Heroes and Heartbreaks

leoI have spent the past month pretending to dribble a soccer ball while walking to and from work to the subway. I’ve watched so many videos of Lionel Messi highlights, that I think I might know how to speak Spanish. I read article after article and listened to hours upon hours of sports analysis in the dumb hope that somehow that would give me some oracle-like foresight to figure or influence the outcome of the World Cup. The storybook ending I wanted didn’t happen, my team lost, my hero didn’t get his prize. I am horribly depressed over it. This would have seemed like an impossible reaction a month ago. The look on Messi’s face, when his free kick went wide and he recognized that it was over, it made my heart sink.

That’s the wonderful and ridiculous thing about sport, isn’t it? The British have this expression when they are bitterly disappointed, they talk about being “gutted” which is really the perfect illustration of the feeling of loss you get when your team, your team loses. It’s as if your fiercest enemy in the world has taken a jagged knife, sliced you from navel to nose, all your insides have fallen out in a steaming, beating, bloody mess all across your feet before the rest of your hollowed out body crumples into a limp heap atop it. It’s probably going to take at least a week for me to pull myself back up, piece it all back together and recover.

I’ve played sports for as long as I can remember. My parents kept us involved to keep us out of trouble since we lived in a questionable neighborhood. I know how thrilling competition like that can be, that a team can become your family, how hitting that clutch shot/goal/homerun can make you feel like anything is possible. I also know the flip side of that, how crushing it can be when you choke or there is a missed opportunity to score or your team just couldn’t get it together for some reason, you lose and you feel like this is a pronouncement on your place in the universe. I never thought I could feel those things just by being a spectator. Sport is so overwrought with emotion and drama. The business of sport knows this and takes a lot of our money exploiting it. I definitely get caught up in those Adidas and Gatorade commercials that turn athletes into predatory animals, games into battles, trophies into moments of destiny. At the very heart of it I think following a team/player allows us to recapture a little bit of the youthful hope that we might have lost along the way. Watching athletes do things that not only make the impossible seem possible but make it look easy, makes me want to break out in ebullient shouts or go out and recreate historic feats of athleticism. You forget your cares just for a while and bask in the glow of a thing doing what it was meant to be doing in a perfect moment in time. Consider this once social sports fan a converted soccer fan, you’ll see me in my Barca jersey (obviously Messi’s #10) in front of the tv this La Liga season.

P.S. One of the additional, wonderful discoveries this past month are the Men In Blazers who are two British guys who care passionately about soccer, especially about soccer becoming popular in the U.S. specifically, and offer hilarious commentary on games. They were an absolute delight.

P.S.S. Don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into a soccer blog.

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The Beautiful Game

 

Messi

I am a soccer fan now. I played for a little while on an indoor soccer team so understand a little bit about the joy of running around and the exhilaration of the ball hitting the back of the net, but I’ve always played sports that primarily depended on my hands (e.g. volleyball, softball, basketball) and virtually zero exposure to soccer on the professional level so the love of the game didn’t resonate with me until this World Cup.

By pure dumb luck I got Argentina in a World Cup sweepstakes draw with my old co-workers. I’ve tried to do fantasy football and soccer and just got bored and stopped paying attention. I don’t really like watching sports. I don’t feel that affinity with a team because it’s my hometown, or get excited about crunching the numbers. The only times I’ve gotten excited about watching sport is when there is a compelling narrative centered around a person or group of persons, something that adds drama to the proceedings. I’m that person. The person that is in it for the personalities and the relationships, the person that will cheer for the underdog just because it will make a more interesting ending if they win. Anyway, I figured at least with the sweepstakes all I had to really worry about was following the team and not individual players and their numbers, it didn’t take much effort on my part to figure out if my team made it through to the next round.

