Helloooo Kitty!

Sometimes I get assignments that reaffirm how much I love my job. And sometimes, I get to write a Hello Kitty fan fiction blog post that will put all of those other times to shame.

Yup!

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Berlin

Germans! I salute you.

Every time I travel, there is one defining moment that drives the point home for me: I am somewhere I’ve never been before, somewhere that is unlike any other place in time. In some cases, it’s immediate, like landing in Iceland and seeing the alien moonscape of the land beneath an eerie neon deep blue sky. At other times, it takes a few days, like when I stepped out of a Tube station in London and looked straight up at Big Ben (which was renamed the Elizabeth Tower during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, btw… but good luck getting us Americans to call it that!).

Earlier this month, I flew to Berlin and then Edinburgh. Although I had a short list of must-haves for each city, my true goals would have appalled a type-A traveler. I was really there to relax, take enough pictures to make cool albums on Facebook, try new foods, and soak up precious face-time with good friends who are usually far, far away.

Doorway between Berlins.

My defining moment for Berlin came about 36 hours after I arrived at my friend M’s apartment. I’d spent most of my first full day there sleeping off an incredible wine-filled dinner at Katz Orange, followed by countless smoky scotches at a bar with an entire wall of seating that looked like high school bleachers. Sometime between scotch numbers 3 and 4, I was happily climbing all over those bleachers, hanging upside down on them, and squealing in pure delight.

When I woke up at about 4pm the next day, I crawled from M’s bedroom (I had weaseled my way in by saying I had to tell her pillow something important when M got up at a normal human hour in the morning) into the living room where she and E (my travel buddy for the Berlin portion of the trip) were curled up in blankets on the couch watching an entire season’s worth of Awkward and munching from three platters and one paper sack filled with croissants, rolls, German cold cuts, cheeses, sliced fruits, and bottles of wine and juice.

Breakfast in Bed.

“It’s the Breakfast in Bed,” M said.

“She ordered it while you were sleeping,” E added.

Good god, I loved them both so much! I’ll spare you full details of how I ate (“very much” and “with my hands and face” are probably descriptive enough). My defining moment for Berlin was seeing that spread, so European, and knowing it was delivered to M’s door. It felt familiar and yet foreign because of little touches like the neat packets of Nutella included with the condiments, as a staple instead of a special request, or the slices of headcheese, wonderfully translucent and studded with multi-colored specks of meat like some savory version of fruitcake, arranged on a platter with the other cold cuts like it was no big deal. And it wasn’t a big deal. Because I was in Berlin!

Warrior pose.

Lest you think I’m a depraved individual who spent the whole trip either drunk or hungover (not that I can disprove that statement), E and I did kick into tourist mode with trips to the Bauhaus Museum (incredible), an underground tunnel (where I fell in love with an interactive light installation) to see the Victory Column up close, Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Panoramapunkt, the East Side Gallery, Museum Island (where we chased off whiny gypsies with our New Yorker ‘tude), Berliner Dom, and the interactive DDR Museum (insane shit show, but fun enough that it was worth it).

We learned how to speak German, or rather, the Germans learned how to speak us. E and I would tack “platz” onto the end of most words and repeat what we were saying aggressively until the locals gave in. Success-platz!! Along the way, we ate currywurst, kebabs from Mustafa’s (worth the wait, especially after I realized I could openly drink a bottle of Malbec while on line), proper English fry-ups at East London, and really great sausage pizza at the Fab Berlin office.

Pop that Berliner Dom Perignon.

Pop that Berliner Dom Perignon.

Our last night together, the three of us indulged in an eight-course tasting menu at Horvath with the requisite too-many bottles of wine. I’d love to describe the two restaurant meals more fully, but for now, I’m still digesting everything we experienced. It’s safe to say that I enjoyed Berlin very much, and may just be persuaded by M to return in the summer when there’s hillside karaoke and a city full of strangers to embarrass myself in front of.

For now, I’ll say auf wiedersehen (platz!) and save the tale of Edinburgh (with two more amazing friends) for another day.

The Grapes of Wrath

Every time I order from my local Chinese take out place (which is often, I have a fried chicken wing addiction) they include a free can of grape soda.

I’ve tried asking them not to. I don’t drink soda that often and when I do, it’s never sugary florescent purple stuff. But when I say “no grape soda,” they somehow think I’m ordering grape soda. And when that happens, I get two cans: one I pay for and one that they insist on giving me. They must really think I love that stuff.

Which, of course, must be why they get so confused on the rare occasions they understand I’m saying no grape soda. They get so sad. “NO grapesodaaa?” And I feel like I’ve wronged them. So of course, the first time that happened, I relented. My words echo in my mind to this day. “Oh no, it’s ok, you can give me the grape soda.” And then the nice old man on the phone laughed as if we’d shared some sort of private joke.

That should’ve given me a hint of what was to come. The next time I tried to request no grape soda, desperately, he recognized my voice and he understood me. God help me, he understood the words I said, but he laughed off my request like some cosmically funny inside joke that the two of us had created together. “Ah yes, ‘no’ grape soda,” he said with a wink that I could hear over the phone.

Nooooo! I screamed (in my head). “I mean it, no grape soda.” “Ok, ok,” he replied, sounding tired of “our” joke but committed to humoring me. When I got my order, I knew what I would find. A pristine, frosty cartoon purple can tucked to one side of my greasy bag of food.

Desperate and running out of fridge space (because I guiltily stored every can I got), I tried a new tactic. I started ordering gingerale. I was hopeful that they’d match the free soda to the one I ordered. But no. More grape soda.

