Keeping it Breezy

Hello, hello! So recently I found myself in a big, chaotic gathering amid a lot of people who don't know me all that well, namely my brother's wedding weekend, and one of these relative strangers, namely his new mother-in-law, said to my new sister-in-law (stay with me here) that she thinks I'm very, and I quote: "laid back and go-with-the-flow."

Wait, what? Who? This Liz?

It was obviously not something I'd heard much before, so I jokingly brought it up to a few people who do know me better and they all...confirmed it. That yes, I am a person with the capacity to be wildly neurotic and controlling but also a person with the capacity to be, as Monica Gellar might say, breezy

breezy monica hottsauce blog funny humor

We all contain multitudes! Who knew? 

This off-hand conversation has led me on a -Trigger Warning for Oprah Language! - personal growth journey. It's interesting to consider how the ways we see ourselves might differ from the way others see us. Perhaps if I can begin to recognize my multitudes, I won't be as hard on myself in those instances when I am well, not breezy. Perhaps I could begin to appreciate myself for the times I do, actually, go with the flow while letting myself off the hook for the times I don't. It's possible that I'm not the uptight control monster I always envisioned but just a layered individual who can, on occasion, be a little tightly wound. 

Though I was, apparently, really leaning into my breezy side while feting the newlyweds a few weeks back (and yes, I'll go ahead and say what you're all thinking, I am making my brother's wedding weekend all about me...I haven't personally grown that much yet), the ensuing weeks have hurled me in the opposite direction and I've felt myself winding tighter and tighter until like a spring, I'm ready to snap. 

I'm not like, hovering on the edge of a breakdown or anything, don't worry, but I am maybe not being the best me I can be.  Thanks to a spicy mix of high pressure work projects, dumb personal life stuff, and this continued knee injury, which has left me unable to run, thus providing me with an extra thing to stress about while effectively wiping out my #1 coping mechanism, I've been feeling like a hot mess express. I need to chill out...and fast.

I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns if you will (I have no idea what that phrase even means) this past weekend and treat myself to a massage, hoping it would loosen some shit up, physically and emotionally. I have only had one massage ever in my life, in Cambodia and I would not say it was a stellar experience. I mean, the masseuse was great but I was, as always a total spaz, and spent the entire time stressing about class issues and thinking about boners. You can read that whole saga riiight here. But desperate times call for desperate measures so I boldly made an appointment for Sunday afternoon at the wellness clinic down the street where I have occasionally visited for acupuncture. I mean! I've been so calm and normal during those appointments, just think of how relaxed I'll be laying there fully nude while a stranger massages my armpits.

Yes, armpits.

Mid-massage the masseuse started going in on that area of fat that hangs over strapless dresses no matter how many half-assed push ups you do (ladies know what I'm talkin' about) and advised that I ask Brian to massage me in the same location. What? I can't. I have, god-willing, 50+ years of keeping the mystery alive here, we are NOT in the armpit massage stage of marriage just yet. 

But the pits weren't even the worst of it. APPARENTLY I am even more tightly wound that I thought and here are all of the places I hold tension: back, hips, ankles, glutes, mid-torso, shoulder blades, neck, pits, and especially forearms. What! How are even my forearms stressed? The masseuse did do something wonderful that made my hands feel all loose and wiggly and then asked me how big my office was. "Big enough!" I replied, thinking he was going to advise me on some stretches. Instead he offered me one takeaway: buy a hot towel warmer from the internet and wrap my forearms in warm towels every time I begin to feel stressed.

Again: no.

LOVE your enthusiasm, bud, but I am never going to purchase and install a hot towel warmer in my office I just don't think that's how the real world works. And as routinely demonstrated, I am so deeply neurotic AT ALL TIMES, this just ends with me fully draped in hot towels like I'm Andre Agassi after a rough match at Wimbledon. 

But, all things considered, the massage was actually great and did help to bust some kinks out of my back and I would for sure do it again. And next time, I might even come prepared with cash!

That's right. Superfans of Ye Olde Hott Sauce will surely recall that I left my first acupuncture experience at this clinic in a total panic after seeing a tip envelope, unsure of the protocol on tipping for these sorts of services. Post massage I dressed and languorously made my way to the front desk only to again be instantly snapped out of my relaxed reverie by the sight of those damn tiny envelopes. Acupuncture is a grey area but massage surely falls under the tippage category of physical services. 

I paid for my appointment with my credit card and, nervously looking around the room, sucked up my pride and in a loud whisper asked the very nice young woman behind the desk "can I ask you an important question?"

"Of course!" she replied politely.

