I Have Always Felt Lucky That I Look White

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The first time my teenaged Mexican-American high school boyfriend recounted to me the tale of how and why he and his half-black best friend were pulled out of his car at gunpoint by the police during a routine traffic stop, I didn’t believe him.  By the second, third and fourth times, I not only started to believe him, I was getting angry.

Groups of teenagers are never up to any good. They’re annoying and loud and have a horrible mob mentality with an insatiable need to prove how cool they are.  I’m half Texan (of Spanish and Mexican ancestry) and half mixed western European with a bit of Native American mixed in.  I have a very common Spanish last name.  But I look very white.  Like “Why does a white girl like you have a Mexican last name?” white. I have naturally dark hair, near black and light brown eyes. I speak no Spanish aside from a few basic like sit down, shut up and eat.

My high school boyfriend regularly got pulled over and removed from his car at gun point.  Seriously.  He wasn’t a gang member, had a full-time job while attending high school, he wasn’t a drug dealer, didn’t have a criminal record.  In our smallish Chicago suburban town,  gangs were a serious issue. We had a huge police presence. I understand they were doing a job.  There was one day where he was pulled over 3 times in a 2 hour period.  I was in the car during one of these “traffic stops”.  The officer who pulled us over came up to the driver side window and asked “Do you have any guns, needles, knives or dead bodies?”  My younger sister was in the backseat and started to laugh and she said “Yeah, I’m sitting on a dead body right now.” under her breath.  I shushed her because it was cold and I didn’t want to have to lay on the asphalt for an hour or more while the police searched the car. Which is exactly what had happened to him during another traffic stop a few months before.  The officer made my boyfriend open the trunk.  He was meticulous regarding his car and purposely kept very little in it because he was forever being pulled over and searched.  It was night time and it was cold and that cop made him pull out his spare tire so he could poke around in the pristine trunk.  He found nothing because there was nothing.  And again, no ticket was issued.

I remember once I was driving in a friend’s car.  He is Mexican-American as well.  Another Mexican-American friend was in the front seat, me and two other girl friends were in the back.  One girl was half-Mexican like me but looked very ethnic, the other was blonde.  We drove to a McDonald’s for a snack and then drove around trying to find something to do.  We weren’t doing anything wrong.  Just five bored kids on a Friday night in a small town.  We were pulled over 3 times in 45 minutes.  One officer pulled us over for window tint, no ticket.  Another said we did an illegal turn, we didn’t, no ticket. The third pulled us over for curfew.  It was 9:45pm and curfew was 11:30pm on weekends. This third officer tried to give us $75 curfew infraction tickets.

I had kept my big mouth shut during the other two traffic stops.  I had learned from my minority friends that you need to shut up and say “Yes, sir.” You can’t argue nor can you move quickly. It went beyond respect.  I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. My friends taught me that if you didn’t want to get pulled over, you shouldn’t wear a baseball cap, or drive one mile over the speed limit or have more than two people in the car at a time.  (I remember going to a big arcade with a group of 10 people and taking four separate cars to prevent getting pulled over.)  Many of my friends had incorrect info regarding or didn’t know their constitutional rights regarding being pulled over, search procedures, etc.

The officer said “Did you know it’s curfew?”  The driver said “Sir, it’s only 9:45, curfew is 11:30.”  The officer played dumb and said “Really? Oh I guess it is.”  as he continued to shine a flashlight at us.  The driver said “We’ve been pulled over 3 times already tonight.” He then ordered us all out of the car.  He pat down the two males and then came over and started to ask me to assume the position.  I said “No. You have no right to search me.  For one, I’m a minor.  For another, you know you need to call a female officer.” He was taken aback.  He looked at me and said “Someone thinks she knows her rights.”  I retorted “I don’t think, I know.  You had no right to pull us over.  We did not break any traffic laws, nor were we in violation of any curfew ordinances.  We are all minors.  I live 3 blocks from here and unless you are detaining me for a crime, I think I’ll go get my parents.”  He looked at me, said nothing for a few seconds and then told us to get back in the car.  We all decided to get dropped off at home. We didn’t want to get pulled over a fourth time.

Why am I writing about this?  Because tonight a young man was convicted of being black at his own murder trial.  Trayvon Martin was doing nothing wrong.  He was walking through a neighborhood when he was stalked, attacked and subsequently shot to death.  Pro-Zimmerman supporters keep saying “Well Trayvon smoked pot!  “He was dressed like a thug!”  “He was up to no good!”  I’m so glad that vigilantes weren’t hunting pot smoking teenagers when I was 15 or 16.  I would not be here nor would many of my friends and probably many of you.  I’m confused, is it okay now to gun down teenagers that make us uncomfortable?  I live in NYC.  If there are annoying teenagers on my train car, I just switch cars.  But can I now open fire?