At this point I’d run out of shelf space. I was starting to stack bright purple cans on top of each other, to fit in the fridge. I started offering them to people. This destroyed both friendships and my foodie cred. How could I be offering this stuff to people?

The truth was, I didn’t know what else to do. I had tried every possible way of refusing them, short of throwing the cans at the innocent delivery man when he brought my order. So one day, I gave in and did this.

Might as well start enjoying them however I can. Olé!

Viva La Mama!

Greetings, Chan-fans! I have a treat to make up for my month-long disappearance: a visit from Mama Channypants.

So, my cute lil nugget of a mom dropped by last weekend. She started from Connecticut on a Chinatown bus which broke down about 1 hour away from the city, and called me to say that she might be a few hours late since they were waiting for a replacement bus to come pick them up. I could hear a siren in the background, and she explained that the highway patrol was trying to decide whether he was protecting them from oncoming traffic or giving the driver a ticket. The passengers all yelled in confused Chinese and rustled their bright red plastic bags full of chicken bones until he backed off. Smart man. In a fit of defiance, however, he warned them not to get off the bus or he’d be back to give them a ticket. Then he drove off.

My mom shrugged (yes, I heard her) and hung up without saying goodbye. Normally, I’d still be speaking to empty air for another minute before noticing, but this time I needed to maximize every extra moment I got. See, I was panic-cleaning my apartment to prepare for the judgement-eyes. My mom is so good at cleaning that all the surfaces sparkle like in those bleach commercials. I knew I wouldn’t impress her, but I wanted to at least get the place up to a level that wouldn’t, you know, make her worried about what I was doing with my life. Anyhoo, I felt guilty about thinking of the bus breakdown as a minor deus ex machina in the very boring drama of my life, but I assuaged it slightly by using big words.

After another hour, I’d dusted everything I could think of, swept, done dishes and succeeded in coaxing sparkles out of two very small surfaces. The rest stayed stubbornly matte no matter how hard I scrubbed. It’s a mystery. The phone rang again, and again it was my mom. The replacement bus was nowhere to be found, the passengers had mostly fallen into naps of despair, yet she had somehow located a friend who just happened to be driving into the city along the same exact highway on which she was stranded (I have never met anybody else with the kind of amazing luck that both my parents exhibit on a regular basis). Meanwhile, the bus driver tried to stop her from exiting the bus because he had taken the patrolman’s instructions to stay very literally. I guess he didn’t expect her to bum rush him, jump into a getaway vehicle and immediate begin speeding towards Chinatown (allegedly). Laughing about her escapade, she informed me that we could meet in 40 minutes. Of course, she hung up before I could explain how the subway worked in Brooklyn on a Sunday.

After we met, the rest of the day was uneventful. We bought a ton of veggies, salmon and steak and went back to my place to cook. Dinner with my mom was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. She has this amazing recipe for salmon that blows people away. We just chatted, made fun of my dad, prank-called him (don’t worry, he’s a good sport), then hung up without saying goodbye (it IS fun being on the other side of that), and ate for hours. You want to know what came a close second to dinner though? When my mom looked around, nodded slowly, and said, “Not bad.” I think one of the surfaces that agreed to sparkle was in her line of sight. Yesss!

Well, That Was Fast and Fab!

This week’s post is about me. Yes yes, I know everybody wants to read more about the mama and the papa. Geez. They’re not even online and they’ve taken over my blog!

Anyhoo, new year, new job! I just started at Fab.com as a copywriter, and it really is as amazing as it seems. If you don’t know the site yet, sign up for a free account. We have a constantly updated roster of artists and cool brands who offer special sales on our site. I’m really debating if I should just ask for my salary to come in the form of store credit.

Funny enough, I was hellbent on staying independent at the end of last year. In a few short weeks, I built a ton of momentum for freelance writing and branding work. It was exciting to indulge in being a workaholic and know that all of my efforts were entirely for myself.

But you know what they say. Love finds you when you’re not looking. Apparently, that applies to jobs as well as relationships. During my daily Fab break (I was serious about the store credit for salary), I did a quick check of their job postings and fell over. After 6 months of hardcore obsessing over this company (have you signed up yet?), they listed a description that was exactly what I wanted as the next step in my career. I can’t even remember writing my cover letter. I think it was basically heavy panting over how much I adored them. It might have counted as sexual harassment if they didn’t like it, but fate was on my side. They reciprocated my feelings, wrote back in 5 minutes flat and allowed me to gush all over them.

My first week has only strengthened my feeling that this is magically right. I am surrounded by smart, driven people who achieve great things in and out of the office. We treat the designers and artists with a ton of respect because we love what they create for the world. That generosity of spirit extends to the way customers and employees are treated, too. I’m just so excited to be part of a company that is out to spread beauty and smiles through the land. This is love.

Happy New Year, My Dears

I bid adieu to 2011 with a huge sigh of relief. Everyone I asked seemed to feel the same way. It’ll take some time before I fully process all the things that got packed into one tiny year, but I already know that I have been changed. There were extreme highs and lows, pushing me to grow immensely as a person and as a creative. Now I want to take what I’ve learned and put it to good use by building and creating things that will make the world a better place. It’s not a resolution, it’s more a philosophy for leading an amazing life. I want to live like I understand what an insane miracle it is to be alive, and I want to honor that gift with my actions. Entering 2012, it feels like I’m a few steps closer to that goal.