Ada Theater

I get it. Maybe you’re not so interested in my Dancing with the Stars ravings, or my weekly sharing of a “Downton Tabby” photo, or my steady stream of craft beer push-posts from Untappd. On the other hand, I am only one person. On awards show night, two-thirds of the world is live-posting. That’s hard to get away from and so I take an eighteen-hour sabbatical from social media. It’s a little better since muffling hashtags became possible in Twitter; Facebook really needs to develop some form of that feature. Fear not, gentle reader, the purpose of this post is not to bitch (but thanks for listening!).

It’s true, though, that my idea for this post began with a friend’s link, in honor of the Oscars tonight, to a list of things which you no longer find in movie theaters and his follow-up request to name the first movie we ever saw in a theater.

The first two movies I remember seeing in the theater were Bambi and The Aristocats. I was a tot long before the Disney princess machine sprang to life. Going to the theater was a special occasion. As with other “out” experiences of my childhood, there were no frills. When we ate at a restaurant, we just had water to drink because soda pop or milk was too extravagant an expense. If we went to the county fair, there was no cotton candy or game-playing, because it simply wasn’t necessary. It was fun to be there and just walk around looking at things and animals. At the theater, we didn’t indulge in popcorn or other snacks.

Bambi posterI’m inclined to think that Bambi was my first movie. My mom took me. All I can remember about the experience is that I became hysterical when Bambi’s mom was killed in the forest fire. We probably went to see this movie because my mom loves rabbits, and Thumper, of course, was a major character. That backfired on her.

The Aristocats posterI’m inclined to think that The Aristocats was my second movie because after the experience of Bambi, my mom probably wanted to make sure we saw an upbeat story. I don’t remember much about that movie other than that the lady cat wore a pearl necklace. She did, right?

In conjunction with remembering the movies, I thought about the Ada Theater in which I saw them. You might recall from other posts that I think of my childhood town fondly. The theater was right on Main Street. It still is. This afternoon I found this nice page about it.

My third movie theater memory is from high school, after we had moved back to my parents’ home town in Wisconsin. I was fifteen and my friend was fourteen, and her dad had dropped us off at the theater downtown. I don’t remember what the movie was that we were going to see, but it must have been rated PG, because we were going in on our own, but perhaps it was PG with a racy reputation, because my friend’s dad was inspired to say that I could easily pass for sixteen or seventeen. I thought absolutely nothing of it at the time, but when I was older and recalled it, I realized that it was a kind of creepy thing for him to have said. Don’t worry, I don’t remember any other questionable behavior by him.

So in honor of Oscar, those are some way-back movie memories. In the last twenty-four hours, I’ve watched Secretary, In Your Eyes, and Unfinished Sky. I recommend all three.

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I will soon be at 1,000 photos on Instagram. I’m pretty sure that will happen a few days before January 16th, when the world will end and we all have to quit our accounts.

 

You’d have to have been in a cave for the last 24 hours to have not been aware of the furor over Instagram’s proposed new terms of service. I admit that I enthusiastically joined in the hysteria, but I also actually read the document in question. That doesn’t make me better than anybody else for sure, and I also have three and a half weeks to wait and see how it all pans out.

 

Instagram and social media have come up in a few of my last several posts. I’m not going to get up on some soapbox about this. Anybody who ignores the fact that these “services” that we freely join and freely (both literally and figuratively) give our lives away to are actually businesses that want to turn a profit, is living in a delusional dream world. These sites do not exist as a public service. It is our responsibility to actually read the terms of service that we blindly agree to. That we did not read them is not a legitimate reason for outrage when these terms change. And the changes will likely be to our personal detriment, because businesses are out for themselves, not us. They don’t owe us anything.

 

I don’t even remember what my main reason was for starting this post. I think I wanted to say that I will continue to enjoy Instagram, at least until January 16 when the proposed changes (in whatever form they end up) take effect. As with the various changes that Facebook has tried to implement and then quite often had to back peddle on, I’m figuring that the same will likely occur with these updates to Instagram’s policies.