"This is so embarrassing but...are you supposed to tip? For a massage, I mean? I've only ever been to acupuncture and..."

She cut me off with a kind but chastising all the same: "for massage, it is customary. And we do only take tips in cash."

KEWL.

Here's how much cash I had on my person: zero dollars and zero cents. 

I gave a frenzied laugh, yelped "OK I'LL BE RIGHT BACK!", and sprinted out into the day in search of some dolla bills. All along my plan for the afternoon had been to go to the massage and then do my grocery shopping at the big, reasonably priced grocery store three blocks from clinic, in the opposite direction from my apartment. As I came out of the massage place in search of some cash, I decided I didn't want to spend $2.50 on bodega ATM fees, so my best option was to walk to the CVS which is directly next to said grocery store and get some cash back. I should have just done my grocery shopping at this time, but decided it would be too weird to go back to the clinic carrying all of my groceries, so instead I purchased one solitary paper towel roll at CVS and took out $40 cash back and hiked the three blocks - uphill, mind you! - back to the massage place. I know you're thinking that is a very generous tip for one massage and you are right but I wanted to be prepared just in case. You see, I'd never actually tipped for my few acupuncture appointments and decided as long as I was already embarrassing myself, I'd just ask the front desk gal what the protocol was on that front and, if needed, leave some kind of retroactive tip to atone for my sins. 

Formal confirmation for the equally confused: massage = tip. Acupuncture = "considered a medical practice" = no tip. The more you know!

Once again I found myself leaving an appointment intended to help me relax even more stressed than when I first begin. 

Exhausted by it all, I decided I did not have the energy to walk all the way back to the cheap grocery store and instead just visited the smaller, v bougie grocery store a block away from my apartment, effectively cancelling out any and all savings I'd accrued by avoiding bodega ATM fees, and then some. 

Shopping alongside me was a rumpled older gentleman - picture the drunk uncle character on SNL Weekend Update and give him a bushier beard - who was muttering a grouchy monologue throughout his shopping, lamenting the high price of groceries these days, the rents, the pesticides.

"You just can't afford to live in this town anymore!" he groused to his lettuce. "The rents will kill you, if the chemicals don't first," under his breath while pawing through a stack of carrots. Then louder: "FIVE DOLLARS FOR PINEAPPLE, are you fucking kidding me??"

I managed to bob and weave around him as I filled my cart with ingredients for the evening's meal, indulging in plenty of fresh produce and herbs, a new bottle of olive oil. I like to buy nice foods and besides, I was having a bad week. Don't I deserve to treat myself?

I thought I'd lost him until I turned into the cheese aisle and found him having cornered a deli worker beside a stack of fancy Parmesan wheels, ranting about The Cost Of Things These Days.

"You can't even live!" I heard him exclaim. "Look at her! That's a month of my salary in her basket!"

The her he was referring to? Me, of course. I glanced over and there he was, pointing an angry finger in my direction, glowering at my basket piled high with shallots and dill. 

Needless to say, between the tip fiasco and this character, any positive relaxing effects of the massage were very swiftly departing.

I checked every item off my list except the keystone ingredient of my dinner recipe: dried chick peas. I was planning to make this falafel recipe which says in no uncertain terms that one should NOT use canned chickpeas. Dried or GTFO. This fancy-ass grocery story had dried kidney beans and dried peas but nary a dried chick pea in sight. 

I was frustrated, to be sure, but not defeated. I live in New York City, after all! I had two more grocery shopping options within a two block radius: the medium-sized, medium-priced Food Train, and the tiny but well-stocked Asian grocery memorably named The Bad Wife. I decided Food Train was my best bean bet, so I loaded my heavy canvas bags (reduce, reuse, recycle!) onto my rapidly re-tightening shoulders and trudged on over. Again: a wide variety of dried beans but NO CHICKPEAS.

A Garbanzo Goldilocks, I huffed out of the store, took a deep breath, and headed for The Bad Wife. This time, things would be just right.

I wove my way through the narrow aisles and there in front of me, my bounty lay: dried chick peas!  They were a fancy organic brand, rather than the basic Goya I'm familiar with, but who doesn't love organic? GMO free, baby! I grabbed the bag, turned it over, and stopped in my tracks. 

"SIX NINETY-NINE," I barked aloud, "for some dried beans?! Are you fucking kidding me??" 

Sweet mother of pearl, there was a new unhinged grocery shopper in town ... and it was me. 

I flung the beans back on the shelf and sprinted for the comfort of my home, locking the doors behind me and throwing myself on the couch with a dramatic sigh.

"Welcome home, babe!" called Brian from the other room. "How was your relaxing day?"

