Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NYC Restaurant Week 2014: The Leopard at Des Artistes

Quelle horreur. How many times will I have to remind myself not to go to a place that just looks fancy? The walk to The Leopard at Des Artistes through the stunning Upper West Side was the only memorable part of that entire lunch experience. 
We were drawn to the restaurant from the multitude of reviews describing the beautiful murals. If a restaurant’s walls are all you’ve noticed, well, that’s your first red flag.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough of a deterrent for us on that particular day.  Red flag number two was that we had no problem changing our lunch reservation from 11:00 to 12:00 to 1:30 and would’ve likely been able to continue switching it as spots were open around the clock. Quelle surprise, we thought. (By the way, I think the restaurant is actually Italian, but I don’t care enough to check.)

 I didn’t have enough fingers to count the amount of waiters that buzzed around us wearing uniforms that were part hospital, part line-cook. The uniforms seemed to all be one size, leaving some women nearly swimming in theirs, and some men inadvertently resembling cabana boys.  Of course, this was part of the restaurant’s attempt at eliciting a feeling of the bourgeois, gallery-esque environment instilled in it originally by the admittedly stunning murals, which I can only assume were originals. 
 The dining experience started with this: I had asked to see the drinks menu. I was told the drinks menu is “very tiny” and that it’s better for me to just think of a drink I would like and they’d make it.  I then responded that I couldn’t really come up with a drink (and price?) on the spot, so let’s just forget the whole thing and I’ll stick with water.  I was then offered the drinks menu.  I had now decided against everything, and refused the drinks menu. I was asked if I was sure. I said yes. That’s just how the leopard goes.

We were quite confused with the lunch menu.  For starters: salad, soup, or…a selection of muffins and scones. The latter clearly suggested the beginnings of a brunch, however, like those ‘choose your own adventure’ Goosebumps books, you had to be careful not to choose the wrong starter, for the main course would wildly deviate from the original path and lead you into the purgatory awkwardly situated between brunch and lunch.  The only brunch-esque option for the main meal (should one choose the muffin and scone starter) was what was described to me by waiter #92 as “poached eggs on tomato sauce in a skillet”.  At that, I briefly looked around to ascertain that we were not at Montana’s Steakhouse but at an upscale boutique restaurant in a highly unaffordable part of town.  Option Number Two from the mains section was a bowl of spaghetti.  That’s it, that’s all.  The third and last option, which threatened to pull us out of our brunch mood, was a burger and fries.  We opted for the aforementioned selection of pastries, followed incongruously by the burger and fries. Then, we proceeded to observe the patrons around us receiving their bread and olive oil amuse-bouche, as we were repeatedly regaled with tap water refills.  Apparently, our ‘choose your own adventure’ began on a bad note: future diners beware – if you order pastries, you do not qualify for the complimentary ‘while you wait’ bread. 
Our eleventh waiter was very upset/serious and refilled our waters with a furor that challenged our drinking skills. As he poured and poured, his shirt climbing to his forearms, all I wanted to say was “Where the f*ck is our free food?” Seriously, who punishes a customer for having chosen a bread-like starter?

The first course arrived quickly- a trendy, pleasant take on airplane food.  As can be seen in the photograph below, when they say mini, they mean mini.  A freshly-made inexplicably dry muffin, a soft, buttery croissant, a dry stone-like thing with black stuff in it (perhaps it is ze scone?) and a slice of hard bread akin to the one Jesus broke. To compliment said spread: a glob of actually delicious orange marmalade, and a ball of butter.  Out of this meal, I would half-recommend the croissant, maybe. 