 

Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve heard on the subject came from CNN this morning. Whoever they were interviewing said that like Facebook had previously, Instagram threw, say, five changes out there. Now they’ve seen which one thing users reacted most strongly to (in this case, the perception that Instagram is saying that they will henceforth sell users’ photos with no notification or compensation to the user) and will modify that one, and the other four will kind of fly under the radar.

 

I guess what I wish is that fine print wasn’t written in legalize. Rather than saying “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service…,” why can’t they (or anybody else) just say, “We’ll pretend that you own your content, but we’re still going to retain the right to do whatever the hell we want to with it.”?

 

Like I said, I don’t know why I was fired up to write anything tonight. I don’t care that Instagram might start showing me ads, or that they might put my face on self-promotion within the app, just like Facebook tries to do with suggestions or promoted content. We users forget that profitability is the end goal. Regarding Instagram in particular, I’d gladly pay a number of dollars to buy an ad-free version of the app, and I’d most likely also gladly pay a nominal monthly subscription. “Photographers” and “purists” may scoff at one-tap filter apps for the masses, but you know what? It’s fun! And Instagram, unlike other photo-editing apps (such as Camera+ and Snapseed, both of which I also adore, particularly Snapseed (never got into Hipstamatic, I confess to a certain amount of hypocritical snobbery on that front)) has a fantastic social aspect, even prior to their acquisition by Facebook. I have some lovely new friends in London, Munich, and Toowoomba, Australia. Where? Exactly.

 

I hope that I won’t have to quit the amazingly friendly and creative community that is Instagram. I’m confident that willn’t be the case. Please.
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I’ve been in a lather lately about how much that I want to see, Facebook fails to actually show me. This afternoon that morphed into a nostalgic lament about the way social media used to be back in the good old days. I was going to write about both aspects tonight, but the lament has taken longer than I planned, and it’s really the more important part anyway.

The Lament

Twitter. In January 2007, California Rob invited me to sign up on a new website called Twitter. I had no idea what it was but I always enjoyed learning about the new internet stuff sooner than most, thanks to him and his circle of Silicon Valley friends. At first I had no idea what to do with it (just as the entire world didn’t) and didn’t see what the big deal was about writing periodic statements about what I was doing or feeling. But because the cool kids (Rob and his friends) were doing it, I hung in there and contributed my apprisals of the situation.

And then a funny thing began to happen. I got to know these people in California (and one in Philadelphia). Through our unfocused updates about meals and bedtime and clock-watching at work, we who had never met in person were nevertheless able to develop a picture of each other. And then another funny new thing happened. I got to know more people in California because they were friends with the first bunch of people.

This was back before the term “tweet” had been coined or @ mentions had been coded. This was when you saw all the updates posted by all of your friends, regardless of whether they were directed @ you or not. This was when Twitter was like a cocktail party where you could drift in and out of conversations with people you did and didn’t know all around the room and, like after any good mixer, you’d come away with a few new people who you wanted to hang out with. 

Twitter was this way for a two or three years (I’m not researching exactly how long), which gave me the time to make two tiers of new friends. Then the powers that be decided that your side of the room didn’t need to know what the other side was talking about, even if you were with someone who knew people on both sides.

Facebook. I held out on joining Facebook for a long time. Five years ago, it seemed redundant to belong to two social networks, and at that time anyway, almost all of my online friends still focused their attention on Twitter (and if I think about it, most of those original people still do, even though there is a lot of pushing of identical updates from one service to the other).

I gave in in June 2008 (based on my registration email), but it wasn’t until almost a year later that I began using it with gusto (three and a half years ago, as of this post). And I can tell you exactly why I started. At the time, posting photos to Twitter wasn’t as easy as it is now. I found Facebook to be a convenient one-stop shop for posting status updates, photos, and links to important pages I thought you should visit. There wasn’t yet the raft of third-party services that make such things a breeze nowadays. And Facebook held the allure of allowing more than 140 characters (though I admit to feeling a great deal of satisfaction in adhering artfully to the 140-character rule, and I hope Twitter never changes it).

