with me - that cavity needs to be filled. It's not am emergency (especially now that my gums aren't inflamed from me trying to remove an imaginary foreign object) and he prefers not to fillings right after cleanings, so I'm going back in a few weeks.

Lesson #7: Dentists are like hairdressers. Once you've found one you like and trust, stick with them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Here, Go Read This

Tomato juice actually tastes better on planes. The constant loud noise hampers our enjoyment of sweet food and makes umami taste better. Maybe the airline industry can use this info to make the food taste better. Of course, airline food is virtually nonexistent these days, but still.

In case you want to up your homemade Egg McMuffin game, you can make the eggs this way. Me, I prefer Bon Appetit's Ultimate Egg Sandwich

Plus sized women can indeed dress like Miss Fisher, tiny purse-sized handgun not included. What's truly wrong with my life is that I have no opportunity to wear a beaded flapper dress. There are monthly 1920s-themed parties in NYC, but this being NYC, the club they're held in is so small that if you're dancing, you also have a trumpet playing one foot away from your head. Which is fine unless loud noises give you migraines.

Oprah's Investment in Weight Watchers Was Smart Because The Program Doesn't Work - and manages to convince customers that the failure is their own fault so that they keep coming back. It's actually a pretty abusive relationship.

The Bloggess tweeted that she'd done something stupid and embarrassing (A cashier at the airport told her to enjoy her flight and she replied, "You too!")  Hundreds of people responded by telling her about the stupid things they've done. Collected here. It's a long read, because we all do stupid shit and some of us obsess over it for all eternity. But after reading them all, I've come to a few conclusions:

  • People get really embarrassed after messing up a rote, mindless conversation ("Enjoy your meal" "You too!"). Maybe we should be embarrassed that our lives are so full of mindless call and response interactions.
  • Some embarrassing things that haunt people for years are actually perfectly normal reactions to things.
  • A few people had stories about friends or relatives doing dumb things, but no one shared a story about something a stranger did. Because no one remembers that shit. Most of the time, we spend years embarrassed over things that no one else thought was worth remembering.
  • So many people do so many stupid things that anyone who isn't gracious about witnessing a brain fart is a jerk.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why I'm Never Drinking Hot Chocolate Ever Again

This post was originally published on The Famished Freelancer on February 4, 2014. You can see in these pix how a lack of clean surfaces made me a poor fit for food blogging. Even with extreme close-ups, you can still see all the junk I keep on my snack tray.

I've had a sore throat/cold thing going on, so I've been all about the throat-soothing stuff. Drinking hot water, eating marshmallows (the gelatin coats the throat), drinking more hot water. You know the routine.

The other night, it was too late for hot chocolate (too much caffeine for that time of night), so I started wondering if Hot Vanilla is a thing, or if it was something I just imagined through all the cough syrup.

Google told me this was a thing. The recipes I saw were a bit complicated, involving vanilla beans and making your own whipped cream to put on top, so I worked it out on my own. (Recipe below.)

The first sip was like…hello darling, where have you been all my life? It was sweet, it was vanilla-y, it was hot and creamy and why have I been wasting my time with hot cocoa?

I realize that many of you will think I'm a total freak, but I actually prefer vanilla to chocolate. Yeah, I know, pick yourself up off the floor. More chocolate for you.

I like chocolate. But given a choice, I'll order something else. A nice fruit pie. Or creme brûlée. Offer me ice cream and I'm going to want vanilla (or strawberry). Most of the chocolate flavors are too chocolatey for me. Some people want rich, dense, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. 

Not me.

Hell, I have a friend who will only eat chocolate desserts. To her, if it's not chocolate, it's not worth the effort it takes to chew it.

My husband prefers chocolate, but he'll let me pick when we split desserts. Not because he loves me, but because he's too full to eat an entire dessert himself. And because I will compromise on many things, but I will not eat chocolate cake covered with chocolate sauce, accompanied by chocolate ice cream. I know this is the preferred dessert of most people, but I honestly don't know what's wrong with some people.

I mean, chocolate covered Oreos completely throw off the balance of the cookie, but there are enough people that love them that the company keeps making them.

This doesn't make it right.

However, I'll totally go the other way and pull apart two double-stuff Oreos to make a quadruple stuff and that's totally fine by me. No, I don't know what the Hell is the matter with me.

But Hot Vanilla? More hot cocoa for everyone else, because I'm not going back.

Hot Vanilla
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

  1. Pour the milk in a microwave-safe cup, and microwave on high for 45 seconds.
  2. Stir in sugar and microwave for another 45 seconds.
  3. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon.
  5. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows if you're into that sort of thing.

I suppose you could try it with any extract. I'm thinking of trying this with almond extract, or half vanilla, half almond.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Here, Go Read Something

Two publishing companies got into a hilarious Twitter squabble. Best part:
Chapter 8: Both houses regain their chill and respond to other people.

Famous quotes, the way a woman would have to say them in a meeting. The writer is not exaggerating one tiny bit here. I refused to learn that language (because it makes you sound like a jabbering idiot) and therefore had my communication style criticized several times during my corporate career. By men. For talking the exact way they do. Sigh.

Brace yourself for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the movie. Trailer here. The book is as silly as you'd expect. I preferred the prequel and sequel (Dawn of the Dreadfuls and Dreadfully Ever After) because I wasn't constantly comparing it to the original and nitpicking like crazy. The first book had a few jokes that clearly indicated that the author didn't completely understand the original scene and was therefore making fun of the wrong thing. The illustrator had zero idea about fashions of the day and so all the pictures show people wearing Victorian styles that wouldn't be invented for decades. It's like dressing people in 1970s polyester instead of 1920s flapper dresses.

I've been ranting about the coming movie becuase the trailers show the Bennett girls wearing corsets and REGENCY WOMEN DID NOT WEAR CORSETS!!!!! Loose, empire waisted dresses don't require a corset. Except, I'm actually wrong. They had looser corsets that didn't nip in the waist. Which makes sense since bras weren't going to be invented for another century and they didn't want to leave their girls unsupported.

I'm still going to watch the movie closely to make sure they have the right kind of corsets. Because apparently I enjoy getting mad about stuff like that.