September 29, 2009

The Virgin Traveler: I get some action and eat food.

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Okay, so my definition of "action" is pretty general. But today, I was eating a gyro at a restaurant and the old Greek waiter pinched my cheek and said,"ohh, so beautiful." That counts, right? Well, regardless of what you think, I'm counting it. In my action journal. (Don't you wish you could read that?) (Okay, fine. It's mostly blank. But it's going to be filled up by the time I leave Greece. I mean, I already have the ex-con with drug scars and no teeth telling me thank you for my smile and now the pinched cheek. I've only been here a couple of days! By the time I leave, I might be a full-blown whore.) (Mom, Dad, I'm just kidding about the whore part.)

The gyro is served differently at the sit down restaurants than if you stopped at a shop on the street. It's a big heaping pile of meat and onions and tzatziki on warm pita bread. It was so good. Obviously. I'm in Greece. The meat was thinly sliced and a little dry, but not in a bad way - it was almost like jerky in some bites, and soft in others. The onions were pungent and sprinkled with paprika. The tzatziki was crunchy with cucumbers and tart yogurt.

So after the pinched cheek episode, we wandered over to a fresh fruit stand and bought grapes, figs and peaches. Then we came back to our hotel and did a photo shoot on the balcony. Then we ate our props and fell into a fruit coma.

Tonight, I ate dinner by myself, amongst many Greek men and a couple of women at a Romanian restaurant across the street from our hotel. Cabbage rolls filled with rice and tomato sauce, covered in sour cream and served with polenta. So good. And filling. And the restaurant looks like a Greek version of Le Happy, which made me say "Awwww." And feel at home.

Tomorrow, Jen and I meet up with Amber and Chelsea in Omonia Square, then we take the all-night ferry to Crete, where we will frolic on beaches, eat octopus and go to many tavernas.

September 28, 2009

The Virgin Traveler: Remedial Sightseeing

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I woke up with an airplane hangover. It was 11:00 in the morning in Athens and my head was throbbing. My back was sore and my stomach hurt. Not getting enough sleep for me is like being chewed up by a dragon and spit out. But we had to get up and go - I needed some real food and probably a Coca-Cola Light, as they call it here.

We wandered over to a nearby Cafe Ristorante. Chicken pita sandwich seemed like a good choice to get rid of my hangover. Jen ordered Greek Coffee and a chocolate croissant. I liked watching all the people while we waited for our food. For some reason, hearing Greek and not understanding a word of it is like listening to music. It sounds beautiful. I also love that when I say "thank you," in English, they understand what I mean.

The pita sandwich was good, the mayo was sweet and the carrots were pickled. It was just what I needed. I had a bite of Jen's croissant, too, which was lovely. Soft, warm chocolate in the middle.

We headed out walking down the street and saw some gyro shops with big hunks of meat in the window. I'm going back there to get some - it smelled so amazing! And across the street was the meat market. I've never been anywhere like that before - huge hunks of meat, lambs, pigs, hanging and the vendors shouting, trying to get you to buy their meat. It made me wish I was staying somewhere with a kitchen.

We ended up at the Athens Flea Market in the square with Hadrian's Library. It's bizarre really, to see a Columbia Sportswear shop on one corner and then walk a few feet and see an ancient building. A little girl playing the accordian walked up to me, smiling. When we got up to walk away, she asked for money. I didn't have any change, so I said sorry - I felt a little bit bad.

Then another guy came up and was speaking in Greek very fast. When I told him I didn't understand, he said, "Thank you for [made motions with his hands to indicate smiling]," then he crossed his wrists, which I guess meant he was incarcerated. So I guess he was saying, "Thank you so much for your beautiful smile because I just got out of prison and it made my day!" Right? That's how I'm interpreting it. Now if I can just find a Greek man who has teeth and not so many drug scars and maybe hasn't been in prison...

We came back for a nap, and I slept too long. It was getting dark, so we ended up just going to a bakery for dinner and I got cheese pies and something like baklava, except it was filled with dates. It was sticky with honey and chewy with dates and crispy with filo dough. And it was all over my hands.

We retired early. This jetlag thing is serious! And this morning I woke up with another headache, which I am determined to fight off with caffeine and ibuprofen. We are headed to the Acropolis today and to find some gyros, and lamb and feta cheese. I can't wait!

September 27, 2009

The Virgin Traveler: I leave and take a trip. Overseas.

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I didn't have access to the internet for almost 36 hours! Traumatizing! Here are the tweets and Facebook status updates I would have posted, if I had been able (in chronological order.)

I'm on the plane! First to Chicago. Five hour flight. Not bad!