It didn’t take long before I thought of Facebook as my primary outlet. Almost all of my Twitter friends were also on Facebook so I didn’t feel like anybody was missing out on any of my Very Important Posts (in the beginning I was a purist in that I made a conscious effort to not post the same content to both services. Now, not so much so, though, unlike a lot of people, when I post the same content in both places, I manually do the posting rather than have some script or app push it to both places. So I’m still a purist in that small way. But I digress). I also imagine that, indirectly, I have my iPhone to thank as well, with its always present camera and on-board apps for ease of posting. I got in the habit of using Facebook for photos and thus has it remained.

The actual lament. Oh, how times have changed for both services. These days, Facebook and Twitter seem to have evolved into vehicles for promotion. And I don’t have a problem with that. Heaven knows, I follow a bazillion beer breweries and local bars and liquor stores, and TV shows, and news outlets. Who doesn’t like to be informed? 

What’s gone is the personal feel. My friends no longer share the mundane things about their lives. I like it when you say what you ate for breakfast, or that you’d really like a cup of coffee now, or any of ten thousand other trivial things. I miss seeing photos of your mismatched striped socks. There can never be too many photos of your furry sweeties. Are you enjoying a nice meal? Great! Let’s see it and hear about whether the service was great or crappy. Foursquare posts are a pale imitation of the first-person thing, but at least they’re something.

It has probably been three years since I came home with somebody’s phone number from the Twitter cocktail party. That makes me sad. As we have become more focused on the public entities we follow, we have forgotten about the personal connections.

WE HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE PERSONAL CONNECTIONS.

Maybe we’re just too busy keeping up with all the third-party information that we let gush into our eyeballs to curate and maintain the personal connections. Maybe we’re too busy trying to project a clever, ironic public persona to actually be genuine anymore. My friend Tori said, “As it gets noisier, people get fewer responses to the things they post in their own voice, so there is a lot less return on the investment of putting yourself out there.” 

Would my life be radically different, or even different, if I didn’t let those third parties clog up my feed? Would yours? Not really. (Well, yes, actually it would be. I’d have more time.) Is my life enhanced, even slightly and therefore quite importantly, by you putting yourself out there? Absolutely. 

I’m afraid this is going to end rather abruptly, because all of sudden I’m very tired. But I’ll leave you with this request: start telling the world about your lunch again, friends!

Going to bed.

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Beer dinner hosts, take note. The Blackbird Café hit it out of the park. This was without a doubt the best beer dinner I’ve been to. I don’t think it really matters that it was Lagunitas (though, Sean, Tony, Karen, your wonderful beer obviously enhanced the experience). Blackbird was just amazing. I was a little hesitant to buy into the $65 cost and would be again because as you may know, I live paycheck to paycheck, but my faith had been established with a previous wonderful Lagunitas dinner and this time I was rewarded with something even better.

Brewery people who I know, this isn’t about your beer versus their beer. You know I love you all. This was about utterly fantastic vittles in a really interesting space that was comfortable to hang out in. I should have taken some pictures of Blackbird Café itself. But I immediately became focused on the food.

So here is the visual report. Chef Chris Stevens, so, so delicious. Everything.

 

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Meat & Greet / Pils

Yay, a pun worthy of the English to start the night. I didn’t take any of the olives or other vegetables that were available because, being a victim of my self-imposed Meatless March, I zeroed right in on the meat. THE MEAT. I enjoyed smoked salmon, beef tongue, and “pig-head balls.” Heh. The balls were the tastiest things of the night, even though in general, I try to avoid deep-fried things. 