Enter Lionel Messi, namely the profile piece in the New York Times Magazine, The Burden of Being Messi. It had all of the ingredients to get me to not only to follow a team but to care about it. Messi has a compelling and sweet backstory – kid with unbridled talent who had a hormone deficiency that left him smaller than the rest of the boys, but didn’t stop him from owning the competition whenever he stepped on the pitch. He was so small (and is still pretty small) that they nicknames his “La Pulga” (the flea). The hormone deficiency required treatments, treatments that his family couldn’t afford and none of the Argentinian teams wanted to pay for. He gets scouted by the Barcelona team, who after seeing him at one try out decide to take him not only footing the bill but bringing his whole family over to Barcelona to train at their academy. His contract was drafted on a napkin and signed when he was only 13. He is 27 now and has played professionally since he was 17, he’s considered the best futbol player to have ever lived. He’s broken record after record, but he hasn’t gotten the World Cup.

Not only is this cup big for him in that it’s one of the only real prizes in soccer he hasn’t gotten, but he’s doing it playing for a country that doesn’t seem to like him very much. From the many many articles I’ve read, Argentina seems to resent Messi for leaving so young and not coming up through their system. They see him as a traitor, winning championships for Barcelona while playing poorly and getting knocked out early in his past two World Cup performances. Personality-wise he’s also the complete opposite of Argentina’s soccer hero Maradona whose name always comes up when talking about Messi and his legacy. He shies away from the spotlight seems kind of embarrassed by it actually and is a family man, openly doting on his son even tattooing his name on his left leg and putting his name on all his shoes. The Argentina National Team has made it to the semis, they’ll face the Netherlands on Wednesday, the way things have been going they might as well call it Messi vs the Netherlands. He’s scored 4 out of their 7 goals himself and had a direct hand in 6 out of the 7. He’s carrying that team on his shoulders. I have basically been eating all of this up. I didn’t even mention how amazing it is to watch him by this time I’ve watched a lot of youtube videos with his highlights and it’s just incredible to see him weave in and out of multiple defenders who are throwing bodies in his path and pulling on his shirt, he makes goals at impossible angles, he’s also a play maker and one of the most effective passers in the game. The FiveThirtyEight blog even wrote this awesome article crunching the numbers on his efficiency as a player – Lionel Messi is Impossible .  He’s pretty much everything I want in a player to root for.

Getting lost in the black hole of Messi articles and videos, I’ve actually had a lot of fun reading the analysis and seeing the numbers get broken down. It’s made me really care about what is happening in the World Cup overall, I haven’t missed a game. The thing about the World Cup, Messi and the story aside, is the really interesting microcosm these games are of the world. I’ve learned a lot about the history of Argentina just by reading about Messi and the complicated relationship his country has with him. The really long history of the rivalries between teams and countries. There’s this extra weight about a loss in soccer that seems heavier than even the Olympics. Anyway this is just what’s on my mind right now and friends around me is probably tired of me trying to engage them in conversation about it. There are only 3 games left of the World Cup (Germany vs Brazil – Tuesday, Argentina vs Netherlands – Wednesday, Final on Sunday) but I have a feeling I won’t stop watching futbol once the cup ends. For now I leave you with one of my favorite Messi goals.

 

What doesn’t make a good profile picture…

:::WARNING::: I’ve been watching a lot of Louis C.K. lately so this is going to be FULL of profanity!

Things that I’m finding confusing and sometimes infuriating about online dating profiles, the first main profile picture in particular:

The one with more than one person in it: Did you not know how to crop a picture? Are you trying to make yourself look better compared to an ugly friend? Maybe trying an opposite tactic and trying to ensare someone by hanging on the coat tails of a better looking friend? Maybe this is a 2 for 1 sort of deal?

The one with you and another girl: Why the fuck would you even think this was a good idea? Do you not have any other picture? Any at all? Are you trying to show that you’re sensitive because you have women friends? Are you testing the waters for a possible menage trios situation?