Wish we had time to go find real Chicago pizza instead of this crappy little Italian joint.

The pizza at this restaurant is not good, unless you douse it with olive oil and all that crap they just gave us to put on the bread.

This plane is a freaking big-ass plane. And all the Lufthansa staff are pretty. Even the men.

WHAT. They give you hot towels? I love the Germans!

The food on the international flight is better. Also. They don't make you pay for goldfish crackers. Or alcohol.

Pretty sure if I don't get off this plane in the next five minutes, I'm going to have a meltdown.

Just watched My Life in Ruins. That movie sucks. But yay for Greece!

Pretty sure if I don't get off this plane in the next five minutes, I'm going to have a meltdown.

My butt is bruised. I'm certain. Also, my feet hurt. Also, I smell and haven't showered in 24 hours.

I just got my very first stamp in my passport!

At the Dusseldorf Airport. I feel like everyone is talking about me when they talk in German.

We can't check in to our flight to Athens for two hours. We are trying to sleep, but it's not working.

Also. Germans bring their dogs with them to the airport. There are lots of little dogs running around. Also the police carry machine guns.

Eating a bratwurst and a coca-cola light.

I can't get on another plane, I can't get on another plane. I think I'll vacation in Dusseldorf instead.

I'm on another plane.

Smashed between a Greek man and Jen. It's hot. And I don't mean in a sexy way.

Hey you guys. The Greek soccer team is on our flight. This makes our flight hot in a sexy way.

Accidentally took the Greek man's water. I apologized and we clinked glasses as he said "Cheers!"

Just told the Greek man about my trip. "You have planned a trip that only the Americans can plan. I am very jealous!"

Greek man approves of our three days in Athens, two weeks on Crete plan. Very smart, he said.

Flying over the Bavaraian Alps. Wish I had my camera accesible. OMG. I AM IN EUROPE.

Trying not to cry because I can't believe I am finally going to Greece. Also. It's very hot on this plane and I might not make it.

Aegean Airlines gives you a full-out meal on a 2.5 hour flight. Pasta w/ peas, crackers, roll with Happy Cow cheese and chocolate cake!

Pretty sure if I don't get off this plane in the next five minutes, I'm going to jump off. My butt is bruised (still) and it is hot. Very very hot.

OMG I just turned to Jen and said, "would it be inappropriate to cheer when we land?" And then we landed and everyone clapped!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Greece.

On the metro to downtown Athens. I keep falling asleep. This is not good.

We are lost in downtown Athens trying to find our hotel.

Just asked a policeman where our hotel was. He said, "That is very bad part of town, who told you to stay there, the internet?"

Walked past several good looking hookers, but we found our hotel! And we were not molested! And it's not a total dump. We just can't go outside after 10 at night.

So tired. Finally took a shower and my feet, legs, head, face and hair are throbbing.

Holy cow. I am in Greece! Will try not to spontaneously cry, but tears keep falling down my face because I have wanted to come here for so long. Must. Not. Cry.

Had 7-Up from the bar. Feel like I might fall over.

Twitpic: View from our hotel balcony overlooking the sketchy part of town.

Good night, Athens!

September 22, 2009

I'm leaving on a jet plane, with tears falling.

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Portland's literary events are SHINING right now. And I can't go to any of it!

Tomorrow night: Back Fence PDX - Temporary Insanity

No, this is not all about me. That would be called PERMANENT insanity. Stories about temporary insanity from lots of people, including a pet psychic and a 14-year old musician! Also free cupcakes from Saint Cupcake. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. At the Mission Theater. GO.

Thursday night: Wally Lamb at Portland Arts and Lectures.

I love this series. Like I'm in love with it. It's so insightful to hear these writers read and talk about their work. Because don't you want to hear them read their own words in their own voice? And answer your questions? Of course you do. GO.

October 3: XY&Z: A Benefit for Write Around Portland

Because if I had all the money in the world and all the time in the world. I would spend all of it on Write Around Portland. Writing and community get married and breed well at Write Around Portland. Don't you want to be a part of that?

October 9-10: WORDSTOCK.

I'm absolutely the most sad about missing this event. Last year I was in Wordstock, organizing emcees. And I loved it. I loved all the people I worked with - good people. And smart. And they put in literally hundreds and hundreds of hours to pull this off. Mostly volunteering! This year, they have a focus on food. Which is one of the reasons I am so sad. Because, you know, I love food.

Portland! Go to these events! Give them your money! Keep these events going! You will get smarter. I promise.

September 18, 2009

Lizzy Revisited: Cheating on my Blind Date with Lincoln

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This was originally posted in August of 2008.

