Sunday, June 05, 2011

"On the whole, I'd rather be living in Philadelphia," romanticizing death and funny memorials

Have you ever given thought as to what you would want written on your tombstone? Obsessed with death as I am, I have only thought about it maybe once or twice.

I guess I haven't done enough in my life to really know in this moment how I would want to be memorialized. I do know that I want to be cremated, however, and my survivors needn't worry about spending money on a fancy urn. Any old coffee can will do, and perhaps is more appropriate. Plus, I'm cheap. I guess that means I don't have to worry so much about some last words on a headstone.

My morbid musings aside, Ellen Barkin was on Piers Morgan's talk show on CNN the other night and he ended the interview by asking the actress: "If you could write your epitaph, what would it be?" Ms. Barkin paused for a moment and then jokingly said she would use the famous epitaph W.C. Fields proposed for himself (which was never used, his memorial plaque simply states his name and the dates of his birth and death), "On the whole, I'd rather be living in Philadelphia." Watch the video!

It's a funny epitaph and it's able to both mock and embrace Philadelphia at the same time. Fields was from Darby and spent a great deal of his life in Philadelphia (he even worked at the Strawbridge & Clothiers-- on Broad street?!-- when it still existed, *sigh*), and that love/hate relationship and sense of humor that most Philadelphians have about their city is very apparent in that remark.

In other news, take a look at this badge Ben made for me and let me know what you think. Feel free to grab it and post it somewhere ;)

I'm thinking about adding a header to this blog, but I'm not sure. I kind of appreciate the sparsely designed nature of this blog, but what do you think? I know some of you don't like the ink blot background, but I intend on keeping it. I like it.

the Tsaritsa sez

P.S.-- Shoutout to my new followers! I hope you like the blog! Look around and leave me some feedback :)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Jimmy Fallon talking about sidewalk politics!

Did Jimmy Fallon read the blog I posted on Tuesday about [the lack of] sidewalk niceties, or just my mind? Either way, we're on the same page. Watch this short clip:

Here is what Mr. Fallon said: "Thank you, slow-walking family walking in front of me on the sidewalk. No, please! Take your time! And definitely spread out, too, so that you create a barricade of idiots. I am so thankful that you forced me to walk in the street and risk getting hit by a car in order to pass you so that I can resume walking in a normal human pace."

Ben recorded the above video on his iPhone from an episode of The Daily Show the other night after I had passed out. The timeliness of the joke is great and validates my belief that we ought to do something about the volume of sidewalk carelessness that occurs daily.

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

San Francisco is alive with art [photo walk]

I usually have my camera on me whenever I go out for a walk, and there is usually something that catches my eye and beckons to have its photo taken. The city is vibrant and living and art is everywhere-- you just have to have your eyes open and be ready to be experience it.

Haight street mural.

These warnings are everywhere these days, as if we need more reminders that living causes cancer. Photo taken inside a Starbucks.



Evy sipping a cream soda.

A secret park in the Tenderloin.







Lousy, right?


The people who live here are always switching up their art installations. They have a new mobile up now that I have yet to take a picture of. Will update!

This dog was just sitting outside the church, guarding the door. Reminded me a bit of Stephen King's Cujo so I had to snap a photo.

Drawing of a raven and a Sookie on a diner placemat.

What a neat trick, especially balanced on those three skulls like that.

We deliver for you... fresh oranges, bananas and vegetables! Just kidding, I snapped this one right outside of a produce market because I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the boxes to the truck.



The best ravioli in the city.


The Mission is full of derelict movie theatres. These old theatre seats were ripped out and discarded in an alleyway where they sit, rotting. What a waste.










Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sidewalk politics, pedestrian rules of the road

Poster issued by the Metropolitan Police in 18...Image via Wikipedia
Sidewalk politics. As a lifelong pedestrian, the rules of navigating the pavement have been embedded in me, the laws of the footpath an unspoken understanding.

I learned everything from my mom, a defensive walker, just by watching her.

At the crosswalk, pedestrians have the right of way.

Don't walk three abreast down a busy sidewalk.

Stay in single file to work your way past a group of slow pokes.

Be mindful of other people.

If a driver doesn't stop at the cross walk and tries to run you over, accidentally or intentionally, you have every right to yell at him and bang on the hood of his car.

None of those rules ever came out of her mouth, but after walking with my mom every day to and from school and pretty much anywhere we went in the city (you don't really need a car in Philly, you can pretty much walk everywhere. For longer trips, a bike or some SEPTA tokens will do. This is why, at 25 years old, I still don't know how to drive-- I've never lived in a place that required it.), I learned the common courtesies of traveling amongst the public and the appropriate ways to handle any sidewalk situation.