Objects in photo are much smaller than they appear

 The entrée arrived a short while later.  To be honest, I still cannot believe what I saw: it was literally just a burger and fries.  No plate decoration, no edible flowers, no funky relish…just a patty with cheese and onions, and a tomato and lettuce topping.  Oh, and for that extra je ne sais quoi, I was presented with a garbage tomato.  The part of the tomato that has the hard green stub in it was literally sliced off and placed directly on my plate.  To compliment les frites, a delightful bowl of ketchup was placed by my plate, with a spoon tucked in. Wow much upscale so class…this ain’t like those other restaurants I’m used to, where we smear ketchup with our thumbs.  
The hamburger tasted like a hamburger. The bun, as you can see, was slightly burnt. The fries tasted like fries. They were slightly overcooked and I really can’t think of anything else to say about them because the whole meal was just so blah. There was nothing interesting about them, nothing inventive, exciting, nothing particularly delicious.
Nothing that would deserve the hoity toity awning outside of the restaurant, nor the stainless steel leopard erected proudly on the center windowsill. Oh, and let me just add that this hamburger and fries combo normally goes for $26 here. ORDER UP!

Note green item inside tomato 

In a last-ditch effort to exercise some much-deserve status (isn’t that what visiting upscale restaurants is all about? To act like you’re a really important person who deserves to be there?) I waited for the aforementioned sad/unimpressed eleventh waiter  to ask us how we were enjoying things, to point out the piece of vegetable garbage that was on my plate.  I pointed at it and elegantly described the “green thing that is typically thrown out” but the waiter did not react.  “It’s just that it’s really hard…and green..” I shed my really-important-person status and cowered under my own description. The waiter, without answering me, walked away and into the kitchen, emerging moments later with a little gold plate and tiny gold fork.  He pricked the tomato with the fork and deposited it like a velvet shoe upon the golden plate, and walked off. He then returned with a replacement tomato and deposited it just as gently atop my slab of lettuce. He did not look happy. No "sorry about that", no "here you go!"...just a Le sigh of disappointment, because apparently it was too much to ask that I not be fed refuse at a pretentious upscale establishment.  Edit: I later discovered that the fries definitely warranted the $26 price tag on account of the inventive 'rosemary' status. Come to think of it, I did spot a single leaf of rosemary at the bottom of my plate. I had assumed it was an insect, but this makes much more sense.

Dessert arrived shortly after, awaking me from my food coma (but not that kind of food coma). For those who do not know what a Crespella is, it’s a pancake.  That is, indeed, what we received: a pancake folded over custard, topped with a passion fruit sauce. The pancake tasted light and fluffy – like a pancake should- and the passion fruit sauce was oh my God I am so bored of this description and I don’t think I will make it to the end okay let’s keep trying. The passion fruit sauce was exactly as you would imagine passion fruit sauce. The custard did not deviate an ounce from what you’d expect from custard.  It really wasn’t bad, for what it was, but again, when you go to a place with such a high reputation, a place that took the time to participate in such an exciting culinary event and normally charges you fifteen arms and legs for a meal, you expect something a little more interesting. Then again, I imagine the quality of the regular cuisine deviates wildly from what we were treated to, as the pancake isn't even on the regular menu. Saved the Aunt Jemima for us, ah s'pose.

I still can’t help but feel that this is the kind of place people go to just to be seen in.  Sometimes a reputation precedes the quality of the cuisine, and maybe they’re riding on that, coupled with the superbly painted murals on the walls. I personally will never again set foot in this restaurant, because I feel my time and empty stomach were wasted on mediocrity. However, I don’t doubt that business will continue for them, given the healthy patron demographic comprised of ex-gallery owners and confused diplomats, happily scooping their runny eggs from their tomato-filled skillets. This is truly the first time in my life that a leopard has disappointed me.

Could I just see your mural menu, please?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NYC Restaurant Week 2014: David Burke Kitchen

Last year, my significant other and I had the incredible fortune of stumbling across what immediately became our favorite restaurant in New York City: David Burke Townhouse.  This summer, to our unapologetic elation (“how can you honestly love food that much?”), David Burke treated us to a reasonably priced foodie adventure once again:  David Burke Kitchen.
Upon entering, we were offered to sit at the upstairs garden section, and after exclaiming “Yes please!” in unison, were told to head up the stairs.  When we approached the hostess in the garden, she said a simple “We’ve been expecting you”.  At that particular moment, we, of course, both became James Bond, and walked to our seats with appropriate stealth. 
You can tell a lot about a restaurant by what they offer you to eat while you wait.   Some give you a variety of buns, while others give you a warm basket of rye. At David Burke’s, a small metal bucket was placed on our table. In it: a bunch of crisp grapes, pickled artisanal carrots, and eloquent cracker sticks. This reminded me of an interesting idea he mentioned in one of his cookbooks, about not using matching dishes to present his food. Instead, he mixes textures and colours to create an architectural structure that plays up the nature of the dish being served. 