I used to be addicted to Agatha Christie murder mysteries. I was pretty good about just reading them straight through, until the last Hercule Poirot mystery (Curtain), when for some reason, I could not stop myself from reading the ending when I was only half-way through the book. Oh how I regretted that moment. I cheated. And it took all the glory out of the ending.

A couple of weeks ago, I was persuaded by my restless, impatient mind to cheat again. My restaurant group had a reservation at Lincoln, a restaurant that was so new, the menu wasn't even online. We had no idea what the prices were, what the food was like, and wasn't it exciting! Ansley even said it was like going on a blind date with food. Then about a week or so before we planned to go, the menu appeared on their website. I promised myself that I wouldn't look. I wanted to be surprised, to make capricious choices, to fully enjoy the spontaneity of the moment.

Theoretically, it was a good idea, but I couldn't wait. I looked. And I picked out what I was having that very second: hanger steak with anchovy butter and onion rings. We clicked, me and the hanger steak, from the very beginning. I knew that we were MFEO (made for each other). I dreamed about that steak all week and when Friday came, I was anxiously anticipating my "blind" date. I had already looked at Lincoln's picture and knew that he had all his teeth, did not wear a patch over one eye, held a job and did not hit his mother.

We started out exchanging pleasantries and getting to know each other. I knew right away that we were going to hit it off. Thyme flatbread with chicken liver pate and grilled bunching onions (dark, rich, fresh), deep fried skewers of mozzarella and bread (hot, melty, comfort), crispy potato and sage fritters (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside). The waitress brought us tons of amazingly chewy/crispy bread with a lot of butter and salt (bless you!)

As we waited for our entrees, I was getting nervous to see IRL (in real life) the steak of my dreams. I knew that I wouldn't just take a bite. Sometimes you just gotta live. I had enough of the pleasantries and when my steak arrived, I threw caution to the wind and went straight to second base. It didn't disappoint - cooked perfectly medium rare, with a salty, slightly anchovied butter melting along side and light, crispy, well-cooked onion rings. Other people had cheesy risotto with summer vegetables, the lamb chop, and half a chicken. I didn't bother flirting with other people's dates. I was crushing hard on mine.

After the steak, we talked about it, and decided to go all the way. It was peach ice cream with homemade butterscotch sauce for me. The hot butterscotch slithered down the fresh peach ice cream seductively. The sauce pooled at the bottom of my ice cream dish and my favorite part of the whole night was delving into that peach laced stickiness with my spoon. Sweet, slightly salty and a little twinge of fresh peach.

Well, I don't know what else to say. Lincoln was cheeky and just as handsome as his picture. Maybe next time I'll have more restraint, but it's not likely.

P.S. I don't regret cheating.

Lincoln Restaurant on Urbanspoon

September 17, 2009

Lizzy Revisited: The Short Bus

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I've been feeling bad about not writing for so long, so I decided to re-post some old Lizzy Dishes posts that I like. This first one was originally posted last November. I wrote it for a storytelling event, where people listened with horrified expressions on their faces and made groaning, sympathy noises. Then someone shouted, "We still love you!" They didn't get it. This was indeed part of my childhood. But it's FUNNY. At least I think it's funny. So please don't feel sorry for me. Just laugh. Okay?

My rep as a goody goody was hard to shake. There were little things that perpetuated my situation, like the time my mom tried to get Judy Blume books banned from our school library, or the time I had a sleepover at my house and my parents wouldn’t let us watch Grease. But mainly, it was my personality and my self-esteem deficit that screamed “I am a loser!!!!!”

I tried to reverse these situations with such crazy rebellious acts as rolling my eyes at the teacher and practicing swearing in my backyard so that when the situation called for it, I could whip out cuss words like nobody’s business.

Right about the time I was getting comfortable with my newfound sassiness, my mother decided to pick up an extra job. She announced one night, that she would be driving a school bus. Not just any school bus. The Special Ed bus. The short bus. The short bus that said “Sullivan County Rehab Center” on the side of it in giant black letters.

This would have been humiliating on its own, had the school bus company had strict rules about, oh, say, the school bus drivers not going off the route to take their own kids to and from school. But because the normal school bus did not come by our house, my mom decided that it was okay to take us to and from school on her bus route.

We all piled in the short bus in the morning. There were four of us, plus my baby brother in a car seat in the front row. The school bus was old. Some parts of the floor were completely rusted through and often I found myself mesmerized by the road passing beneath us.