I haven’t smoked pot in 15 years.  I have a family, I’m a decent human being and I have a Master’s degree.  Some of the shit I pulled when I was a teenager, makes me cringe. I was still trying to find myself and simultaneously fit in.  (Things haven’t changed that much. Ugh.) Maybe Trayvon would have grown up to be a doctor or a lawyer or a janitor.  Or maybe he would have committed grand theft auto and gone to prison.  Who knows?  He was a kid.  George Zimmerman had no right to infringe on Trayvon’s civil rights and impede his right to free travel and unlawful detainment.  African American football player, Plaxico Burress, was sentence to two years for shooting himself in the leg.  An African-American Florida woman was sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing warning shots.  The justice system discriminates against minorities and poor people.  Something is very broken and how can we ever fix it?  I’m absolutely disheartened that this is the society we live in.  Trayvon Martin wasn’t armed, he was just black.

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Let’s talk about the Constitution

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I’m a loud-mouthed, liberal, straight ally, feminist.  I believe that all Americans are entitled to Marriage Equality.  I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion.  I am an Obama supporter, I will also probably vote for Hilary Rodham Clinton.  I believe in a hand-up not a hand out, we all need help sometimes.  Equal opportunity for all.  I think every American should have the right to vote.  No American should have to stand in line for 8 hours to vote.  I think that half of our Supreme Court Justices are absolutely incompetent in their interpretation of the Constitution.  That being professed, I have never seen anything like what I witnessed during Sen. Wendy Davis’s filibuster in Austin, TX last week.  It was incredible.  It was one of the most moving, powerful events I have ever seen on television.  It was better than most movies I’ve seen in the last year.  If you haven’t seen it, look it up and watch it right now. Seriously.

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I stand with Sen. Wendy Davis. A woman with a phenomenal and inspiring back story who stood without food, water or a bathroom break for 11 hours to protect the women of Texas.

 

Furthermore, I’m repulsed by the Republican agenda to regulate my womb.  My personal reproductive issues are just that, personal.  Gov. Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Paul Ryan and the rest of the anti-choice politicians have absolutely no say in whether or not I take birth control.  It’s unconstitutional and just wrong.  When can we start regulating men’s reproductive health?  I’m sure that would go over like a lead balloon.  I’m a firm believer in no uterus, no judgement.  How dare law making bodies hold hearings regarding women’s reproductive healthcare and issues in which the panels are all made up of men!  It’s disgusting.

 

Now on to gay marriage or as I like to refer to it, marriage equality.

 

English: A woman makes her support of her marr...

English: A woman makes her support of her marriage, and not civil unions, known outside the Mormon temple at New York City’s Lincoln Center. Photographer’s blog post about this photo and the protest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The argument I hear so often is the Bible forbids it.  There is a small passage in Leviticus that speaks on laying with another man.  Leviticus also goes on to talk about all kinds of forbidden things, like tattoos, eating shellfish, mixing fabrics, only female virgins can get married or else they should be stoned, etc.  (I do all of those things and I hope that no one decides to stone me in the street.) Newsflash!- religious beliefs are not relevant to the constitution. The constitution guarantees the right to freedom of religion but holds that there be a separation of church and state.  We are a predominantly Christian nation but we are not a theocracy.  Therefore, personal religious beliefs are just that, personal.  Also, it’s none of your damned business if two consenting adults decide to be legally married.  And don’t even get me started on the “next we’ll have people wanting to marry animals” argument.  A horse can’t consent to marriage. Marriage equality is a civil right being denied to millions.  That can’t happen in the “land of the free”.

 

Now that I am finished with school, I intend to get more politically involved.  I am fairly educated on all things political but I would like take on a more active role.  I think it is drastically important for each of us to take in interest in our government.  Too many people fought too hard and for too long for us to lay idly by and watch politicians fail us and usurp our rights.

 

 

 

English: Russ Feingold, United States Senator ...

English: Russ Feingold, United States Senator from Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I saw a meme a while back that said “May you always live your life in a way that the Westboro Baptist Church will picket your funeral.”  Here’s to hoping!

 

Picketing in Topeka, with the group's signatur...