We started with lobster dumplings and fried octopus.  The dumplings, surprisingly, tasted like lobster. I’m used to crab cakes tasting sort of like white fish, and seafood ravioli tasting like mashed flour.  What I found interesting about this particular dish was that the lobster made its mark on the palette. The divide between lobster and dumpling dough was well-defined, and the dumplings had a very homemade texture – soft and just structured enough to hold the lobster in place. 
The octopus legs were crunchy, which I found took away that awkward ‘monster of the sea’ after-taste to have the food break apart so quickly with each chew. The crunchy texture made them seem almost candied, in the most perfect brulée way.  The octopus was on a bed of pickled vegetables, and though I’ve never been a huge fan of beets, of course the pickled pieces of onion and beet completely won me over.

Next came the pork.  Thin medallions, cooked until just surpassing ‘rare’ status.  I don’t often find pork so tender when not of the pulled variety, so I was surprised at both its texture and flavour. To the left of the ribs was a layer of pulled pork sandwiched between two biscuits. I found the biscuit a bit heavy and overpowering the ratio.  I could do without the top piece of biscuit.  Of course, the pulled pork inside was perfectly seasoned, had a soft texture as it should have, and left a beautiful oily mark on the bottom biscuit which was great for soaking up the remaining sauce.

The heritage pork was my favorite part of the meal.  A soft piece of pork, tenderly falling apart with each swipe of the fork.  The hearty piece sat on a bed of gnocchi-like pasta in a creamy mushroom sauce, and was adorned gently with a few slices of truffle. A comforting, all-around delicious meal, and while not incredibly inventive, it was simply done right and made us feel happy.

For dessert, we had the coconut trifle and chocolate hazelnut crunch bar.  The coconut trifle was, in my opinion, a bit of a miss.  Layers of heavy whipping cream separated thick biscuit-like coconut sponge, which lacked the inventiveness and intricacy of the rest of the dishes.

Luckily, the second dessert made up for it completely. The chocolate hazelnut crunch bar was of a texture somewhere between mousse and ganache.  Rich, loud in cocoa flavour, and with a pleasant nutty crunch, I can’t imagine anyone not loving this. 

The berry coulis that danced around it on the little plate was a great sour counterpart, and ending the creative journey was a yellow raspberry- a perfect reminder of what sets David Burke apart from other chefs:  it’s never as simple as it sounds.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

30 Before 30

A friend of mine recently turned thirty, and introduced me to the idea of making a list of things you'd like to accomplish before you turn a certain age.  Seeing as I tend to live by the idea that I can just do something laaaaaater (be it laundry, a vaccination, or diverging from my staple breakfast sandwich pick), I thought this would be a great way to do some things I've been putting off for..well, I guess my entire life preceding this post. Yikes.

Seeing this list makes me realize how little time I actually have to accomplish these things, and I'm excited to post about every item I manage to scratch off the list! Sidenote: it's been three months since I decided on the reading 20 books item, and I'm about halfway done my first book so...ultra-gulp.

Side Sidenote: Thank you so, so much for reading <3

Friday, May 23, 2014

A and B do the Big Apple!

Last week, B and I went on a long overdue weekend getaway to New York City. We went with a local Asian tour company because driving to NYC is kind of a bummer, and also I don’t have enough organs to trade for the cost of a flight from Ottawa. 

The view from my window at 5:15 AM !

