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skin deep

We all have someone in our lives who exists solely to make us feel like we know nothing. For me, this person is my cousin Lisa (heretofore referred to as “Cuz”), a native New Yorker who I love like a little sister. She moved in with us last week to establish residency for grad school, and I’m excited, partly because I know she will provide lots of material for this blog in the coming months.

The first thing to know about Cuz is that she has made skincare her life’s work. She is obsessed. When she first met Tate, he was a 9-month old baby and completely non-verbal. Instead of cooing over him like a normal person, Lisa repeatedly stroked his cheek and asked him, with a straight face, what he did to keep his skin so soft.

When we first see each other after a long time apart, she will always make a comment about my skin. She caught me this time at the end of a week-long trip to Central Oregon, from which I returned with skin so dry and bumpy that if my forehead said “Wilson” on it, you would think my head was a leather basketball. I knew the situation was serious, but she really drove it home for me when she said this: “You know, Clarisonic was invented for the exact skin problem you have. You should try it.” SKIN PROBLEM. I felt like she’d just diagnosed me with leprosy.

Anyway, I was already feeling stressed about my skin when I walked into her room and saw this.

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I mean, my God. She’s 26. For comparison, here’s what my 35-year old skincare regimen looks like.

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Seeing the evidence of her superior commitment to her skin was bad enough, but then she started talking and it got so much worse. I asked her about her CeraVe night lotion because the drugstore brand stood out from the $2000 worth of high-end skin care products surrounding it. “Oh,” Cuz said, “That’s the only thing that fills in my lines. Like these lines right here (casually touching a finger to my laugh lines as I froze in horror)—CeraVe will fill that in right away.” It was such brilliant timing, because I’d recently noticed that those lines—two hostile parentheses hugging my mouth—were getting more noticeable.

And Cuz was just getting started. When I asked her why she had so many serums, she said, “My morning serum has to have antioxidants. My night serum is more for intense moisturization.”  Having personally discovered serum only a few years ago, the concept of having more than one serum in one’s skincare arsenal was still blowing my mind when she asked me what I used for moisturizer. “A daytime FLUID?!? Fluids are for people with oily skin. You don’t have oily skin.” And then, toners: “I don’t use American toners. They all have alcohol and they strip the skin. That’s why I like Korean essences, they soak into the skin and really prep it for the stuff that follows.” As she talked, I saw the dozens of bottles of American toners from my past flash before my eyes.

By the end of it, I just felt sorry for myself.  What had I been doing with my time?  I felt my upper lip bead with sweat as I began to question everything I was doing and had done to my skin. Expecting sympathy, I told her how stressed I was. Instead of coddling me, she broke it down, cold. “You SHOULD be stressed. You have good skin and you’re not taking care of it.” Hearing that, and looking at her perfectly unlined and dewy face, made me die a little inside.

My friend Pat is a skincare guru who, despite being twice my age, has skin of such surpassing loveliness that you suspect she made a pact with the devil to get it. Her face manages to stay perfectly intact during a vigorous hour of Zumba, while my face melts and slides all over the place like a gruyere sandwich. Between Pat and Cuz, I’m motivated to kick this skincare thing into high gear.

I’ll report back any findings.

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the cruelest month

It’s late August, and my will to live is pretty tapped.

Why so down, you ask? Because I’ve been having fun with my boys while they are out of school. Doin’ boy stuff. I love boy stuff. But multiple consecutive days of boy stuff will leave you drained of all energy, turning you into a pale carcass devoid of blood and discernable life force. At this point, Tom and I are like two undead zombies, shuffling aimlessly through the rooms of our house and occasionally walking headfirst into a wall. Yesterday, I stepped on a Lego (a windshield piece, which will cut you like a mofo) and I didn’t even feel it.

So how’d we get here? Hubris. I thought I could do all that kid stuff, collect some blog fodder on the way, and return to work tan and refreshed. But everything we planned ended up being so much harder than expected. Like fishing. What could be easier than lake fishing on a warm summer’s day? Well, if a toddler is involved, I can think of a few things that are easier, like deboning a raw chicken with a butter knife, or catching a fly with chopsticks. Tom and Finn had big plans for the trip, with their fishing rods and their worms. Tate and I were unwanted from the get go, even before we got to the lake and Tate started making more noise than a charging rhino.

