Thursday, October 25, 2007

Time Capsule

When I was younger, I always thought it would be fun to bury a box full of mementos -- photographs, trinkets, letters, whatever -- and then dig it up several years later and spend a day surrounded by nostalgic memories. It all seemed very romantic. Anyway, I never did it. (One major reason being that, unlike in the movies, there were no rolling fields near me where I could bury said treasure box without worrying that some condominiums were going to be built on top of it within a couple years!) But, last week, I unexpectedly had a time capsule thrown into my arms. Actually, there were four. And it was my apartment they were thrown into.

The story goes something like this: when I graduated from college four and a half years ago, I had to pack up my life. I gave away a lot of things, threw away some, shipped several boxes home and took 4 suitcases on the plane with me (yes, I paid a fortune in excess baggage). And then there were the four boxes I packed and left with family friends in Boston.

Cut to 4.5 years later (last week) and the boxes arrive by UPS at my little apartment. I circled them for quite a while, trying to remember what I could have possibly put in there that I didn't miss at all for nearly 5 years. Then, I finally opened them.

Random sampling of the contents:
-large stuffed Tweety Bird
-music box that plays the Pink Panther theme
-Tiffany address book with silver pen
-Ferragamo black pumps
-wrapping paper with "Gift from Rhea" printed on it
-a bag full of stationary
-Mont Blanc business case
-leopard print fur jacket
-photographs from when I was disturbingly thin, photographs from home, photographs from Hong Kong...
...and a bunch of other "stuff."

The great thing about it all was that I didn't remember that I'd packed any of it, barely remembered that I owned any of it, but the minute I saw each thing, I knew how I'd come by it. What was baffling (and also interesting) was pondering over why I'd shipped some really random stuff several thousand miles so that I'd have access to it almost immediately while some of these other things got packed away for several years.. For instance, I took a lot of photos home with me. Yet, I left about 12 albums in one of the stored boxes. Why?? I took back shoes I'd bought at Marks & Sparks. Yet, I left a pair of FERRAGAMOS in a box!! Seriously, why??

Okay, so the experience wasn't quite the romantic scenario I had pictured. I didn't have my treasure box, dug up from some field under some tree after 20 years. But, hey, I live in an urban jungle in the 21st century. Chances are that time capsules will arrive via UPS from someone's basement where they were unearthed during a bout of spring cleaning. But the surprise is still fun. And the nostalgia's still strong.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wanted: Dead or Alive

You know what freaks me out whenever I pause to think about it? The idea that there are monsters out and about in the world who routinely abuse living creatures.. like the unknown a**hole from this story:

The city of Paterson and animal welfare activists are searching for the culprit who burned a 3-month-old puppy that was found wandering in city traffic earlier today.

The poor little thing is in critical condition and *might* make it. I saw it on TV, with its big brown eyes and long Hush Puppy ears and it made me cry.

I realize in the grand scheme of things -- i.e. the number of people dying in Iraq or having their human rights violated in Sudan -- one burnt puppy might seem like an odd thing to be so mad about (and I'm seething). But, quite apart from my insane love of dogs, I'm horrified by the implications of the situation. I mean, what kind of human being scalds a 3-month-old puppy to within an inch of its life? And do we want that kind of psycho out on the streets among us? This is a person who abuses the most innocent, the most helpless. This is a predator.

What breaks my heart is that, unlike with humans, there's no way to explain to the little canine why he's in so much pain or why someone would treat him like that. Ugh, human beings can be such bastards.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Foodie Review: Perilla

So, I'm totally addicted to the Bravo show Top Chef. Which, perhaps, isn't so surprising given I'm a self-professed foodie (my Zagat guide is highlighted, scribbled in and peppered with colorful tabs). Sadly, the third season just ended. Happily, I could still look forward to trying Perilla, season one's winner Harold Dieterle's West Village restaurant.