 The trip there was exciting: at the US border, while searching through my things, the border agent came across my peppermint teabags, which-of course- had burst inexplicably at some point in time.  She rubbed the scattered substance between her fingers, smelled it, and asked me, with disgust: “Is this TEA?” -“Mint,” I answered, in Gwyneth Paltrow’s voice.  Passed that one, phew.
Later, our lovely Chinese tour guide tantalized us with the various sight-seeing  options offered on our itinerary.  Among the wax celebrities we were promised at Madame Tussaud’s museum, of particular interest were The Hunk, The Spaderman, and Justin Tamberlok.  We were also warned not to get too scared in The Hunting House (“super scary!”), and assured that at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, “there is stuff you’ve never believed before”.  I think there was also some mention about carnival tribes in Africa eating people, but that could’ve been lost in translation. If I hadn’t already been to The Big Apple half a dozen times, I’d probably be all over that, but instead, we planned our own little trip, each night  returning to our bus to be taken to our mega fantastic hotel in Parsipanny, New Jersey. (Where?)

One really awesome thing about New York is that things sort of just find you. One minute, you’re walking down the street, snapping peace sign selfies, and the next you’re in the middle of an international food festival! I mean, what? This one stretched for many, many, many blocks, offering food of both the fantastically greasy type and the particularly piquing ethnic flavor.  The first thing we walked into (literally) was a deep fried Oreo stand.  You know how they say when you know, you know? Well, I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I wanted those Oreos. They were made fresh for us, by an elderly woman cozily named Mamma, or Momma, or Mama, while her daughter/partner yelled at people to place their orders with a saucy Italian manner.  We casually walked off to the side with our warm paper bag of magic, and proceeded to devour its contents like orphans.  My God. The cookie had melted, fusing with the middle cream into a soft, almost spread-like texture, wrapped snugly by a not-too-sweet fried shell.  Wow. Just wow.

We walked the Oreos off while observing stalls of trinkets, the likes of “Old Soulful Hits on CD”, fresh water pearl necklaces, and iPhone cases that declare one’s love for weed (see ‘peppermint tea’ above) (got one- obvs). We saw choirs aggressively singing about our saviour, an ambulance taking someone away, and were approached by a coy gentleman holding pet rats, one of which urinated in his face as he bragged about their showmanship. "That'll happen," he said, quietly.

Though we had made dinner plans in advance, a nearby mountain of turkey legs peaked our interest, and high off the freakish vibrancy of the area, we decided to settle on a romantic smoked beast for two.

Look at that thing!

 Our only mistake was walking off to the side, and then down a regular ol' street filled with regular ol' people, while still holding the leg, taking drags of meat and passing it back.  We found ourselves in a territory of restaurants that make you use utensils and napkins, and people who enjoy these aforementioned details.  We were pointed at, and many passers-by would very audibly ask each other if they, too, saw "THE LEG THEY'RE EATING".  The leg was soft, its amber juices dripping down our chins and forearms, taking with them the last remaining droplets of our dignity, sinking deep into the manhole by our feet. That'll happen.

Anyway, we also had this crazy friggin thing. An East Indian treat, it's a pistachio ice cream cone dipped into a mixture of rosewater and sweet cold rice noodles, sprinkled with basil seeds, sweet cream, and shaved almonds and pistachios.  Extremely sweet, with quite an unusual taste. I couldn't have more than a few bites, but I loved each and every one.

When we finally ate the festival, we took a nice brisk walk to a nearby Trader Joe's where I found some cookie butter. Okay, you know what, this will NOT only be a post about food so I'm just going to say it was amazing, and blah blah you should get it, and that's it.  Thanks.

After that, we walked around Times Square and, what are the odds, ran into a guy who was part of the tour group we came in with.  Clearly high off the relief from escaping the hunting house, he was extremely happy to see us,  likely on his way to see The Spaderman.
Back at our hotel, Night One involved a fabulous bottle of ten dollar Apothic wine (I LOVE AMERICA) and the last two episodes of Suits which may I just say ended with as much of a bang as a tiny firecracker full of whispers. Thanks a lot.

It's a prank call party!

 Day Two was exceptionally wonderful because we made a pact to walk everywhere..and stuck with it! We walked from the UN building all the way to the loveliest coffee shop I've seen in New York:

The UN building, so stoic

Bowery Coffee, so cute!