Because of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, I have become much more enthusiastic about trying “weird” stuff. But my mother often served tongue when I lived at home. I was excited to have some.

 

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Warm Dandelion Greens / Maximus

I harvest dandelion greens from the yard for my rabbit when they’re in season, and every time I do that I think that I should just throw some into my own salad, too. But I never do, so I was excited to have them served to me by a fancy restaurant chef. They’re really bitter! But fortunately the bitterness was offset by a delightfully sweet poppyseed vinaigrette.

 

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Bonus Mini-Course: Watercress Soup with Creme Fresh

Served in a cute, tiny, espresso cup! It reminded me a lot of a spinach soup that I make. Other than the opening charcuterie, it might have been my favorite of the evening. Really good.

 

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Seared Ahi Tuna / IPA

One of the things that I’ve come to love in recent years is when non-beef meat is (un)cooked rare. I’ve always loved a bloody steak and raw hamburger (hey, I’ve lasted this long, don’t judge me). I’ve learned that other flesh varieties are also better when cooked less rather than more.

 

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More Bonus Mini-course: Celery Root Soufflé

I hate to say that both of the two unannounced mini-courses did their best to steal the show. So, so good. Who doesn’t love fluffy, puffy stuff?

 

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Duck Breast & Confit / Imperial Brown

With Brussels sprouts hash, parsnip puree, and crispy onions up top. I love Brussels sprouts, and one of my favorite side dishes is a “fake mashed potatoes” made from pureed cauliflower with butter and half-and-half. The whole course, again, sooo good.

 

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Bent River Camembert & Harissa Cashews

By this time, my tablemates were feeling a little full or didn’t like the cheese or didn’t like the nuts. I won. First, because I had been eating too much bread all the way along, I dipped my fork in the Camembert then stuck a cashew on the end. Delicious. Perfect. Then I braved a couple more slices of the bread.

 

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Burnt Caramel Pudding / Imperial Red

Gingerbread crumble + cardamom cream and shredded ginger on top, in a jelly jar that matches the beer’s Mason jar? GET OUT! I absolutely would not have needed to polish off this delicious dessert. I wasn’t allowed to take the jelly jar home, but I did take the Mason glass home. Now I have two!

 

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Sean, those were some good stories you told. And I understand why you go to the Blackbird every month — they’re amazing!

 

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Best day ever? Maybe?

August 13, 2011

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It would be hard for me to choose the best ever day of my life. Not because there have been so many, but because I’d probably end up not remembering the one that would qualify as best ever. I can pick out good days here and there, but by and large, none strikes me as the winner. But if I had to say, I’d go with the day last summer when I traveled to and arrived in my beloved London for the first time in six years. I met two friends for the first time and had a week of fun to look forward.

As I was pondering that day in general, I remembered that it was also my birthday. I don’t make a big fuss about birthdays. Maybe that’s because my birthday is smack in the middle of summer and I never had a party in my class at school, so it never got cemented it in my brain as a big deal. 

The celebrations at home were usually pretty low-key. I vaguely remember a couple of little parties. There was the one when Mike C came over and my mom made eierkuchen because that’s what I wanted (recipe, recipe). Then there was the one, um, er … I guess the eierkuchen one is the only one coming back to me at this moment. I’m sure there were other dandy get-togethers with my other friends in other years. Please don’t feel slighted because I don’t remember what happened in the 1970s.

The birthday for which I have the strongest memory for as an “adult” was my twenty-fifth. I was in college and had a part-time job at a service station. One of my part-time coworkers was in a “band.” After work, the lot of us would often go over to his house and drink beer (regular beer, not the fancy kind I like now). One such hanging-out was on my birthday and though I’m sure I didn’t make any prominent references to it, the word got out. I had gone to sit by myself on the front steps for a few minutes and one of the roommate/bandmates came out with his guitar and sang Happy Birthday to me. He didn’t really know me from Adam, but it was very sweet and to this day remains one of my favorite birthday memories. And apparently, also, one of my few concrete birthday memories.