Common courtesy is just the general respect for other people. It's assisting in a quick yet thoughtful way when someone, for example, drops a package or slips on some ice, and getting on with your day. It's moving out of the way when you're on the subway and another person is trying to get off the train. It's holding the door for someone when you're on the train platform and they're running down the stairs trying to get to work on time. It's being aware of your surroundings and not being a tool bag.

Common courtesy and sidewalk politics go hand in hand, the way I'd hold my mom's hand back in my learning years on our morning walk to McCall Elementary. You would think that most adults have learned common courtesy-- that it would be common knowledge. Just like common courtesy, you would expect that everyone knows how to behave in public and how to get from point A to point B without slowing down traffic or causing an inconvenience to other pedestrians. Does the descriptor of "common" not say it all?

No. Apparently, not everyone had a mom like mine who taught them to be courteous and respect the space of strangers. Don't believe me? Try walking in the Union Square district of San Francisco, or any touristy area in any city, on any day in the afternoon and then come talk to me. People are friggin clueless.

When I'm walking somewhere I am conscious of what is going on around me, even with headphones on. I make sure that I stick to one side of the sidewalk to let people pass me and to allow traffic going in the opposite direction. When I'm walking with Ben or with a friend I make sure that we're not taking up the whole sidewalk and that we're not in anyone's way. I'm thoughtful like that.

Is it too much to expect courtesy from other pedestrians and sidewalk users? It shouldn't be, but sometimes it feels like it is, and I'm not the only one who feels that way. The other day, I asked my Twitter followers what they thought about sidewalk politics. Here's what some of them had to say:

@LifeWithKaishon wishes more people would smile on the sidewalk. "You never know when you're going to meet a good friend." I agree: seeing happy people go about their day makes me feel happy. Just don't tell me to smile when you pass me on the street because you're only going to get a grumpy face in response.

@Thank_Q wishes people wouldn't spit on the sidewalk. Me too, that is just nasty. I live in San Francisco and people leave even nastier bodily fluids on the footpath and that is not nice.

@SoCalTJ wrote: "I can't stand the people who walk extra slow so they can text." I agree completely. Remember what I said about being self aware? Step to the side, people. Step to the side.

@melbsonmymind says that people who walk their prams side by side drive her nuts (because you can't pass them without going into the street), as do sidewalk cyclists. I couldn't agree more. If you ride a bike, which is considered a vehicle, then you should really use that bike path that the city painted on the street for you. Seriously.

@SweenySays wrote: "if you wave to your friend behind me and I mistakenly wave back to avoid being rude, please don't give me that EWCREEPER face." HAHAHAHA, yes I believe that I've been on the receiving end of that EWCREEPER look and it's not pleasant.

It's clear that I'm not the only one who has a problem with how some people choose to monopolize the pavement for their own devices. Honestly, I just wish that people could be an iota more aware of what they're doing and realize that there are other people who have lives, jobs, and places to be. Hopefully I have raised some awareness with this post, but what else can be done? Perhaps I should start my own campaign and hang up posters around town, something similar to the "Stay Alert. Stay Awake. Stay Alive." signs you see on the highway. Do you think then people would get a clue?

[Side note: I wrote this as a guest post for someone's blog but it was rejected. I guess what's good for the Tsaritsa sez isn't always good for the gander.]

What do you think of this topic and can you relate? I'm interested to hear other takes on the issue!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chicken surprise! Rooftop grilling in the spring


We had a little cookout last night with some chicken, corn, asparagus, and a onion. It was a delicious meal and very easy to prepare. Ben bought some mesquite wood chips, soaked them for thirty minutes and then added them to the charcoals. To prepare the asparagus, I just washed the spears, cut the ends off and Ben put them straight on the grill. I cooked some rice and had that to attend to when Ben was on the grill. The preparation of the chicken was also very simple. I love making marinades out of things I have in my kitchen-- it's a fun science experiment in condiment combinations. You can try my recipe for your chicken or create your own with whatever you have laying around.

Get some chicken (it can be on the bone or off, breasts, thighs, whatever you like), rinse it off in cold water, and put it in a bowl. Now it's time to add your condiments. I use a dash of olive oil, spicy mustard, sriyacha sauce, soy sauce, worstershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, cumin, paprika, freshly cracked black pepper, tumeric, and any other spice that I find around the kitchen that seems appropriate. You can use whatever you like, you might want to try honey or maple syrup (I want to note that before editing that word was sysurp) if you want some sweetness or lemon juice for a kick, but the combination of condiments that I use give the meat a juicy, spicy flavor.


Check out Ben, my grill man! Keepin it hot in my Philly Italian Market apron! The chicken was perfect-- you could taste a hint of smokiness from the wood chips but you could also taste a subtle spiciness from my house blend. And it was very juicy.

