August 2nd, 2007

Tom Lehrer is Smug

bits and pieces: 10-hour work days make the baby eye twitch

000. My right upper eyelid loves to have happy moments of twitching spasms whenever I'm not looking. Does it for 10 seconds or so maybe twice a day. When it happens, the eyelid also re-opens a wee bit slower than the left eye, which doesn't appear to want to misbehave for the time being. Now as far as I see it, there are 3 possible diagnoses: 1. vitamin deficiency, 2. stress caused by working 10-hour days for the past few weeks with little relief in sight, or 3. the first signs of a dehabilitating neurological disorder which will result in an early yet well-foreseen death.

I'm putting my money on #2, myself (he says, drinking his vegetables and eating his pills.)

001. We live in a culture of memento mori. It's true, it's true, and it's not even all that encouraging. Currently one of the more popular travel-related franchises is the "1000 Places To See Before You Die": The books are abundant in the Travel section of your favorite bigboxbookstore, there's Page-A-Day calendars and probably a series on one of the Discoverytravelhistory Channels though I haven't noticed anything during my infrequent perusal of What's On.

Sure, the title is just shorthand for "Check out all these super-cool places all around the world!" but it brings in this concept of "do it all before you die" and that's a pretty horrid one when you come right down to it. I'm reasonably certain some do find it inspirational, and there's probably been more than one travel-minded individual who has been compelled to visit the Hagia Sophia or Angkor Wat after reading the books and their lives are all the more enriched for it, but to the more cynical (and less financially secure) of the voices in my head, the title and series concept takes on a dour, nyah-nyah attitude. It seems to say "Check out all these super-cool places all around the world that, honestly, let's face it, you won't really be able to experience in person in one lifetime. I mean, good luck doing that, friend, but really, just enjoy the pretty pictures and lovely writeups and try not to think that they'll still be around long after you're gone."

We've all, at one point or another, written up a List of Things We Want To Do, compiling a personal set of life goals which, depending on one's imagination and age at the time of writing, can range from the short-term ("pass Trigonometry", "get on TV", "touch a boob") to the long-term ("learn to fly a helicopter", "write a novel") to the fanciful pipe dreams ("travel to the moon", "make a million dollars", "see the inner workings of Big Ben", "be the guy who draws the Lotto numbers every night on TV [see #5, 'Get on TV'.]")

Quite often those Life Plans include travel and lots of it: the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, the abandoned Washington Street subway tunnel that goes under Boylston Street Station. But those plans and goals are ones drawn up by You, the Life Plan Drawer-Upper. They're personal and that's what makes them important to you. Do you really need a book or a Page-A-Day calendar to not only serve up What You Need To Do With Your Life in one fell swoop but also remind you that ding ding, there's a deadline? No dice, book!

I guess I should see this for what it is: a collection of suggestions masquerading as imperatives, and continue to just go around, doing my thing, and finding myself wherever I find myself (and not in the Finding Oneself sense, either. The solution to that philosophical conundrum is simple: Popeye said "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam"; Frank Zappa said "You know what you are? You are what you is.")

010. I finally had pho for the First Time Again last night. Previous abortive attempts have included a visit to my favorite Pho restaurant only to find it'd closed in the year since I was gone and a visit Le's, the former Pho Pasteur in Harvard Square, where I discovered that there was just no more good in the taste of the stuff. I couldn't figure out whether or not to chalk that up to continued psychological disturbance from the last time I'd had pho in the throes of a major panic attack, or to the fact that I'd heard Le's quality had been in steady decline recently. I'm glad to report that while it may have been a combination of the two, the latter theory holds more weight.

I visited the Pho Pasteur in Chinatown, which is no longer affiliated with Mr. Le's chain of Vietnamese restaurants (and whose name prompted Le to change his chain's name.) Hadn't been in a long time; I remember visiting Pho Hoa and The Other One On Beach Street most recently. Turns out to not have suffered as Le's has.

The smell of the soup was just right. It was boiling hot. The broth itself was just like I remembered liking, and the noodles were right. I put in just the right amount of sriracha and hoisin, and enjoyed. (The beef was overcooked right from the start; I fear shabu has taken over the raw-beef-in-boiling-deliciousness crown.) I knew I had enjoyed it when, halfway through, I just sat over the bowl with an incredible sense of well-being. There was the good. It was that feeling which I always sought from the soup and maybe it's just the sriracha dancing the fandango with the endorphins, who knows, but I'm glad I found it somewhere again, especially near the bottom of the bowl where all the good bits in the broth like to hide.

At any rate, I'm not ready to have the stuff every single week, but I'm glad to know I can if I want.