Fast forward to last summer. 

It was intentional on my part that I booked my flight so that I’d arrived on my birthday, once I learned that the discount airfare departed on Thursdays. My birthday seemed like as good a Friday as any to arrive. I knew I’d be wiped out from traveling on the one hand, but that the adrenaline from excitement would keep me going on the other. Dan and Spiros picked me up at Liverpool Street Station and we wandered around on foot from there. I only had a carry-on and my backpack, so I was pretty portable.

I think we ended up in Hodge the cat’s courtyard because Dan’s office is nearby. I was tickled because on my previous trip, I had sought out the statue and now there we were, fairly randomly, at it again. I considered that to be a good omen for a successful upcoming week. We eventually went to Dan’s, where I was staying. I had a shower and we had a snack. Then the three of us went to the Honor Oak to watch the USA World Cup match. 

I fell into bed completely satisfied with the day.

Inside looking out

July 28, 2011

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I have spent a lot of time in my life feeling like I’m on the outside looking in. As a kid, I wasn’t popular—not unpopular, but not part of what I perceived to be the in-crowd, and now that I think back on who at the time I thought those people were, there probably wasn’t as much of a difference as I might have thought. In high school I didn’t really feel like I was part of any particular crowd, neither in nor out, just there, with my little circle of friends.

——–

24 hours later:

Just as I thought I was getting into the swing of things last night, I got a phone call from my dad. I think I’ve talked before about how small my immediate family is. My dad was calling with the unfortunate news that the older of my two first cousins and her fiancé had been in an awful car accident earlier in the day and that they were in intensive care with head injuries. My other cousin, her younger sister, was traveling to be with her via Minneapolis and was at the airport with a long layover, and I needed to go get her.

All of a sudden I was the sole representative of the in-crowd.

I wouldn’t call my relationship with my family close. That undersells it. It isn’t close, it isn’t far, it just is. We all like each other well enough but don’t bust our butts getting together. My aunt and uncle do the best job of making the effort to stay in touch. My parents have always seen more of my cousins than I have of my aunt and uncle.

The two parts to my relationship with my cousins is that the older of the two, the one who was in the accident, is seventeen years younger than I. Her sister is twenty years younger. And we were geographically separated by hundreds of miles. Last summer was the first time that I got together with either of my cousins without any of our parents around, when the older happened to be in town for a professional engagement. Last night was the first time I met up with the younger, one-on-one. Her layover was long enough for us to come back to my place so that she could close her eyes for a few hours. 

I’ve never had to do the family thing before but I know that she appreciated it, even though we don’t come close to needing a full two hands to count the number of times we’ve seen each other during the course of our lives.

For forty-eight years, it was always somebody else who had extraordinary personal circumstances. Now it’s me and my six people. It’s a weird sensation.

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As a random act of kindness goes, it’s not much, holding the elevator door for someone. Unless you’re me and it’s my work elevator and it’s in the morning when I’m dashing in.

If you’ve been following along on this blog, you’ll recall (perhaps) that I have attempted to establish myself as a socially maladjusted individual who has a hard time thinking of others. In the mornings, this goes only partway toward explaining the lengths I’ll go to to make it seem as though I had not a clue in the world that you were running to catch my elevator. This, despite the fact that every surface inside the elevator and its door frame is reflective and it’s actually rather difficult to position yourself to see nothing on the outside.

If it’s morning and I’m just arriving, there are one to two additional factors working against your chances of having me hold the door for you. The first is simply that I’m nearly always cutting it close to the time by when my boss wishes for us to arrive, a rather cushy 9:30am. I’m not a morning person. More often than not, I pack my breakfast because that’s fifteen minutes more of sleep. What can I say?