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Who knew that silence was so integral to fishing? Everything Tate did, made noise. He wanted to touch everything in the tackle box and rattle the tackle around. He wanted to splash in the water where Finn had cast his line. He wanted to throw rocks. I finally resorted to distracting him with food and set him on the bank with a bag of Cheetos. You know where this is going. I have never heard anyone eat anything so loudly in my entire life. Who knew those little teeth could crunch so hard? We all flinched with Tate’s every bite, while the fish all fled to the opposite side of the lake. Poor Tom and Finn. No fish were had that day.

Even low key stuff can turn stressful with two boys. Tired of worrying about accidentally drowning Tate in a regular pool, we made our way to a kiddie pool. One foot deep, lots of sun, lounge chairs for Tom and me. Finally, relaxation! For seven minutes that is, until I heard a baby screaming, and looked up to find Finn playing shark and stalking toddlers. The moms of Finn’s victims returned my sheepish smiles with expressions so frosty I’m surprised I didn’t turn to stone. And who can blame them? It was August for them too.

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There’s a week of summer left until my kids go back to school. Finn’s in zoo camp and Tate is home with my cousin Lisa, who moved in with us last week. Here’s our text exchange from earlier today.

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I should feel bad for her, but all I can say is, better her than me.

my kingdom for a good photo

I’m not going to lie.  There are few things that I love more than a good photo of me.  A good photo is a thing to be treasured.  A good photo can get you through tough times.  Like after weight gain or a bad dye job.  You can hold a good photo, feel its weight, cling to it as you would a dinghy in a rough squall.  A bad photo, particularly one on a driver’s license, can ruin your life afresh every time you look at it.  I took my driver’s license photo two months ago with a very cruel DMV employee who insisted that I push my bangs completely off my face.  For the record, my forehead hasn’t seen the light of day since approximately 1988.  I look extra weird in the photo because I am fighting back tears.  Luckily, I only have to look at it every day for the next two years.

I don’t care if saying all this makes me sound shallow.  Even the deepest rivers have shallow banks.

I’d take more photos of myself, but it’s always tricky to get the proper distance in the frame when you’re holding a camera and pointing it at yourself, seeing as how you are limited by the length of your arm.  It’s also difficult to achieve the proper expression when you’re taking your own picture.  I look best in photos when I’m caught unawares, and it’s mighty difficult to produce the emotion of surprise when you’re engaging in self-photography.

So, if not me, surely my husband would be happy to do the honors, right?  Wrong.  I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that after family and money, the next most contentious topic in our marriage is Tom’s complete lack of interest in taking photographs of me.  I know he likes me.  I know he finds me physically appealing.  And yet.  Lest you think my desire to be photographed is wholly a vanity thing, it’s not.  I have kids, and I would like them to be able to look back when they are older and see that their mom spent time with them, took them places, was a physical presence in their lives.

The issue has lodged firmly in the craw given that I make it a priority to document Tom’s involvement in his sons’ lives.  Tom is an awesome dad.  No question.  But if you saw the photos on my iPhone, you’d swear that he was the best dad in the history of dads.  I take photos of him doing everything with my kids, from making pancakes to nightly baths, to bike rides and soccer practices.  I document everything.  To someone (like me) who has a very poor memory and keenly feels the lack thereof, photographs feel imperative, as if the moment didn’t happen at all unless there is a photograph to prove that it did.

So why not just ask Tom to take photos, right?  Because.  My pride and inner sense of justice balk at the idea that I should have to ask my husband to take a photo of me.  He should WANT to take photos of me, all the time!  More critically, in my experience, asking someone to take a photo of you almost always results in a bad picture.  The person asking (me) is resentful.  The person taking the photo (Tom) is annoyed/defensive/panicked, and isn’t going to take the time to line up the perfect shot.  So you end up with pictures like this.

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I mean, what the F am I supposed to do with photos like these?  Looking back on these later in life, my kids might think their mom had greasy hair and fat upper arms (first photo), or that she had greasy hair and was too tired to love them (second photo), and I can’t have that.  I can’t post these on Facebook.  In other words, these photos are completely worthless.  And these are the kind of photos I get almost every time I ask Tom to take a photo of me.