What do you like to grill? Care to share any tips or recipes?

Friday, May 27, 2011

That one time I slept outside of the Pisa airport - what a way to end a vacation!

Leaning Tower of PisaImage via Wikipedia
I participated in a writing meme this week with the The Red Dress Club, a writing group for women. The prompt was:

Write a short piece - 600 words max - that begins with the words,"This was absolutely the last time" and ends with "She was wrong." Have fun with it. Think outside the box. Don't go with the obvious.

This is based on a true story.

Remember that "Choose Your Own Adventure" list of post options I made a while back? This was one of the topics some of you voted for. I hope you enjoy.

"This is absolutely the last time I will ever travel without snacks," she thought to herself as she hit her stomach to distract from the hunger. Alexandra sat outside the Pisa airport with her three girlfriends, Talia, Lauren and Vonetta, with whom she had spent the past two weeks exploring the country of Italy.

They had all had a lovely time on their spring break discovering Italian culture and eating as much fine cuisine as their budgets allowed. They took photos, went to museums, shopped in Milan and Venice, visited Vatican City and viewed the preserved corpses of former Popes, there had even been a few wild and drunken evenings spent dancing and laughing and kissing beautiful strong-jawed Italian men, but that was all over now.

Eager to get back to England and prepare for final exams, the four girls cut their trip in Italy a day short, skipping the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and planned on sleeping inside the airport the night before their flight to forgo another hotel bill.

They took the last bus of the evening from Florence and got dropped off at the Pisa Airport parking lot. When they reached the front door of the airport and discovered it was closed, the bus was long gone down the highway.

"Since when do airports close?"

"What the hell?"

"Why would the bus even come out here if the airport isn't open?"

"What are we gonna do now?"

"I guess we're just going to have to wait."

It was April and the sun had already set, the wind had picked up a bit and it was getting chilly. The girls headed over to the outdoor covered cafe area in front of the airport and made it their base. They got comfortable in some plastic chairs in the corner of the beer garden, wrapped their jackets wrapped around them and prepared for the long night ahead.

"I'm glad I brought this with me," Alexandra said as she produced the bottle of gin from her bag that they bought in a Roman convenience store several nights ago. She opened the bottle, took a swig, and passed it around.

It was a desolate scene, there was no noise except for the rumble of the occasional truck on the highway a half mile away. If this were a horror film, the villain would be laying in wait right now, ready to pounce the moment the girls closed their eyes. This thought presently consumed Alexandra as she took another sip of gin and adjusted her makeshift blanket around her.

"I'm probably not going to sleep tonight," she thought and rubbed her stomach, "Why didn't I buy a tomato pie before we left Florence?"

Suddenly, Vonetta piped up by suggesting they play a game of "Never Have I Ever." This idea received a warm chorus of agreement and so the bottle was passed around. Never have I ever kissed a girl. Drink. Never have I ever had sex in public. Drink. Never have I ever been in a fight. Drink. The evening carried on this way until all of the alcohol was consumed.

Alexandra's eyelids got heavy. She didn't think she'd be able to sleep under such strange circumstances, but it was beginning to seem more plausible. As the faint spell of sleep fell over each of the girls they forgot for a moment that they were sitting in polypropene patio ware in a foreign country.

If any girl had said this trip would be forgettable, she was wrong.

The girls in Florence.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Katey Red spits hot fire!

List of songs in tremeImage via Wikipedia
Thank god for David Simon and his refusal to let television be stupid. Simon co-produced The Wire, one of the best television series to ever hit the airwaves (in my own humble opinion), an honest depiction of cops and drug dealers in Baltimore which proves that there is no such thing as black and white, just gray area.

Simon is back with another great hard-hitting show about the struggles of urban life called Treme, this one set in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. Treme, like The Wire, feels very real, and I think it has something to do with the pacing and the way every character is developed and fleshed out. It's not always a pleasant show to watch because of the subject matter, but there are some happy scenes interspersed so that viewers can take a breath and relax for a moment. The episode from two weeks ago featured a NOLA "bounce" rapper and the tune she spat has been stuck in my head ever since. I decided to record the scene so that I can share its awesomeness with the world. Please enjoy.

"Imma tell ya when I'm ready/When I'm ready Imma tell ya/Imma tell ya when I'm ready/When I'm ready Imma tell ya/You're buggin me/And you're ugly/You're ugly/You're ugly/And you're buggin me."

Dreaming of an internship, and a burglary

Taken in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in March ...Image via Wikipedia
Early this morning I had a dream that my sister and I were returning to my parent's house in South Philly after an event. Bridget opened the front door and I panicked-- the lights were on inside and our opening the door had startled a strange man who was standing in the doorway to the basement. We slammed the door shut and I tried calling the police on an archaic cell phone. The last thing I remember before waking up was running around the corner to Warnock Street. I woke up to go to the bathroom and then went back to sleep, this time to a better dream.