The second comes into play if it’s summer, as it now, hence the increased kindness factor of the act. In the summer, I ride my bike to work. That heats me up. Our elevators have zero air circulation. That exacerbates the effect of my suddenly having no wind in my face and being trapped in a small container with no moving air. I wish to exit after the minimum amount of time possible. My office is on the top floor. Every person who rides up with me creates an extra stop. The length of my imprisonment increases. I do not look kindly upon this. I will attempt to ignore your approach unless I happen in my peripheral vision to recognize you as also working on my floor.

Now, having said the preceding three paragraphs, if it is unavoidable that you are entering the carriage, I will say hello. A long time ago I had a friend who was very friendly to everyone he met on the street. His explanation was that if a fellow human being is three feet away, it’s just rude not to acknowledge his or her existence. Three feet is very often the long dimension of an elevator car.

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I was humbled a little while ago this evening when I realized that I did a true random Act Of Kindness, uncontrived. Love you, too. Things will be A-OK.

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I interrupt my intended topic for this evening (which was to have been a report on my recent side-by-side comparison of my four favorite India Pale Ales) for a different, though still beer-related, narrative—the in-depth explanation of today’s freaky (in a good way) events which came to light due to the purchasing by two involved parties of Odell Brewing’s new special edition Woodcut No. 5 Belgian-Style Quad Ale.

The story begins innocently enough. I realized that I could follow my favorite businesses on social media to get inside scoops. I followed one of my local booze huts, Zipp’s Liquors, on Twitter. At some point, I must have gotten an @ reply to a comment or question about whether they carried something. My beer friendship with Tyler was born, because he’s very responsive with the tweets.

My California friends (you know, Rob and his circle; Rob, who used to go to Saint Sabrina’s to get pierced with Lauren; Lauren who instigated my actual getting of my rabbit tattoo) turned me on to Instagram. This is the part I really don’t remember—who betweeen Tyler and me found the other on Instagram, but we did.

Instagram plays faster and looser with your associations, because you see what your contacts have liked, and then it’s real easy for you to get carried away and start liking some of the same photos, and the next thing you know you’re following people you’ve never heard of. That’s how I connected with Jason. I began to notice that Tyler frequently liked Jason’s photos and that they usually involved beer. As you know, I love beer. So I began liking Jason’s beer photos and the next thing you know, Jason and I were following each other. And Tyler followed Rob, so I guess we’re even!

Then I got bold and followed Jason on Twitter, keeping my remarks by and large beer-related (though he is a creative like me, and I wish I had the time to start the morning with sketching). Today it transpired that Jason asked Odell Brewing when the Woodcut No. 5 was coming to Minnesota. Odell Todd replied that it should be here, then Tyler said he got it in at Zipp’s today. I said I’d be over after work. Jason said he’d be by after work. I was hoping we’d end up there at the same time so that we could introduce ourselves. No such luck.

I got home with my Woodcut and snapped the requisite self-portrait for proudly posting online—artfully posed in front of my wall of woodcut art that I’ve made myself, but not gotten all framed—though I never got around to uploading it to Facebook because I got distracted by being outside for an hour and a half yardening. At exactly the same time that I tweeted my photo, Jason tweeted that he had arrived home to find that his awesome wife Lisa had a Woodcut waiting for him. I was overcome with excitement for both myself and him, so I tweeted kudos directly to Lisa, who at that point was not a Twitter contact with me in either direction.

That’s when the Beerlight Zone revved up.

Lisa immediately followed me which tickled me because Jason hasn’t yet, which I thought he might by now but which doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t, because I can be stingy about accepting new contacts myself and I totally get it. Nevetheless, it pleased me to reciprocate with Lisa. And then the darnedest thing happened.

When you follow someone new, Twitter helpfully suggests a couple other people who it thinks you might like. Well, damned if one of those people wasn’t Katherine, my former co-worker! I freaked out, in a good way. Katherine left us to move to San Francisco, but we still adore her, and she’s still doing some work for us long-distance.