Picketing in Topeka, with the group’s signature rainbow-colored picket signs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

***Stepping off my soapbox.***

 

 

Ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, still have the feeling that you wanted to stay?

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So much has happened in the last week..

My beloved Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. It was probably the best sports finals series I’ve ever seen and arguably the best sports comeback I’ve ever seen.  The Hawks were down 2-1 with 1:16 left to play.  They scored TWO goals in 17 seconds.  It was incredible and it also made Gulliver and I so unbelievably homesick that my stomach hurt.

Chicago skyline with the CNA Center showing th...

Chicago skyline with
the CNA Center showing the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo, the Smurfit Stone
Building saying “Go Hawks” and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower saying
“Hawks Win” the night after the 2009–10Chicago Blackhawks won the 2010
Stanley Cup Finals, viewed from the Petrillo Music Shell lawn in Grant
Park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve read my previous entries or are new to my blog, I’m a native Chicagoland girl living in Brooklyn, NY.  I think the reason why I’m incredibly homesick is that I haven’t been to visit in almost a year.  We didn’t go home for Christmas last year and that was the first time we’ve not been there. Last time I was home it was only for five days to attend my youngest sister’s wedding.  So I think I’m due for my Midwest fix.

When Gulliver and I first moved to NYC, we said we’ll go, you’ll graduate and then we’ll move back to Chicago.  That’s not the case anymore.  Gulliver and I have short term professional goals that are better accomplished in NY.  Plus our lease doesn’t end until next spring.  We’ve been talking a lot about moving back to the Midwest.  NY is so expensive.  Some days it feels like we’re just working to live.  Eventually I would love a decent sized house on a nice plot of land and basically homestead.  Not exactly realistic in NYC. I need trees and grass.  My own trees and grass, thankyouverymuch.

Our pro-moving-back-to-Chicago list:

1. Our families are all there.  At the end of the summer, we’ll have missed three weddings, countless birthday parties, bridal showers, etc.

2. Rent is cheaper.

3.  We could buy a car.  Driver’s licenses, car insurance and registration fees are all less expensive.

4. Theater is better in Chicago.  Seriously it is.  NY gets all the accolades but nothing I’ve seen in NYC compares to some of the things I’ve seen in Chicago.It’s also easier, cheaper and more doable to produce your own work. Broadway is all commercialized and I’m not much of a musical fan.

5. The Midwest is more easy going.

6. It’s not as crowded.

7. Grocery stores are better and cheaper.

8. None of us like to fly.

9. We’re working to live.  That’s not fun.

Our Stay-in-New-York List

1. Acting as a career is easier and more lucrative here. BIG PLUS.

2. New England is so accessible and we love it there.

3.  Our family is all there. I love them but not living near them for three

years has made me lose some of my dealing with family superpowers.

4. The trip back. We have flown but we usually drive because of our dogs. It’s tiring but a lot of fun. 16 hours, we sing and talk and laugh.  Our daughter sleeps the whole time.  She wakes up, asks to eat and goes back to sleep.  She wakes up around Indiana.  The trip home can be rough.

5.  Chicago is more dangerous than NYC.  I’ve never been afraid to walk NY’s streets at night, by myself.  I’ve actually pepper sprayed or threatened to pepper spray half a dozen men late at night in Chicago. Gun violence is out of control.

Le sigh.  Decisions, decisions. I don’t think I’m ready to move back yet and I just found out that I can get Chicago style hot dogs, Italian beef and Chicago style pizza delivered to NYC for a fairly reasonable price.  Maybe that’ll hold me over for a few months… I’m so hungry.

English: Chicago Style Pizza with a rich tomat...

English: Chicago Style Pizza with a rich tomato topping. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Chicago-style hot dog at Portillo's

English: Chicago-style hot dog at Portillo’s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Love of “Bad” TV

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So I watch crap.  I’m not talking Real Housewives of Nova Scotia or whatever those shows are called.  I watch good stuff too but I make some interesting television choices.  Here goes…

I watch a lot of law enforcement reality shows.  Cops, Mystery Detectives, Snapped, forensic science shows, I Survived.

I love ghost and supernatural reality shows.  Ghost Hunters, A Haunting, Paranormal Witness, Haunted Collector, etc.

I love Swamp People. I also watch American Pickers, Pawn Stars, History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow, PBS, the History Channel, WWII documentaries, documentaries, etc.

I love daytime court tv shows.  Judge Judy, The People’s Court, Judge Alex, Judge Joe Brown and Judge Mathis.

And I watch the occasional episode of Maury. Yep.