I never stop trying though.  Sometimes when we’re doing something particularly photogenic with the kids, I will make Tom stop to pose for a bunch of photos, assuming that he will at some point stop and say, “Hey, let me get a photo of you!”  Yesterday, we went on a long bike ride with our kids on the banks of the Deschutes.  Every turn opened onto a scenic vista of water, sky, and grass.  I couldn’t confirm it because I hadn’t packed a mirror in the Burley, but I sensed that my hair was looking good, given the speed of the winds.  I knew I was tan, which always works well in photos.  My kids were looking as cute as it is possible for children to look.  It was practically criminal that photos of us were not being taken.  And YET.

I made it about 45 minutes before I pulled alongside Tom and demanded to know why he hadn’t offered to take a single photo of me with the kids on the ride.  Tom responded by immediately turning his bike around and leading me on a redo of the entire loop so that he could take photos of us, but by that time, I knew it wouldn’t be the same.  I’d look angry or bitter in the photos, despite my best attempts to shine for the camera.  And worse still, I would feel embarrassed, and pitiable, that I needed a photo so badly that my husband would need to repeat a 45 minute bike ride to get it.

But then, a great thing happened.  Finn asked to take a photo of us.  Seeing my five year old balance the phone in his hands and cock his head to line up the shot made us smile.  And the photo was good.  I looked at Finn with newfound respect, and with hope for my future in pictures.

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downers: birds

Some fears you are born with. Others take time to develop. Like my brother’s fear of heights, discovered inconveniently at the age of 20, right before we boarded a mountain cable car near Banff. Or my fear of flying, which has developed over the last ten years into a real impediment to the jet-setting lifestyle that I’d envisioned for myself as a child.

My fear of birds started slowly. When other kids would chase after birds at parks with day-old bread, I’d feel compelled to run in the opposite direction. Birds have beady, unblinking eyes, greasy feathers, and webby/bony feet that end in claws both sharp and unsanitary. They move unpredictably, with little forewarning. You’ll think a bird is walking safely away from you when it will suddenly veer off course and charge at you with aggressive neck bobs. I didn’t verify the info on Wikipedia or anything but I think birds are responsible for SARS, avian flu, and chicken pox. Anyway, I don’t like birds. Except for owls, which have a nice look about them. I thought I learned at some point that owls are not actually birds, and perhaps, that they give live birth (??), but when I asked Tom about that he started getting one of those pained and depressed looks he gets when I ask a question not to his liking. Like, are marsupials mammals; does Wisconsin border Kentucky—the kind of question that usually garners this response: “Yoona. You went to COLLEGE.”

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i’d free you, bird, but you might peck my eyes out

Anyway, I go out of my way to avoid birds. So imagine my horror when I recently stayed in a hotel that not only features live birds as part of the décor, but encourages said birds to mingle in spaces that IMHO should be reserved exclusively for humans. The first day, I got lost on my way to the pool and wandered into a bird habitat filled with lazy and unclean swans. The birdshit-strewn path in the habitat wends its way around and ends in a footbridge that crosses a koi pond. Koi rank somewhere between grubs and birds in my regard. They are overgrown, disgusting, and likely riddled with worms, and I know that if I ever have the misfortune to accidentally fall into a koi pond, I will expire immediately from sheer terror.

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the only thing i love more than birds is quasi-asian statuary

Between the swans and the koi and the mandals on all the tourists stopped on the path, I found myself in the middle of my own personal nightmare. The only way it could have been scarier is if Gwyneth Paltrow was there. As I sprinted down the path, I got so panicked that I tripped on the footbridge and fell headfirst into the poolside lounge on the other side. Some well-oiled teens in bikinis pointed and snickered. But I didn’t even care about my ignominious spill. Because I was free. Safely delivered from the birds.

how to win a buffet

I love buffets. L-O-V-E them. I remember growing up in Beaverton and going to the breakfast buffet with my family at the Pepperwood Inn off of I-217. I remember mountains of chilled shrimp, in the shell. I remember raw oysters. I remember crab cakes. That buffet was my training ground.