I immediately got the feeling that I had met Jason and Lisa at a happy hour last summer, in particular, the one that happened after we had an office outing to a Twins game and stopped off afterwards, and Katherine, Karl, and two couples friends of theirs had joined in. But you know what? Anticlimax. In re-envisioning the events just now, I realize that it wasn’t Katherine’s friends but my other co-worker Colleen’s friends and it had nothing to do with a Twins game.

But the freakiness stands. Me -> Tyler -> Jason -> we love beer & Odell -> Lisa -> Katherine -> me.

My parents don’t quite comprehend why I love what they see as impersonally interacting with my online peeps as much as I do. Other people who have rich in-person circles (not all of them, but some of them) don’t quite understand how 92/8 online/IRL (that’s just an estimate) can be just fine by me. Tonight’s occurrence shows part of the reason why. Well, at least it does to me.

 

Incidentally, I did not pop the cork on my Woodcut No. 5 tonight because it was not chilled when I bought it and also because, after yardening in 85F/30C temperatures, the nice, light Southern Tier Hop Sun was just what the doctor ordered. I’ll probably have the Woodcut on a Saturday night when I can make a nice meal to go with it (though not tomorrow because I’m making a curry and I don’t think it would pair well with that, and not next Saturday because I’ll be at the Twins game). Jason said it’s good. It’s Odell, so I assume that much on faith!

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I interrupt my regularly scheduled post (which was to be an account of how I came to love salads so) to gloat. There’s no sugar-coating this—I WON!

I have never been part of any “in” crowd. Every now and then I’ve gotten to the cusp, but I can’t honestly say that I ever completely broke through. That’s not to say I haven’t had my groups of friends. Of course I have. But if you know me away from here (or even, possibly, if you’ve been reading along for any amount of time), you’ll know that I mostly don’t give a flying fuck what other people think, so that’s probably a good indication that I’m not going to shmooze my way into very many cliques.

One time during my senior year in high school, I tried, sort of. The school was large enough to have both cheerleaders and a dance team and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to try out for it. My two or three friends and I worked up our routine and performed it on the day. When we were finished, I took off with some other college friends who had come to watch. I got to school the next day only to be greeted with queries of why I had left early. It seems I had been unaware that there was a second part to the try-outs. I did not rise in social standing, not that I was particularly bothered about it. I went back to band and every thing was as it was before.

For the last four years I have felt vicariously popular. I’ve mentioned on other occasions that my friend Rob left me here in Minneapolis for the sunshine of Silicon Valley. He works at Yahoo! Inc. and has fancy friends who work at other high-faluting companies or invent things or start start-ups. They like me (I think) (I hope)(don’t answer). This makes me feel good, even thought they’re half a continent away.

The context tonight is close to home—bowling. I think one of the reasons why I enjoy my leagues is because the people in them like me. I wouldn’t say people liking me is important to me, but every now and then I ponder why I do enjoy it so much and that’s a large reason I come up with. I do alright with the execution of the sport, which helps, but I’m not an elite bowler (averages over 210 or 220). I’m just good enough (average in the 190s, usually) to hang with the crowd I hang with.

A few weeks ago the league secretary asked if I’d be interested in filling the vacant vice presidency for next year. That’s not as important as it sounds. The secretary does all the heavy lifting and if he happens to be absent the president fills in. The vice president is actually only third in line. Also, because it is a mixed league at least one officer must be a woman, and since I am one of only a handful of women in the league, I am an instant forerunner by default.

My gut response was to laugh in his face because I shirk responsibility, however slight, whenever possible (even though I’m good at being in charge). But after a while I realized that I was flattered that he had asked me, so I said sure, I’d do it. Tonight at the banquet, when it came time to (re-)elect officers, my and two other names were put forward. Two others? So much for feeling hand-picked. But I immediately understood that it was a good thing after all—because it would be a popularity contest! And I felt a high degree of confidence that I would prevail.