The one with your shirt off or in bed (double whammy for in your bed with your shirt off): It’s called subtlety, maybe you should look it up. Does this really work? Do girls really look at that shit and think “Hot damn, I would like those kind of  semi-hard muscles to press themselves upon my body”. Look, I get it, you go to the gym a lot, you’re drinking those protein shakes but unless you’re looking like this specimen:

I don’t really want to see it. I mean, Steve Rogers looks like this and he’s not running around with his shirt off unless he has just come out of a fucking chamber after being injected by Howard Stark’s experimental serum. I bet he wouldn’t do that shit unless his shirt was literally disintegrating off his body from an explosion. (Sorry I’m getting stuck in a Captain America thought spiral because I keep looking at that gif). I like to have something left to the imagination.

The blurry picture or worse NO PICTURE: I mean, if you have a computer to sign up on a dating website it’s pretty fucking likely that you have a phone. Of all the people that have mobile phones, I am betting maybe one person. ONE, doesn’t have a camera on it. Of all the people in that subset, that ONE fucking person probably has a friend/relative that has a camera/camera phone. You don’t really have an excuse. You could literally ask a fucking stranger to take a photo of you and email it to you.

All that being said, the online dating is going ok. No true love yet, or even true like for that matter but I’m figuring out how to weed out the fuckwits more quickly.

Ok, cupid.

I signed up on okcupid today. I’ve had multiple lengthy conversations with people on the merits of online dating. I haven’t been meeting that many new people lately so I figure now was as good a time as any to give it a shot. I should say that it’s not like I had some sort of upturned nosed attitude at online dating, I just never felt like I could commit the time in the past or the effort. Meeting new people is an exhausting venture for me and the idea of sifting through hundreds of profiles was not appealing. Also how embarrassing is it to have to market yourself as date able? Buoyed by the positive stories from friends, I decided to forgo my previous hesitations and just give it a shot. I know okcupid in New York is notorious for being a hook up dating site, but I figure I’d try a free thing before I fork over cash on another site. I thought it would be fun to share my little foray into the online dating scene.

Let’s talk about the profile first. I’m a really critical editor/scared-y cat writer, so the task of marketing myself felt cheesy and made me cringe through the entire process. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly comfortable in my own skin. I am kind of a dork about things and try to tamp that down by “playing it cool” which basically amounts to not talking very much until I feel safe with you. Obviously online dating is not set up in this manner. A good profile should be exciting, witty, a bit sexy. For me trying to embody those things in a profile about myself feels like trying to write  advertising copy for beer. I gave myself a couple of hours to finish and once time was up, I posted what I had (internal editor be damned).
Well I’m out there now. I’ve been getting some interesting inquiries. More on that next time…

Growing Pains

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Whenever I realize it’s January 16th I involuntarily wince. This date has always been weighted with past hurts and can be counted on to be a generally crappy day. Today was the first January 16th in about a decade that there was none of that. I guess this will probably be a reflection post on the past year and a rather late new year hopes/resolutions thing. Ready…

Also, hello! If anybody is even reading. I think since the last time I posted Google reader shut down and most people tend to just use Instagram, Facebook and/or tweet, or are grown ups with kids and no more time for blogging.

Anyway so January 16th, I won’t get into the long and mired association in my mind with this date and just say it reminds me of the person that raped me in college. It’s taken me years to even come to a place where I could say that out loud, let alone face the fallout of it. Looking back I see the ways that I retreated from people, the panic and fear in which I walked through the world. Especially with men, I still find it difficult sometimes to remain in long embraces. The threat of being physically forced to be in a situation, even fairly innocuous ones, sounds my internal alarms and causes intense panic. I’m sure my friends and family wonder why I haven’t had a boyfriend in a loooong time. It was easy to explain that away in my 20s, now that I’m in my 30s that question has gotten more pressing. The answer is that I was scared. Every man had this sort of flashing danger sign attached to him. That if I let someone in, I would give them the ammunition to wound me and I would never recover. I barely got out alive the last time.