Hey, don’t judge, I watch good stuff too.  Game of Thrones, Psych, The Office, Mad Men.

I like to watch people tell stories.  I’m an actor, I study human behavior. I love watching people tell bold-faced lies.  It’s fascinating.  What are your guilty tv pleasures?

 

My Crafty Heart

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I make things.  I’m a crafty, DIYer. I was always trying to make stuff as a kid.  I’d alter my clothes, sewing them poorly by hand.  I spent several afternoons trying to make a “Troop Beverly Hills” camping backpack.  (A classic 80s film featuring Shelley Long and Craig T. Nelson.) My family was not even close to being well off financially.  Truth be told, we would have loved to have been lower middle class. We never ate out at restaurants and we didn’t buy a lot of new items.  If it could be fixed, hemmed, glued or repaired somehow, we figured it out.  So my adult craftiness, DIY mentality isn’t surprising.

Film poster for Troop Beverly Hills - Copyrigh...

Film poster for Troop Beverly Hills – Copyright 1989, Columbia Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several years ago I injured my neck at work and had to take a few weeks off.  I was under doctor’s strict orders to not move around or lift anything.  I’m always doing 27 things at one time and I was going stir crazy.  There was a small craft store near our home and Gulliver convinced me to buy myself something to pass the time.

I bought some polymer clay and some jewelry stuff.  I played around, made mistakes, got frustrated, made some things and came across Etsy.  Etsy is an online marketplace for artisans to sell handmade goods, just in case you didn’t know.  I sold a few things, did a few craft shows, sold a lot of things, got busy with life and work and sort of left it by the wayside. Last summer, I was making some handmade things for my sister’s wedding, I thought “Hey, I’ll put some of these on Etsy and see what happens.”  I started selling almost immediately and it has become a great source of part-time income for a about a year.

I create a lot of wedding and bridesmaid jewelry. I love creating one of a kind pieces as well.  Now that grad school is done, I’ll have more time to create.  It makes me so happy to be able to make things or people to wear and enjoy.

Here’s a sample of some of my pieces.

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I Scream During the National Anthem

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So the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins in triple overtime early this morning (late this evening).  It’s fan-friggin-tastic!  1-0 Stanley Cup Finals!!!  I love Chicago and I love Chicago sports teams.  I’ve always been a die-hard but living out of state has increased my dieharded-ness.

My grandmother was born and raised in Oklahoma, her father was born and raised in Texas, as was his father, all Chicago Cubs diehards.  (Even though my sister is a Brewer’s fan because of her husband. I honestly don’t think I could marry someone who isn’t a Chicago sports fan. Seriously.  Gulliver’s a crazy like me, so we’re good.) In Chicago,  we are separated by our choice of baseball team but united by all the other sports.  It’s a huge part of who we are.  There is nothing like walking into Wrigley Field and seeing the ivy for the first time and every time is like the first time.  I always get goosebumps and I’m in awe of this vintage treasure in the middle of this frat boy infested neighborhood. But the Taco Bell across from Wrigley is seriously THE BEST!  So what if we haven’t won a World Series since 1908?  It’s going to happen and when it does, it is going to be the most amazing thing that will ever happen to Chicago.  Gulliver and I have a pact.  No matter where we are, we head home if the Cubs get into the World Series.

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There is nothing like being at the Mad House on Madison during the National Anthem.  I remember my first Hawks game, I clapped so hard my hands stung for days. It was so exciting to be part of this crowd cheering like crazy..  I’ve seen and heard comments from others who don’t understand our strange tradition of cheering as loudly as possible during the Star Spangled Banner.  It isn’t a sign of disrespect, it is how we show our love and respect.  I’d rather be part of a fully engaged crowd, then watch everyone around me looking bored.  Or worse yet, not even bother to take off their hats! We went to a Minor League game last year and it was absolutely strange to me that it was so stinkin’ quiet.  It unnerved me.

The Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era Bulls were the most fun. You can argue Kobe and Lebron all you want.  Not even close.  So just stop.  No, really, stop.  You’re embarrassing yourself. His Airness forever.

Don’t even get me started on the Bears and how I used to watch all the games upside down when I was a kid because I thought it brought them good luck, how I sobbed when Walter Payton died, how heartbroken I was when my father also succumbed to liver disease, how I ran the marathon for the American Liver Foundation and hope to someday run for the Walter Payton Foundation.  I know at least 20 children and pets named for former Chicago Bears players, Payton, Jordan, Butkus, Ditka, etc.  And yes, I HATE the Green Bay Packers in a way that is inexplicably ludicrous and strange.