I dreamt that it was my first day working at Mother Jones Magazine and everyone was really nice to me. The office was located in a large building which reminded me of the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. I walked down a dusty old hallway and found the magazine headquarters tucked into a corner. There were about six computers in the room and two girls who were busy editing a piece on one side of the room smiled at me as I walked in and told me they were happy that I was there.

I had a nice dream and a nightmare. I guess that's an even trade. The nice dream was a motivator, and the nightmare is just a reflection of the macabre junk food I consume. I heard that Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order Special Victims Unit may be leaving the show soon, so that one less show about murder and crime to plaque up my brain cortex.

Speaking of dreams, the latest issue of Be About It is still available for purchase. For less than three dollars, this literary-labor-of-love can be yours!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Freezing my booty off and watching the Giants!

I've talked about the San Francisco Giants on this blog before-- you may remember me fretting over who to root for when they went against the Phillies (my home team) last year before the World Series, and gushing over my first baseball game in California which I attended with my friend Rebekah and ended up sitting directly behind a man who caught a home run ball, for his son, with his bare hands.

Yesterday I got an email from Rebekah asking if I wanted to go to a Giants game that night. I quickly replied "Yes!" Rebekah is such a diehard fan that she buys season tickets at the start of the season, and I was very grateful that she asked me to join her. At seven o'clock, just as the sun was getting ready to set, I met Rebekah and our friend Diana at the bar, Public House, next to the stadium. We all wormed our way through the crowd to get to our seats.

Our seats last night, the centerfield bleachers, are where a lot of the season-ticket-holders sit. We sat in front of a guy who (though he was kind enough to take our picture) just wouldn't shut up. Every little thing that happened during the game or around our area he had a comment to go along with it. It was like having our own play-by-play announcer, but it was also kind of annoying. He was also the loudest fan in our section and took the lead in chanting "What's a-matter with [insert center fielder of opposing team's name here]?!" The refrain, of course, is "He's a BUM!"

It was a chilly night and we were all bundled up, but it got colder as the sun went down. Next time I go to a night game, I'm definitely bringing a blanket. Or I'll swallow my pride and spring for a Snuggie at Walgreens. We had a good time and got up to dance when they played "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey over the loudspeaker, and even though the Giants lost to the Marlins and we were trying our best to keep our extremities from freezing off it was a lot of fun.

Check out our seats! So close to the field, the fielders were definitely in our earshot. I know you heard us, Chris Coghlan. You're a BUM! SPeaking of bums, check out this butt crack that I accidentally snapped. All I really wanted was to take a photo of my sneakers so you could see how close we were sitting.

Photo of Rebekah and Diana. Huddled together because it was a chilly night.

Check out the goofy face I'm making. THIS is why I usually choose not to smile in pictures!

Another glamour shot. Sitting right in front of the scoreboard and jumbotron.


This has nothing to do with anything, but I thought I would take a photo of some of the weird google searches that are bringing people to my blog. The only very strange keyword is "taste like pizza item 2010 france got talent frog man." What the hell? I don't believe I've ever written about talent shows on here, and I've certainly never spoken of a "frog man," but as long as people are finding my blog I'm okay with the funny search words.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Plastic fantastic? Nostalgia and ByTaj brooches

Plastic beadsImage via Wikipedia
Remember those little plastic trays that came in different sizes and shapes that you had when you were a kid? You took small plastic beads and arranged them on the trays in different colors and patterns, then you would ask your mom to iron your creation together so that the beads would melt together and you would be left with the finished product of a singular piece of plastic fantasticness? My friends and I would sit for hours at my kitchen counter making an assortment of butterfly shaped keychains and smiley-face magnets and peace sign brooches, to collect and swap with each other and give out as gifts.


This flashback is courtesy of Nylon Magazine for printing a blurb (which I stumbled on while cutting out images for a collage) about these pins a site called ByTaj is making and selling online. They have brooches, hair barrettes, and "bow ties" (for the guys, I guess) all made from these same plastic beads I used to play with as a child. I'm guessing they're also using a similar mold to what me and my friends used to use to make our designs. It's a cool throwback and ordinarily I would have no problem with anyone trying to market nostalgia for adults who want to relive their youths, but they're selling them for $55. Fifty-five dollars for a piece of melted plastic. Maybe they're making them by hand and there is a high demand for them, and that's why they're so expensive. I really don't know.


If you take a look at the brooch in the shape of a lady you will notice that it's crooked. Fifty-five dollars, really?


Is this something you would buy? Why or why not? I'm considering going to the craft store and making my own brooches, but with better designs that reflect my own personal sense of style.