The barista was a true connoisseur of coffee, knew exactly what sort of coffee was intended for each cup and glass size he had, knew exactly how to heat the milk to achieve that thick foamy consistency, and was generally a wonderfully helpful person.  He said I picked good donuts, too. I picked coconut and peanut butter jelly. I did good. They were brought in from Donut Plant, so really, when you put the best coffee with the best donuts together, I mean, how can it not be a win?  Let me just say the coffee was so, so, so incredible that I got a cappuccino, and then a latte.  And by the end of the latte I had conceptualized the non-variant baseline of acceptable human interaction versus the levels of digression and their respective consequence limits.  I sketched a parabola in the air, explaining the assumptions we make in our daily interactions, offering a host of alternative scenarios and the probability of their having an impact on the nature of the social interaction itself. I got a cappuccino...and then a latte.

On my second coffee...

After my caffeine seizure wore off, we started our walk towards the plant district because my guy is a flower lover, as I'm sure I've mentioned before.  We walked a few blocks, then turned somewhere, then walked again, then turned, and then it happened again: something found us. Not just something - Dominique Ansel's bakery. Last summer, we waited and waited and waited for a cronut, and while we had a brush with fame, and were even on TV, they sold out before it was our turn to get in! This time, there were only a few people in the line-up, so we finally had our chance!  The cronuts were amazing - blueberry glaze, soft cream filling, light, flaky pastry...I mean, they were no deep fried Oreos, but still. We enjoyed them with mangoes and the remains of our red wine, the following morning.

The flower district was wild, as always.  From palm trees to bushes to flowers, to cacti..what a paradise for people who like soil and watering stuff every day!  The best part about that little side-trip was when my ever-so-sweet guy bought me a pink peony.  We bought a baby and he slowly opened throughout the day, like this:

"NICE" said our tour guide, when he saw it that night.

Among our other stops were John's Pizzeria for New York's most authentic pie, a secret overpass, a few shops, an unmentioned place where I bought a cozy yellow sweater for six bucks (!!!)...

...and the streets in between, forming a city that unveils a new color, like a kaleidoscope, with every visit. I always wonder if the other people that we came with have had similar experiences. Has anything made them laugh, between the museums and parks? Did they gasp, or shudder? Did they race for their lives, across the streets, deaf from the taxi horns, and half-hoping to see a tiny bumper collision? Maybe they caught a glimpse of a celebrity-perhaps even Justin Tamberlok-and watched them disappear into the crowd with just as fleeting a moment.  Or maybe they just smiled, looking up at the infinite sky-scrapers, knowing there are certain things you don't need to translate.

The Other 'DD' (Distracted Driving)

Through the years, I’ve unfortunately read just way too many articles about fatal accidents resulting from at least one of the drivers texting at the wheel.  When I think about the many ways “don’t text and drive” has been enforced just in our city, it becomes exceedingly obvious that this type of distraction is a serious issue.  It’s hard to believe that just a few seconds/words can have such horrific consequences, and yet, I continue to see people’s faces tilted down to their phones, even while driving on the turbo inferno speedway-through-time that is the highway. Seriously y'all.

While it’s important to keep the issue of texting and driving in mind, I recently took part in Billings Bridge’s “Distracted Driving” campaign and was reminded of just how many more distractions there can be!  Snacking, doing your make up, checking out cute joggers….bad bad bad, even if the latter is merely to confirm appropriate athletic form.

In addition to not texting while driving (and you know what,  why don’t you not text while being a passenger, also, because it’s kinda rude to the driver, sort of) (just suggesting) I have also pledged to not sip coffee.  Oh, and for my guy’s birthday last year, I gifted him with this bad boy: (hamburger not included)

Partly to make him feel like a fast food king, and mostly because it makes me cringe when he reaches to scoop fries from under his legs, I made the decision in a split second and have never looked back. Ps. do you love how in the photo, it's a diet coke? Like that would even happen. Okay.