First stop was John, who was about 20 and had Down’s Syndrome. He would stomp up onto the bus and plop on the seat in front of us. Then there were the twins, who had one conversation every morning: “Hi Jim, How are you?” “I’m fine, Tina, How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” And so on and so forth, all the way to school. Big John, a 300-pound boisterous handicapped guy, could make all of us smile, especially my mom. “Mrs. Fuss,” he would say every morning, “You look like a movie star!”

My older sister and I did not get along and would often fight on the bus rides. The Rehab Center students would take sides. “Your teeth are yellow,” my sister would say to me. They would laugh. “Shut up!” I would whine. “Yeah, you tell her!” They would yell. We fought about important things, like how ugly each others’ clothes were, or how stupid the other person was. Everytime, they would all jump in and defend us, both of us, no matter what we were saying.

My mom always felt like she had to “drop us at the door” of the school. No dropping us off at the end of the driveway – nope, she had to drive up the school driveway and drive through the parking lot, which oddly was part of the playground. All one-hundred kids would be waiting outside for the bell to ring, and they would all stare as we jumped off the bus. I always hoped that the bus was so dirty that they couldn’t see the words REHAB CENTER on the side.

But, when the day was over, we would go outside and wait for our mom to pick us up. And there she would come, up the driveway, and the kids would yell, “Here comes the Fuss Bus!”

September 14, 2009

Preview of Coming Attractions

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First I'm going here:


Then I'm going here:

Then I'm going here:


And the whole time I'll be enjoying food like this lovely man writes about. The adventure begins in eleven days.

September 7, 2009

Apology Photos

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I have been a terrible blogger of late! So sorry. I'm afraid the next couple of weeks don't look much better. I've just moved this past weekend and am staying with my parents for the next two and a half weeks before I leave for Greece. And, as the HR manager of a plant that is shutting its doors in the next two months, I have pretty much been stressed out of my mind and unable to write anything good by the time I get home at night.

So. I'm leaving you with some pictures that I managed to photograph at some recent meals. I promise I'll go back and do real write-ups as soon as I can. I'll be writing hopefully every day from Greece, with all my adventures, which will include good food, handsome Greek men and carefree happiness.

Thanks for your patience, dear readers!

1. Lamb + kale gratin at Nel Centro
2. Sausage + eggs + potatoes + toast at Stepping Stone Cafe
3. Caprese Salad at Caffe Mingo
4. Bucatini + meatballs, at Nel Centro

September 1, 2009


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I had a conversation last week with a man who was trapped. Trapped by his decisions, trapped by circumstances, trapped by obligations. There was no way out. I could see the the fear on his face, the stress. There was no way out. I felt it in my gut, for a small piece of time, what he felt. Except I could get away from it. I thought about cooking dinner for my family. About my upcoming trip to Greece. Snap. I was away from the trapped feeling. I was free. But this man, he was not free. And I both feared for him and feared him.

The movie Forgiven is about a man in such a circumstance. Ronald Bradler (Russell Hornsby) is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit. With six minutes to spare, he is pardoned. But the stigma of a felony is still there. He can't find a job, he can't make a living. There is no way out.

The district attorney (Paul Fitzgerald, who also wrote and directed) who convicted Bradler is running for the senate, and who, propelled by community expectations and drive, made some mistakes of his own on the case. He, too, trapped by circumstances, made a slave of public perception. The DA and the felon meet and what happens is not good. In fact, it's heart-wrenching, tragic and I cried for a long time.

The film has that independent film edge to it, the footage seems raw and real. The actors do a fine job - and it's a powerful story. To be honest, I'm having a hard time writing about the film itself instead of the storyline. Each of the characters were real to me and I felt that I was witnessing something real, which made it very difficult to watch, given the subject matter.

I suppose feeling a part of the film is a testament to the filmmaking. Isn't that the point of films, to pull the audience in, to feel connected to the characters, to cry when unspeakable tragedy and horror encroaches on the screen? On all counts, I felt a part of this film. Its message is strong - and hard to look in the eyes.

This isn't a "hey it's Friday, let's hang out and watch a movie" kind of a movie. It's more of a rainy-Sunday-afternoon-I-want-to-change-the-world kind of a movie. And you will want to change the world after you see Forgiven. When I finished watching the movie, I spent the next few hours dreaming about working on The Innocence Project, as a lawyer, as an assistant, anything. I dreamed about having a job that can take away the hopeless feeling - of employing people like Ronald, or maybe being a counselor. I could help. In some way.

Then. It was time for dinner. And life went on as it normally does. And I went back to my job and dreaming about my vacation, my mind hosting a seed for change somewhere, that at some point will grow into an idea of what I can do to help. But right now, I don't know.

Forgiven is available on iTunes and at