The nomination was opened and from all around the room I heard “Kelly,” “Kelly,” “Kelly.” I didn’t hear one “Julie” or one “Ann.” I felt smug. And popular. And good.

So I can’t actually lay claim to any special amount of social apathy, loath as I am to admit it, and I probably sound rather shallow at the moment. The affirmation of my peers is important to me after all. 

I just won’t go around admitting it in public.

I believe in IPA

May 3, 2011

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Of all the beer out there, India Pale Ale is my favorite variety. That said, I could really just stop writing now. At the very least, you could stop reading now, because this will be one of those miscellaneous, rambling entries.

Several months ago, I came across the iPhone app Untappd. I was (relatively) thrilled to find a check-in service that is actually relevant to me. I’m not a complete loser—I have accounts on Gowalla and FourSquare. Is that how FourSquare spells it? Capital F, Capital S, no space? I don’t even know. That’s how much it means to me. But I don’t really have friends in town who I do things with often enough to embrace what those apps are all about. And of those few friends, even fewer use Gowalla or FourSquare. So they basically mean nothing to me. But I’ll still check in on Gowalla, because you find and trade virtual items, and to keep myself interested (because, even though I don’t have a lot of friends, I’m still hip to the intertubes and want to be able to say that I do these things) I’ve made it my goal to find ones that are numbered under 10,000.

But I digress.

I like Untapped because I like beer, and it’s a beer check-in app. Just like any other check-in app, you have your circle of friends and you can earn badges for particular accomplishments, though on Untappd some of them are not ones you’d necessarily want to aspire to perhaps, such as the “Drinking Your Paycheck” badge. Though it has social elements, it’s main focus is not and that works for me.

So back to IPAs. I didn’t used to love them so much, or at all, but in the last four or five years (I might even be able to pinpoint it to when I drank Lagunitas IPA in the Red Jack Saloon in San Francisco Thanksgiving weekend 2007) I’ve jumped on the hopwagon with gusto. For example, my ex-beer guru (sorry, Chris, I think you’ve been superseded by Tyler, who has the advantage of being the beer-loving manager of my neighborhood liquor store) has loved Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale since I’ve known him. I remember tasting it, say, ten years ago and giving it a firm “ewwwwwww.” Now? It’s my very favorite beer.

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What happened? Based on anecdotal evidence, I can pinpoint that, too. I turned forty. And then some. And how did I learn this anecdotal evidence? From Larry Bell, brewer of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, the extra hoppy IPA that we Minnesotans are his best market for. In conversation the evening I had the opportunity to meet him, he let loose the information that (apparently) hops—the driving force behind IPAs—contain some amount of estrogen. Ergo the transitive property, I, a woman over forty, love IPA because it is a form of estrogen replacement therapy. I know I’m overblowing this, but work with me.

So back to Untappd. They struck a deal with Hoptopia, the ultimate lover of IPAs, to have a monthly IPA badge if you drink three of the beers on the latest list during the current month.

The first month, January, it was easy for me to earn the level 1 badge. I drank the aforementioned Bell’s Two Hearted, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, and New Belgium Ranger IPA, all known favorites and readily available in this market. Then,  it kind of didn’t make it back into my radar until yesterday, when the new list was published. My, how far we’ve come since that first month, when there were only five IPAs on the list. This month there are, oh I don’t know, a billion.

I could have taken the easy way out and repurchased ones I know I like because I‘ve already had them—Boulevard Single Wide, Great Lakes Commodore Perry, Lagunitas, Odell, Southern Tier, Surly Furious.

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But when visiting Tyler’s store after work tonight, I chose to embrace the spirit of the badge and purchased the four pictured above that are unknown to me. I don’t know if the Avery Maharaja counts as the Avery IPA, but the other three will count. With beer, as with food, I endeavor to expand my horizons.

Tonight I consumed the Rogue Brutal (I could take it or leave it) and the Alaskan IPA (very tasty indeed). And that’s as good a conclusion as I have.