I’ve spent a lot of years wrestling with this fear, to exorcise it, to somehow develop some sort of armor that would protect me from it. My instinct was just to run, to push any sort of meaningful romantic relationships away, to build impenetrable walls, and nest in my fortress of solitude. This would never do though. I am a person who craves deep and meaningful relationships. I don’t take friendship lightly. I have a lot of friends (not trying to be braggy) because I spend a lot of time asking probing and sometimes awkward/hard questions. I relish in this and get a lot of fulfillment and support from my network of good friends, I love these people. But I realized that I was really stunted in the romantic relationship department and I knew why, so I decided I would examine that broken part of myself and try to piece it together so it could be operational again. I’ve been seeing a therapist for a couple of years now. I’ve cried a lot, gotten angry, even found humor in unexpected places. The biggest breakthrough though is that I stopped blaming myself.

I allowed myself to get vulnerable with someone last year and was ultimately disappointed. This was a really scary place for me to be in the days following that initial blow. Once I emerged from the haze of that panic though, I realized that I was in tact and the shattering that I thought would happen never did. This was a surprise and caused me to pause and ponder why I was still ok. I realized that I’m probably a lot stronger than I thought I was. That those fears I had in my early 20s of losing myself in disappointment that had seemed so monstrous back then; I  had unwittingly vanquished those monsters by finding myself over the years. Now in my 30s, I have a pretty good sense of who I am, what I stand for, and what I won’t stand for. Don’t get me wrong I still have a lot of insecurities, but I think I’ve come to a point where  I’m not going to let someone’s opinion of me, define me. This is probably something I should have learned long ago if I wasn’t building that fortress, but even though it’s taken me a while I’m here and I’m pretty freaking happy about it.

So 2014 resolutions etc…I decided this year that I instead of listing out stuff like eat better, write more etc. I would think of a discovery theme for the narrative of this year. This year is the year I try to find my voice. I mean this mostly metaphorically but in some literal ways as well. I signed up for an 8 week French class to have an excuse to say things that are kind of uncomfortable out loud (I have trouble with the rrrrs). You’re going to read some of my stories this year. I’m going to work on not being such a social loafer. I’m going to try and not be afraid of showing my true self anymore. I’m really excited for what’s in store this year. Bring it 2014!

California knows how to party

It is almost 2am and I’m still awake thanks to the jet lag. It was really hard to leave California this time. The last couple of weeks have been so much fun. Got to see so many of my friends and family both in northern and southern California. Got to see my good friend Mike get married to Val(pac). Thanks everyone for making my visits to California so nice that I don’t want to leave.

Vball Crew

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Adventures in CSA

It has become appalling clear to me in recent weeks that I don’t eat enough vegetables. Some time in May I got talked into buying a portion of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share for summer along with a couple of neighbors and my then roommate. I thought it would be a good idea for three reasons:

1. I (a normally meat and potatoes type girl) would be forced to eat more vegetables.

2. I would feel good about supporting small farms and do my little bit to support more sustainable  and organic forms of agriculture.

3. I would save money.

My shameful confessions start now. The first week I picked up the CSA share from our neighborhood butcher, I was so overwhelmed by the weight and quantity of it all that after I dropped off the vegetables at home and dutifully split the vegetables up for the neighbors I walked down to the corner and got a 2 piece meal at Popeyes with french fries and a large soda. I couldn’t identify half of the vegetables in my refrigerator and quickly realized my vegetable prep knowledge was limited to raw, steamed, roasted, or grilled.

My second confession is that I volunteer to pick up the vegetables on Mondays so that I can pawn off more of the share to my neighbors. I deny this vehemently when accused. I can’t eat a quarter share of vegetables people! I’m inexperienced as a vegetable preparer and eater. Vegetables as I have known them up until recently have served as a side dish, nay a garnish to a big steak or  rack of ribs.

Third (and final)confession is that I have thrown out SO many of the vegetables. My hope in signing up for this was that I’d cook at home a lot more rather than eating out. The thing I didn’t account for was where I was going to get the time to do all of this cooking. I tend to do most of my going out during the week so many days I don’t even get home until around 10:30 and by then I’ve already eaten and the last thing I’m thinking about is cooking vegetables.