Walter Payton

Walter Payton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I met Bobby Hull in 2010, he was very drunk and he looked down my shirt and told me that Philadelphia Flyers fans “were a bunch of assholes.”  I met Michael Jordan at a golf course,  He was very nice to me.  Everyone has an MJ story.  Also, I may or may not have physically fell into Derek Rose at Water Tower Place after being pushed from behind by rabid shoppers at Christmastime.

Sports, in the grand scheme of things, seems silly.  As an artist, I’m appalled at the lack of funding for the arts and artists.  I sometimes feel like I am an enigma.  I care deeply about my sports teams.  Do I contradict myself?  Am I perpetuating a culture that rewards barbaric competition?  Can I love both?  Yes, I can love both.  I’m an artist who loves sports.  I perform plays AND I scream at the tv when my team screws up or almost scores. After all, I’m a Chicago girl. Go Blackhawks!

“I will break you.” The Russian, Rocky IV

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We saw Dolph Lundgren walking down the street in the West Village the other day.  He is very handsome and is in great shape.  I also saw Hugh Jackman a few weeks ago and he is also in great shape, almost too great.  His muscles look like grapefruits shoved under his skin.  It’s unnatural. The dedication it takes to look like that makes me tired just thinking about it.  Then my mind wanders to Rocky IV and Sylvester Stallone pulling people on a sled by a rope tied around his waist and those crazy hanging sit-ups things.  I don’t want to be cut.  I don’t want to look like a female boxer or gymnast.  I just wanna be healthy and thinner.

I don’t like to exercise.  I like to be active.  Living in NYC, I walk a lot.  I have lost 15 pounds since Christmas through portion control.  I’m not considered obese but I would like to lose 30 pounds. I’m reluctant to list how much I weigh and how much I would like to weigh.  I also like to eat ice cream straight out of the container.

About three years ago, I was in my tenth year of waitressing full-time at an extremely demanding and stressful hotel in downtown Chicago.  I started to have severe hip pain which required about six months of physical therapy.  It really was unpleasant.  My doctor told me that I had only about 6 months of waitressing left in me.  My body was going to keep failing and then we would be talking about permanent disabilities. No, thanks. I knew I was on my way to grad school in the fall and I stuck it out for another 6 months.  I briefly tried to waitress in NYC and I couldn’t do it, mentally or physically.

That's me in the turquoise shirt.

That’s me in the turquoise shirt and yellow hat.

I was going to start my 4-5 weekly workout sessions last week but I woke up with a cold on Monday.  So I’m starting this week. Like I said, I’m an active person.  But this back and hip pain has kept me from being as active as I’d like.  I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2009 and now I can’t run at all.  I’m heavier than I’d like and it’s a double edged sword, my back hurts and I can’t exercise, but my back needs to be strengthened in order to not hurt.

Back in the early 2000s, I was getting very bad sinus migraines.  I packed on some pounds.  I went from 125 to 165 in about a year.  After I was on some allergy meds that helped me become normal again, I got down to business.  I did Tae Bo and Pilates 5 times a week.  I lost the weight, felt really good about myself and met my handsome husband. Years later, after I had our daughter, I was able to lose all but 15 pounds of the baby weight.  I carried it around for a few years, but I was still healthy and felt fairly decent.  Then I went on the South Beach diet for about a month and lost all the weight and didn’t put it back on until the aforementioned back problems.

So here I am again, 30 pounds over where I would like to be.  I am an actor in a city full of pretty people.  I need to lose the weight for my health, my back and my career.  Here I go!

As far as exercise is concerned, I am going to stick with what I like and what has worked in the past.  In my neighborhood, I have TONS of options for health clubs, classes and studios.  But I don’t have the money to join any of them.  After I get in decent shape and start making some money, I may join something.

For now, I purchased the newest Tae Bo series, my last one was on VHS purchased in the late 90s.  I like doing Tae Bo, I feel like I can actually kick someone’s ass.  I’m walking down the street, it’s a bad neighborhood, you’re going to try to mess with me, I’ll Tae Bo your ass.  Yeah.  I also have a Malibu Pilates chair that I love quite a bit.  Pilates is wonderful.  I highly recommend it.  I’m also going to try incorporating yoga into my regiment to try and regain some of the flexibility I have lost.

Weight Loss Plan

  1. Little to no processed foods
  2. Healthier food choices
  3. More water
  4. Exercise at least 4 times per week for at least an hour.
  5. Portion control

If I don’t take Hydroxycut, can I still dance around poorly and out of rhythm while holding a photo of my former heavier self?