Apart from being pretty distracted for the few months since the restaurant opened, I wanted to try it once the hype had died down and the kinks had been worked out. So, about a week ago, a friend and I went. My first impression was positive. We had no reservations, so I walked in and asked for a table for two. The hostess was friendly and said it was no problem -- indeed the restaurant was only about half full at 8pm on a Sunday night. I sat at the bar for a little while and took in the room. Casual and unfussy, the room has a warm glow that suggests a neighborhood spot rather than the brainchild of a semi-celebrity chef.

The menu is manageable -- just about 8 appetizers and 8 entrees. I had read Frank Bruni's review in the New York Times and so was eager to try the much-lauded spicy duck meatballs appetizer. E wanted the same thing. Our server was informed and pleasant -- but, when the appetizers arrived, I was mildly annoyed that he had failed to mention that there were 6 meatballs per plate, which means E and I could have easily shared since we wanted the same thing anyway. Instead, we had 12 meatballs between us and neither of us is a big eater. The dish itself was good, though I was slightly disappointed, having expected a little more of a kick given that the meatballs were supposed to be "spicy" as per the name. The meat was tender and the quail egg on top gave it an interesting flavor, but on the whole, I thought (and E concurred) the dish fell a wee bit flat. Perhaps they should just rename it.

For entrees, E opted for a fluke and bokchoy special while I got the sauteed skate wing with pastrami, cabbage and warm mustard sauce, which our server asserted was "such a fun, whimsical dish." The skate was well-cooked and tasty and I quite enjoyed the mustard sauce. However, I'm not convinced the pastrami melded well into the dish. As anybody who's sampled the meat at Katz's or Carnegie can tell you, pastrami has an extremely strong and distinctive taste -- and it was a little overwhelming next to the mild white fish. E's dish married flavors better, but she confessed that she thought it merely good rather than great.

Which is probably a good description of my overall impression of the food at Perilla: good, not great. Even the dessert -- we ordered a fairly safe dark chocolate tart with peppermint ice cream -- was executed well and tasted fine, but I wouldn't necessarily order it again. Still, I suspect the restaurant might have some staying power -- it's good value for money and it's a laidback, friendly place. If I lived in the neighborhood, it's conceivable I'd go back to Perilla. But I can say with some confidence that I wouldn't make a special trip again.

"Visa Issues"

Now don't get me wrong: I'm proud to be Indian. Without question. The only thing that irks me (if I ignore the rampant poverty, corrupt politicians and widespread bureaucratic inefficiency) are the limitations of having an Indian passport. The tediousness of submitting paperwork for visas to travel to practically every country in the world, the annoying assumption on the part of foreign border control officers that if you're Indian, you must be trying to immigrate, the complications involved in working abroad.. it's frustrating to say the least.

The good news is, I might have found a solution to the ubiquitous "H1B issue." From a website for employment in commercial Alaskan fisheries (nevermind how I got there):

The Alaska International Employer Worker Program exists so that ANY ONE can obtain VISA'S & proper documentation to work in the Alaska fisheries. Alaska is the only state to offer this, and is the easiest way for foreigners to secure employment in the U.S. legally. All that you'll need is an "OFFICIAL LETTER OF EMPLOYMENT" / PETITION from a Captain or Hiring Manager in Alaska. With over 12,000 confirmed backdoor industry contacts to mass-hire recruitment centers provided by a unique list of Alaska Employment Sites, in our Job Guide, all that is needed is a quick phone call and filled-in application.
Now, why didn't I think of this before?!?

Apparently, if you're an "able-bodied individual and are eager to work for potentially high rewards" this just might be the job for you!

Able-bodied? Check.
Eager for high rewards? Hell yeah!

I'd be making that "quick phone call" this minute myself if it weren't for the one teeny detail that's a deal-breaker (and no, it's not the inevitable stench of fish) -- it's A-L-A-S-K-A. With that level of cold, the rewards need to be a damn sight better than "potential."