Now that I’m 35 and actually have to pay for the buffet, I only eat at them when I’m on vacation. In San Diego last month we got a breakfast package at the Park Hyatt and got to partake of their buffet every morning for FREE. It was a beaut. A smoked salmon bar, homemade yogurt and granola parfaits in miniature glass milk bottles, plump little applewood chicken sausages, the works. Unfortunately it was such a dignified buffet, and I was so preoccupied trying to keep my kids from knocking over the fresh-squeezed juices on display, that I felt weird trying to take photos with my phone for this post.

But now I’m at a regular Hyatt in Maui, and it’s not the kind of place where anyone at the buffet is going to notice if you are taking photos, or indeed, even tripping and falling into the food. So I got my pics. But I didn’t eat at the buffet, because I knew in about two seconds that this buffet is not worth the $25.95 price tag. Plus they had birds flying through the restaurant (more on that in my next post). Anyway, here are some tips on how to win a buffet.

1. Seafood at a buffet is your friend

The thing about a buffet is that there’s a vast array of food, and only a finite amount of space in your stomach in which to hold it. What this means is that if the buffet has a seafood component and you eat seafood, you will be starting here. Because seafood is expensive. Seafood is also a pain to cook at home. When I see a display of smoked salmon laid out at a buffet, I feel a sense of satisfaction and imminent victory, because I know that I am going to own that buffet. Ignore the twinge of embarrassment that you may be taking too much salmon or smoked trout. Ignore the servers who may be looking at you askance. They are trained to make you feel bad about taking the seafood. There’s a famous seafood buffet in Portland at a place called Salty’s. It’s a great buffet, but I hate it because they have a person stationed behind the crab legs and raw oysters who doles out your serving. I always come to play and even I feel sheepish asking a real live person for my fourth helping of crab legs. What a freaking buzzkill.

Anyway, rest assured that if the buffet couldn’t handle the financial hit from your seafood consumption, they wouldn’t be offering the fish. Don’t forget to take a gander at all those darling little accompaniments when loading up on your omega-3s. Capers? Chopped egg? Creme fraiche? Yes please. Leave the bagel out of it, because that’s filler, and you don’t need me to tell you not to carb-load at a buffet.

2. Now is not the time for sausage

I like sausage and bacon. I like them a lot. But here’s the thing about sausage and bacon–you can get both at IHOP. A buffet is your time to try new things, to branch out, to sample the things you never get to eat.

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The other thing about sausage and bacon is that they are very brown. My mom taught me that you eat first with your eyes, then with your mouth. So when I eat at a buffet, I am mindful of color and composition. I will throw guacamole on my pancakes just to have something green on the plate, and like to put my bright berries in a little mound in the middle of the plate, for visual appeal. Anyway, about the meats–nothing is as unappetizing as a plate full of brown sausage, brown bacon, and brown oatmeal. I know that, because that’s what Tom eats at buffets. Tom has latent Midwestern tastes which come to the fore in such situations. Oatmeal! Besides being really cheap and readily available at home, oatmeal requires a bowl, which takes up so much plate space. Ugh! Tom says he needs the extra fiber on vacation. Whatever. I usually throw a berry or two on his plateful of brown when we get back to the table, just so I—I mean he—has something pretty to look at.

3. For the love of God don’t go for the eggs

I have no idea how you cook scrambled eggs in bulk. Maybe there is a special trough pan for that. I do know this: when you cook eggs in bulk, they aren’t being cracked from pristine eggshells. They are coming out of a large milk carton, or worse, a vat. I also know that when you cook eggs in such vast quantities and then keep them over a sterno can for an hour, what you get is something that is not fit for human consumption. But I always notice that everyone takes a scoop of the eggs! It’s like we are programmed to expect eggs at breakfast, and having been offered them, we are powerless to resist, no matter how rubbery or tasteless. You don’t need eggs. Unless they are part of an omelette bar, or the huevos in huevos rancheros. Which leads to my last two points.

4. Waffle bar, omelette bar, crepe bar: you had me at bar

I find it really annoying when a non-buffet restaurant charges for omelette fillings by the ingredient. Like, you can have an omelette with 3 of the listed choices, but the fourth is an extra $3.00. Everyone knows that all good omelette combos have at least four ingredients. Take your classic Denver, for example. You’ve got the peppers, you’ve got the ham, you’ve got the onion. So you’re good! WRONG. You forgot the cheddar cheese. Don’t try arguing that cheese is not technically a filling if it’s melted on top of the omelette. I may know someone who has argued that, and been rudely shot down. Or I may not.