I was starting to get rather hopeless and was ready to just put this in the things I failed at category but last week I ATE ALL MY VEGETABLES!!! The even crazier thing was that I actually enjoyed it. Somehow after all these weeks of stress and plotting and planning my menu for the week I have figured out how to incorporate vegetables in my life! There is hope for everyone. So I thought in the remaining month or so of my CSA I’d document the things I’ve been cooking and the new veggies I’ve discovered. I tried this Velvet Lemon Ginger Chicken w/ Snap Peas recipe last night (thanks Pinterest), and it was a real winner.

Lastly I just want to mention Lancaster Fresh Farm Cooperative who supplies my vegetables, fruit, and eggs every week (they do cheese, flower and hog shares too) and Harlem Shambles who provide me with the steak that accompanies my vegetables and kindly offers their shop as a pick up point for my CSA share.

F. Scott

I was listening to this podcast back in April and one of the commentators mentioned the reading project she was embarking on which was to finally read the books that she’s only faked reading. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and decided I would make that my summer reading project. First book on the list was the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It somehow was not part of my required reading in high school so it left a gaping hole in my literary knowledge. I finished it this past Saturday and loved it. I enjoyed it so much that I picked up a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters. I’m fascinated by his marriage to Zelda and was eager to read some of his letters to her. I was delighted to find that the first letter was to his younger sister, with some wise brotherly advice like:

– (on general conversation) Always pay close attention to the man. Look at him in his eyes if possible. Never effect boredom. It’s terribly hard to do it gracefully. Learn to be worldly. Remember in all society nine girls out of ten marry for money and nine men out of ten are fools.

– (on expression) A good smile and one that could be assumed at will, is an absolute necessity. You smile on one side which is absolutely wrong. Get before a mirror and practise a smile and get a good one, a radiant smile ought to be in the facial vocabulary of every girl. Practise it – on girls, on the family. Practise doing it when you don’t feel happy and when you’re bored. When you’re embarrassed, when you’re at a disadvantage. That’s when you’ll have to use it in society and when you’ve practised a thing in calm, then only are you sure of it as a good weapon in tight places.

– (on dress) I’ll line up your good points against your bad physically: Good – Hair, good general size, good features; Bad – Teeth only fair, pale complexion, only fair figure, large hands and feet.

– General summing up: (1) dress scrupulously neatly and then forget your personal appearance. Every stocking should be pulled up to the last wrinkle (2) Don’t wear things like that fussy hat that aren’t becoming to you – At least buy no more. Take someone who knows with you- someone who really knows. (3) Conform to your type no matter what looks well in the store (4) Cultivate deliberate physical grace. You’ll never have it if you don’t. I’ll discuss dancing in a latter letter.

Wasn’t that great? Great authors are keen observers. I found it endearing that he would take the time to pen an instructional note to his little sis, even if it was totally cringe-worthy. If you’re interested the book of letters is:

Next on the reading list is either Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust or Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Pinterest

Have you heard of Pinterest? It was named the best new startup by Tech Crunch and also named the best way to waste time on the internet by me. My brain already organizes itself into neat little boxes so the jump to the “board” concept was an easy one. I gather ideas on decorating my home and myself, recipes, reading lists, articles to read later, inspirational quotes and pretty pictures. I also use it to chronicle the books I’ve read and events I’ve attended. I even use it for geekier means, things like cataloging my lit crushes and sharing pictures of cute animals with my roommate. Recently I’ve set up boards to help my sister with ideas for her wedding. I don’t really think of it as a social network but it’s been funny the things I’ve discovered about people I know (e.g. undercover Doctor Who fans). Pinterest is pretty much the greatest. I’m not really sure why I’m posting other than I’ve spent copious amounts of time on this thing and just want to share it with everyone. Check out my boards and maybe sign up then we can share ideas.