Let’s take the pledge together, and well…arrive alive. (Jeez sorry for the after-school special)
Check out the campaign below:

Oh and here I am, taking the pledge to not check people out while driving. Okay then.

A great job, Billings!

Recipe: Moonshine Cookies

It all started when El Dude and I were having a particularly bad day: we were getting the cookie shakes, but the cookies in the local bakery looked hella stale, and neither Mac's Milk nor the Hasty Market had any bake-able Pillsbury solutions. I know what you're thinking..a true baker wouldn't even consider Pillsbury...but even Martha Stewart goes to McDonald's so whatevs. 
No luck on the pre-made cookie front, so we zombied our way home where I decided to go the vegan way (since the real issue was that we didn't have butter or eggs). I looked in my pantry, then looked at the recipes I had, then looked in my pantry, then realized I don't have the ingredients for a lot of the cookies out there, so...I made up my own recipe, and it turned out super awesomely!  I call them Moonshine Cookies, because they're the type of thing you make haphazardly, with whatever's lying around, with complete disregard for the ultimate your waistline. (hur hur)

The recipe:

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
2 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp vanilla

Optional Mandatory: shaved coconut, chocolate chunks

The directions couldn't be easier:

1) Preheat oven to 350F
2) Combine and mix all of the dry ingredients in cluster I
3) Combine and mix all of the wet ingredients in cluster II
4) Add the wet to the dry, mix, then add shaved coconut and chocolate chunks if you cray like dat
5) Form balls or cookies, or whatever you want, put it all on a cookie sheet, and bake for 12-14 minutes.

And then you have something very rich and delicious and perfect to enjoy with your favorite tea!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dodging the Ball

I've always hated dodgeball, and my hatred for the sport is split 50/50 between two very serious reasons. The first is the pain one feels when being whipped in the ass by a tight, hard, rubber [IS SHE GONNA TAKE IT THERE? NO SHE ISN’T] ball.  This pain is only justified by a mere half-endorphin of “yes! I hit someone else!” and brings to the surface the fact that the only real win in dodgeball is when you’ve successfully destroyed a human body. Agility, speed, vigilance…yeah right. It’s all about knocking someone da fuk out. And I’m sorry, but I do not want to base my victory on hurting others. 

 The second reason goes a bit deeper, and reaches into the realm of cross-cultural pre-pubescent rejection.  Lol ya hurd this gon be weird.  You know how you remember certain things from your childhood, and you don’t know why you remember those particular things, but you deduce that they must’ve had a serious impact on you? The situation I dealt with in grade five obviously has.  We were playing dodgeball, and my immigrant-induced drive of self preservation was still in full force, so I somehow ended up being the last person standing on my team, going against two people on the opposite team.  I knocked one of the people out, leaving just one: a boy named Javier.  Having recently moved to Canada from Nicaragua, Javier was also on the alert for common social dangers the likes of misunderstanding the symbol for the girls' bathroom leading to an unwelcomed entrance, consequently labelling him a pervert. Javier had dark skin, and pale green eyes. I remember them very well, because at five minutes to the end of gym class, he had backed me into a corner and stood just a few feet away, piercing me with the impetus in their glare. In the left was an eye booger
I remember that moment very well because it was the first time in my life that I felt my femininity threatened by the power of his masculinity. It was a right of passage, in a way.  I remembered what my mom had told me about talking to men. “Women can get by on the smoothness of their words,” she had said.  As he gripped the ball, I slowly curled my face into a smile. “Javier,” I whispered breathlessly à la Marilyn Monroe, “Don’t do it.”  He paused for a micro-second, then whipped the ball at my stomach and walked off, victoriously.  Thus began my journey as a woman.

That said, I was recently invited to play on a dodgeball team, and in keeping with my enthusiasm about team games, I accepted. As I signed up, I briefly thought of Javier. I had flashbacks of the eye booger. I could still smell the combination of fresh gym equipment and sweat.  The night of the first game, I put on a t-shirt with french fries all over it.  In hindsight, what the f was I thinking.