The three ingredient thing is particularly annoying because it’s not like you are getting more food with that fourth ingredient. A three-egg omelette can only hold so much filling. So if you order a fourth ingredient, the cook is going to have to reduce the volume of each of your first three ingredients. It’s a net gain of zero food for you, and no loss for the restaurant. Man, now I’m getting all upset. In fact, now that I’m writing this I feel like it could be a legal violation to charge extra for a fourth omelette ingredient. Potentially an unlawful trade practices claim there. I have to remember to ask my coworker Josh—a consumer law expert and a fellow fan of buffets—to look into that.

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Anyway, that’s why I love omelette stations at buffets. You can have five ingredients if you want! Six, even!! Who’s going to gainsay you? Certainly not the guy in the chef’s hat who drew the short straw in the kitchen and is now grudgingly making your omelette creation in the cutest little fry pan you’ve ever seen. You can even have TWO omelettes! God I love this country.

5. Partake of the regional offerings

As the child of a German teacher, Tom traveled to Germany a lot as a kid. When he waxes poetic about Germany, it’s usually about one of two things: the Riemenschneider altarpieces, or brochen. Tom talks about brochen as if they are the most magically delicious bread product ever known to man, and the dude knows his bread products. Over time I have built them up in my imagination to the point that my mouth starts to water when I hear the word, and I’ve never even seen one.

Well, I looked up “brochen” recently, and it turns out that “brochen,” in German, means “roll.” But I get it. Because everything tastes better when it’s foreign. Which is why you should have the huevos rancheros at a buffet in Southern California, or the ha gow at the buffet in Vancouver, B.C., even though shrimp dumplings can be a bit heavy at 9:00 AM. The regional thing explains why I ate nasi goreng for five straight days at a buffet in Bali, even though nasi goreng is basically fried rice, and I avoid fried rice like the plague at Chinese buffets back home.

Here in Maui, they have the regional papaya on prominent display. Also this, which confuses me:

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It appears to be a collection of regional pickles, plus tofu, and nori. I’ve seen a lot of buffets in my time but haven’t run into this kind of buffet station before. I was trying to figure out if this was part of the omelette bar but by that time I’d been taking pics in the buffet for five minutes and a couple of the buffet employees were talking to each other in Hawaiian while pointing in my general direction. So I had to leave. But now it’s killing me. I may have to send Tom in for some reconnaissance.

Happy buffet-ing, y’all.

a dangerous quiet

I knew I was done with the City when one day in Herald Square, I felt mentally unable to escape the cacophany around me.  I thought I was going mad.  I moved out of NYC two months later, dragging Tom with me.  I have a hard time being still, but I need quiet.  It calms my mind and restores me.  My main complaint about TV is that I can’t escape the sound of the white noise that accompanies it, no matter where I go in the house.  The jarring crunch of the recycling truck makes me wince; the cloudy crackle of AM radio is anathema.

But now that I have two boys, silence has lost its appeal.  Instead, it’s become something to be feared.  I can block out my boys’ nonstop chatter and the booms and crashes that accompany their playing.  It’s when things go quiet that I panic.  A few days ago I was doing a puzzle with Finn and could hear Tate talking to himself in the other room.  After about ten minutes, my head shot up as I realized I could no longer hear Tate.  I lunged for the playroom, but it was too late.  There he stood, bracing his forearms against the microwave in his play kitchen, deeply engrossed in the act of dumping a load into his shorts.  When he spotted me, he paused in his bearing down to say, “I need to go poop, Mommy.”  Nine times out of ten I keep my cool, but that tenth time I can’t help biting off a sarcastic reply.  “No Tate, you needed to go poop ten minutes ago.  Right now, you are crapping your pants.”

Quiet doesn’t always mean that Tate is emptying his bowels.  Sometimes it just means he’s biting the tops off of all his crayons or eating them whole like french fries.  Or emptying 5 gallons of drinking water out of the water machine, in a slow trickle, onto the kitchen floor.  Or drawing, which in its current iteration involves repeatedly stabbing a piece of paper with a permanent marker, on top of the living room rug.  Silence can also mean that Tate is focused on balancing on top of a tall stool, or eating my contact lenses and washing them down with the saline in which they are stored.  The choices are endless, and none of them involve playing with parent-approved toys in the prescribed manner.