My Chicago has better food than NYC rant

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Cheese pizza from Olando’s in suburban Chicagoland

Food.  I really love food. I’m a good Midwestern girl.  Contrary to popular belief, food in the Midwest is just better.  Food in NYC is decent but it’s not the same. My Midwestern transplant friends in NYC gripe about this all the time.  One friend actually carries around salt packets and crushed red pepper flakes in her purse.

Mexican food in NYC is a joke.  It’s called “Mexican” but it’s really not.  I ordered a burrito from a supposedly good place in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and there were green beans in it.  I was horrified! There are a couple of little places that have decent Mexican food, a new taqueria in Park Slope,  a Mexican grocery store in South Slope.  I grew up eating Tex-Mex. I feel like that genre of restaurants are Tex-Mex inspired rather than authentic.

Pizza. NY pizza isn’t good. It’s decent but it pales in comparison to Chicago-style pizza.  When most people here that term,  deep dish is all that comes to mind. Let me explain Chicago-style pizza.  All pizza in Chicago is Chicago-style, deep dish falls into that.  Deep dish is it’s own animal.  I love deep dish but I have to be in the mood for it.  Plus it takes around an hour to cook and I’m too impatient.  Regular, hand-tossed, Chicago-style pizza is the most amazing thing.  Ever.  Pizza sauce in NYC is sweet and thin and there is never enough cheese  Some pizzerias don’t even use real cheese.  Blasphemy. Italian sausage in NYC is pathetic.  Last time I was home,  I cried after I took my first bite of pizza.  It was so good, I wept.

Don’t even get me started on Italian beef sandwiches with gardinera, Chicago-style hot dogs, Culver’s or Arby’s, Friday fish fry and buffets! Did I mention how lacking grocery stores in New York are? I’d give anything for a Jewel or a Dominicks or ALDI! If and when I ever move back to Chicago, I’m prepared to either gain 20 pounds or work out several hours a day so I can just eat everything and anything I want.

In New York’s defense, there is a small bake shop (Hudson and Perry, across from Rite Aid) in the West Village that carries chocolate chip and seasalt cookies and it is the best cookie I have ever had in my life.

Brighton Beach- 1st visit of 2013

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We already visited Brighton Beach last week.  It was a hot, 95 degree Friday.  It’s not too long of a trek from our little space in Brooklyn.  About 30 minutes via subway, only one transfer.  Again, not bad at all. I prefer going to Brighton Beach over Coney because of the crowds.  It’s just down the way from Coney but no where near as busy or touristy.

I really love Brighton Beach, nicknamed Little Odessa or Little Russia.  It is an interesting place.  The trains run above ground like the El in Chicago.  Shops and grocery stores have signs in Cyrillic and then, sometimes, really entertaining English translations. It’s bright and colorful and buzzing.

I first went to Brighton Beach the summer after I graduated from college.  I had a friend studying in NYC for the summer and I came to visit.  We ate fresh seafood at this little restaurant on the ocean.  We even had to remove the prawns heads ourselves.

Fast-forward five years plus, I was now living in NY, having just finished my second year of grad school and we had never been to the ocean. I took the Gulliver (my husband, nicknamed as such because of his height) and our daughter, Bell, to Brighton Beach for the first time.  My husband loves to speak in a Russian accent. (We’re both actors and this is fun for us.)  It was a summer Saturday in June.  It was crowded, the sand was hot, the beach goers were mildly annoying. But we both fell in love with Little Odessa.  We ate street food and perused the shops before walking up the boardwalk to Coney Island.  It was lovely.

This year we left our apartment at 8:30am Friday morning to ensure we would get a good spot near the water.  We needn’t have worried.  There were maybe 20 people on the beach.  We picked a great spot, spread our blanket, set up our umbrella and unpacked our snacks.  We had invited friends, a classmate from school and her newly transplanted boyfriend.

The beach was mostly quiet and relaxing.  I sprayed Bell and I with sunscreen, wore a large hat and glasses.  I burn easily. I had bought us all water shoes a few months before in anticipation of a return adventure. We left for home at around noon because Gulliver had to work.  But it was a lovely morning spent soaking up the air and sun.  Too much sun, I had a wicked sunburn on the upper portion of my back.  Evidently, I neglected that spot.  Bell had collected a small bags’ worth of seashells, I picked up some sea glass and we were able to explore a Russian fruit-market.  We vowed to return soon and often.