Let me just say: if you think elementary school dodgeball is scary, try it with FULL GROWN MEN. Men who do this for fun every day. Men who wear knee pads just for the purpose of sliding up close enough to land the perfect shot in your kidneys.  The first class was last week, and I’m still shaking.   First of all, everyone on my team is really, really good. They’re excellent throwers, they can duck, they can even do that Michael Jackson thing where you dodge a ball by lifting your pelvis off the ground.  I’m really good at cheering, I think. I’m usually pretty good at repeating what just happened while clapping. “You did that! Woo!”  “It didn’t get you! Awesome!”  "You are still inside the game!"

Although, I’ll have to come up with new material soon, or people will think I’m just being patronizing.

One thing I’m absolutely horrific at is throwing.  I tried throwing in softball a couple of years ago, and people said I was good, so I guess those people weren’t my real friends.  Here, I was  a disaster.  I’m not used to foam balls, and lets just say I’m not used to throwing in order to hurt someone.  I’m more of like a basketball leisurely thrower than a whipper.  They kept yelling “Throw low!” and while I attempted to relay the message to my brain, it, in turn whispered to my arm to create a paper mache swan out of its joints, and well let’s just let it be, dear it said. Seriously. Awful. While others whipped the ball at my legs before I even had a chance to use them, the path of my throw was that of a very precise concave downwards parabola, the formula for which is expressed by a very simple 
y = -x2 + 1, resulting in a very slow trajectory, laden with predictability and shame.  I have drawn a diagram to represent this, where x and y should equal distance and height, but really they represent my opponent’s boredom and my personal embarrassment.

 I throw slow and steady, launching my ball into a very friendly, obtuse, positive climb, followed a monotonous and reflective pause which gives everyone on the opposing team time to eat a sandwich and re-group, followed by a lingering descent calling for a bystander to merely extend their arms to cradle what’s left of my ambitions in a careless afterthought.  What a fail.

Somewhere in the middle of the game, I stopped letting my negativity cloud my focus.  I decided to be fearless, and leapt towards a ball that had been discarded amidst the rubble of the fallen.  I decided this would be my chance at making my mark, this would be for the time Javier rejected my Lolita-esque attempts, this would be me, picking up the ball and whipping it at someone’s legs, like I should.  Instead, it was me, bending down to pick up the ball with the agility of a newborn elephant, and upon rising, getting slammed in the face by the opponents' sphere of evil. It hit me so fast, I didn’t even realize what was happening, except I was holding a blue ball, and what hit me was a yellow ball, so I mainly just saw green. Who even gets hit in the face? Apparently that has never happened to anyone on the team, so of course, it’s written in the official rules of dodgeball that on my first attempt, it would happen to me.  It hit me in the nose, and for a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe. Then I was all:

The absolute worst of that is when people flock to you, asking if you’re okay.  If you were okay before, having people worry about you just makes you feel like this is something to be worried about, so you tell them you’re okay and then proceed to bawl your eyes out.  But no, not I.  I gathered myself and in a very cool way, reclined at the wall.  “I’m gonna take a breather, dudes” I said.  Or something equally cool and nonchalant.  And then, when no one was looking, I casually walked out of the gym, walked into the girls bathroom (it was a public school…I know- way to relive all of those fears again), dabbed a tissue on my throbbing nose, and cried three tears. I counted them, because I wanted to make sure I was accountable for each and every one.  You know what, though, it did really, really hurt.  You know what hurt worse though? The fact that on that particular night, for that particular game, I had chosen to wear that damn t-shirt with french fries on it, so I literally could not have looked any more lame.  Hey guyze I like frize! Asshole. Fries do not belong in serious athletic environments.

Anyway, I then told myself to stop being a pansy, and walked back onto the court.  The rest of the game proceeded with mediocrity (at best) on my part, interspersed with my inner monologue of “I am never doing this again!”  but luckily ended on the note of my decision to keep going.  I told myself I would push myself this year, and here I am, pushing myself – out of my comfort zone, and possibly out of what it means to be a woman. I don't need you, Javier.