But that’s one-kid silence.  Let me submit that there are few things scarier than two-kid silence.  Two weeks ago I heard Tom getting animated upstairs, and went to investigate.  There he stood in his office, looking down at my two boys, who were standing side by side in solidarity and looking up at Tom with their best approximation of a guilt-free expression.

Tom (looking around the room, panicked): “No, seriously, what were you guys doing in here?”

Finn: “Nothing, Daddy.”

Tom: “No, I know you were doing something because I heard you, but then you stopped when I came in.  So what were you doing??  Tate, were you playing with Daddy’s papers?  Were you??”

Tate: (shakes head.)

Tom: “Finn, were you playing with the paper shredder?  Because you know you’re not supposed to go near the paper shredder.”

Finn: “I KNOW, Daddy.”

Tom (forcibly calming himself and adopting a cajoling tone): “Hey.  I won’t be mad, I promise.  I just want to know what you guys were doing.  Tell me what you guys were doing.”

Finn (who by this point knows he’s gonna walk): “We weren’t doing anything, Daddy.”  (Scowls, grabs Tate’s hand, and leaves in a huff.)

I’m pretty sure they high-fived each other back in Finn’s room while naming us suckers.  And we still don’t know what they were up to, but I suspect we’ll find out the next time we go to print something.  Lots of buttons on that there printer.

Yesterday morning I stepped out of the shower and heard it again, that eerie silence that portends no good.  I hurriedly threw on a towel and ran downstairs, half expecting to find them rappelling down the side of the house from a window, using their blankets.  Instead, I came upon this:

After I recovered from my near-coronary, I sat there in my towel, listening to them in the early morning hush, as they told me about the farm they were building.  Watching them, I felt overwhelming love for my two little men–the kind of love that clogs your throat and makes your eyes well with tears.  And then, I felt a renewed appreciation for every such moment with my boys, quiet or no.

the Costco effect

I have a complicated relationship with Costco.  When I was young, my brother and I would spend Saturdays there with my parents, shopping for food and cigarettes for the smoke shop that my parents owned inside a tall office building called the Pacwest Center.  A smoke shop is a convenience store that sells food and cigarettes and lottery tickets.  A lot of smoke shops are owned by Koreans.  We spent every weekend unloading inventory on the loading dock where the trash bins are kept, and I spent a lot of hours working the cash register and selling Snapples to lawyers and architects who often looked down their nose at my family and talked really sloooowly to us while buying their Powerball tickets.  Two years after my dad died, the property managers decided they wanted a change, and kicked my mom out of the store to which she’d given more than ten years of her life.  That’s a real immigrant story.  I became a lawyer so I’d never have to feel that powerless again.

Anyway, spending time in Costco reminds me of those years of my parents’ backbreaking labor, which put me through four years of an Ivy League education.  In case it is not evident, I feel a debt to my parents that I know I can never repay.  The point of all this history is to explain why I don’t enjoy shopping at Costco, when I am capable of enjoying shopping almost anywhere else, including GNC and Hot Topic.

Personal stuff aside, I also don’t enjoy shopping at Costco because it has been my experience that it is not possible to leave that store without spending at least $300.  I’ve tried it, and failed, repeatedly.  Eventually I cut myself off completely, and didn’t step into a Costco for years.  But recently, my family’s vast consumption of fruit got me thinking about Costco again.  And when my friend Suzanne told me that she treats Costco like her grocery store, and can get out of there on her weekly visits without paying more than $100, I decided it was time for a reappraisal.

I’ve gone twice since I got a new Costco card.  And here’s my reappraisal, with all due respect to my dear Suzanne: it is still not possible to get out of a Costco for less than $300.  It was exactly as I remembered.  Now, as then, Costco makes me do some crazy ass sh*t.  Like this:

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I eat garbonzo beans like ten beans at a time.  At that rate, I will get through this bounty in approximately four years, during which time these cans will take up a lot of valuable pantry space.  I like garbonzo beans.  I do.  But liking has nothing to do with it.  When I see a flat of eight cans of garbonzo beans being sold for less than $6.00, I feel that it would be morally wrong not to buy them.  I feel this emotion often at Costco.  I call it the “Costco Effect.”  When other people see things being sold for extremely low prices, they think: bargain.  When I see things being sold for extremely low prices, I feel the extreme guilt associated with stealing.  I mean, how is it possible to pick, process, and can eight cans of garbonzo beans and sell them for $6.00, and still make a profit?  It can’t be.  And though it is completely irrational, the only way to assuage my feelings of guilt is to buy the product, and lots of it.  It’s how I play my part in a completely messed-up capitalist society.  My role is to buy.  And so I do.

At Costco prices, you just keep loading up your cart, because everything seems so damn cheap.  And everything they sell is so damn good.  The insidious thing about Costco, of course, is that it doesn’t take that many items at $12 or $15 each to add up to $300.  There are few shopping experiences worse than the feeling you get at Costco when all your items are on the conveyer belt and the cashier is scanning all your items, and as you watch the tally, you feel the urgent need to start removing things from the conveyer belt.  When I was younger, I was too self-conscious to do anything about it, but now I have a mortgage to think about.  So this time around I pulled off a whole fillet of salmon, a flat of Vitamin Water, and Tom’s Fusion razorblades.

It’s sad, but if something’s gotta give at Costco, it’s usually gonna be Tom’s stuff.  Especially if the item is a package of razor blades that costs $45.  You can buy 50 cans of garbonzo beans for $45.  That’s a whole lot of hummus.  While I’m on the subject, what is the deal with Gillette razor blades?  Unless each of the five blades on each cartridge is hand-sharpened by some blacksmith in some forge in Scotland, I fail to see how Gillette razor blades can cost as much as they do.  You can get a KNIFE for $45.  Like, a Wusthof.  I just don’t get it.  Which is why, until Tom can justify the expenditure, he can enjoy some Bic disposables.

Anyway, Costco.  For cheap.  I say it can’t be done.  If you think it can, please share your tips, for the benefit of all.

olympic me

I LOVE the Olympics.  Full stop.

Well, not full stop.  One of my lasting regrets about my youth is that my parents failed to harness my athletic abilities and orient me towards Olympic glory.  Every time I mention this regret to Tom, he asks—in a tone of voice that I find to be unnecessarily aggrieved and put-upon—which sport I believe I could have won.

Which sport couldn’t  I have medaled in, is a better question.  There are really so many I could have excelled at.  Fencing, for starters.  I have strong thighs and a deep appreciation for white clothing.  Also, I imagine I would look really good whipping off my face mask at the end of a point and shaking out my sweaty tresses.  Or rowing.  Certainly no one in my immediate family could fail to imagine me as a coxswain, yelling out bossy commands from a seated position.  I do that everyday, from my couch.  Table tennis: natch.  I have very quick reflexes, and I’m also very Asian.

Every time I think of myself playing these sports and collecting my medal, it makes me appreciate the efforts of these Olympians all the more.  Because it clearly takes a little more than parental direction to get you on that podium.  And there are such hurdles along the way.  Fencing seemed so glamorous until I found out fencers have one thigh that is much larger than the other—how would I fit into my skinny jeans?  And I already have tailbone issues that would likely be exacerbated by sitting in a wooden rowboat for hours on end.  As for table tennis, I started playing the regular kind of tennis recently and have discovered that I have low to non-existent depth perception, which means that when I go to hit the ball, I am consistently surprised to find it dropping roughly six feet in front of my racket.  Lack of depth perception seems like a severe handicap for a sport that requires you to hit balls that are flying at your face while lunging towards a table with very sharp corners.  Then again, table tennis players wear polo shirts, and I look like a man in polo shirts.  Not looking like a man is small consolation for an Olympic medal, but it’s something.

My friend Maria actually went to the Olympics for diving, and since I found that out, I have been sizing her up from afar.  Because she has the stuff.  You can tell.  The mental toughness, the determination.  And I like to think that I have it too, but I know I don’t.  If I get too hot in yoga, I’m apt to bust out corpse pose 20 minutes early and call it a day.  When running, I go only until my watch says that exactly 30:00 minutes have passed, at which point I come to an abrupt stop, even if my legs are mid-stride.  At work, I take the elevator to the 4th floor.  From the 5th floor.

So maybe my parents didn’t get in the way of inevitable Olympic glory after all.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep reminding Tom every four years that he could have been married to one of the all-time greats.