Great, great, SO GREAT.

And here we are. I think I'm in the home stretch on the work stuff but life loves to throw curve balls so if anyone could recommend some tried and true de-stressing activities that do not involve the following, would you please let me know?

Touching people, being touched, an option to leave a tip, needles, the use of one's knees, drugs, interacting with other human beings in any form, or dried chick peas. 

There's a breezy person inside me, yearning to break free! 

XO

Liz Hott

 

Another Awkward Week: Still Waters Run Deep

OH HI! Does your brain hurt from all the Beyonce/Adele Grammys think pieces you devoured today ...despite not actually watching the Grammys last night?

No?? Um, me either, I worked very hard all day!!

But just in case you do need a bit of a brain break, here is a quick story for your Monday night.

Anyone who spends time with me IRL quickly becomes aware that they are a lucky bitch because I am amazing. 

Ha, just kidding, that's not what I was going to saaay.

Anyone who spends time with me IRL quickly becomes aware that I am obsessed with hydration, to a level bordering on unhinged. I have three glasses of water before I leave the house and usually 8-10 more 16oz bottles by EOD. Every time I pee I check out the scene to monitor the situation and if my urine is not crystal clear by noon I get stressed and slam a few cups of H20 to speed up the process. Once, a year or two ago, I had a UTI, because being a human woman is an EVIL TRAP, and I went to the clinic and peed in the lil cup and the doctor came back and pulled up the test results on the computer and said "I can tell by looking at your results that you are very hydrated," and I blushed and beamed and replied "thank you so much for noticing!" As if she was commenting on my liquid eyeliner application or clean baseboards. 

When I said "bordering on unhinged" I may have meant like, very far beyond unhinged... 

So it should be an obvious no duh by this point that I literally never leave the house without a water bottle. Ever. This means I always have to lug some kind of big bag with me, even if I'm going to like, a club (lol as if) or trendy restaurant (slightly more likely). I would so rather risk a fashion don't than be caught out there dehydrated whilst daintily holding my evening clutch.

A true nightmare scenario.

Why am I telling you all of this TMI about my inner neurosis / urine color? Stay with me. This is alllll helpful background information to have in mind as we *finally* find ourselves at the beginning of my tale.

'Twas a week ago today, around eleven in the AM and I was returning to my office from a doctor's appointment. I was carrying the large leather tote pictured below:

bag of water humor blog I am so bad at naming photos

(Urban Outfitters, under eye circles + empty boxes sold separately).

In said bag, I had packed 3/4 full Nalgene style water bottle branded with my imprint's logo (always be selling!), a hardcover copy of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and my bullet journal + pack of colored markers (just in case I needed to make an urgent to-do list in the waiting room? IDK guys),  along with some assorted nonsense which shall be discussed later. 

I swiped my card through the turnstile, moseyed (obviously sprinted) to a suitable spot on the platform and stood patiently waiting for my train. I was a little thirsty from all the moseying (sprinting), not to mention that I consider any amount of downtime to be a primo opportunity to re-up on the hydraysh, so I reached into my purse and pulled out my water bottle only to discover it was now...empty. 

I plunged my hand back into my purse and like a kid digging a hole to China via the Jersey Shore, I hit water. I must not have screwed on the lit tightly last time I took a public chug! In a panic I began to pull out my important belongings. My wallet...soaked. My book...soaked. My #bujo...miraculously only a tiny bit damp, praise be to you Beyonce, who so should have won Best Album, everyone knows Lemonade was the greatest album of the year / decade, even people who forgot to watch the Grammys! 

And then, my train came.

I had two options. Option one was to pull out all of my stuff, dump the water onto the tracks, cry about my misfortune, and cause a big ol' scene right there in the 23rd Street 1 Train Station. Or I could choose option two, which was to board the train, hold my sopping books in my arms, and ride the four stops back to my office with two inches of water sloshing around my handbag. And then, you know, pull out all my stuff, dump the water into the sink, cry about my misfortune...and cause a big ol' scene right there in the middle of my office.

I chose option two.

Y'all I boarded the train and I carried the water all the way home.

(That  kind of sounds like a gospel song! Carry the water, children. I carry the water, Oh Lord.)

(Pretty sure those are just the lyrics to Wade in the Water but with a lil remix.)

(Enough parenthetical asides, Liz.)

When I got back to the office I carried my water over to the communal kitchen sink, tipped the bag over, and out poured half a liter of water, as though from a lovely pitcher. I assessed the damage. In addition to the above mentioned book and journal, I pulled out 3 half-full travel sized packs of tissues (all obviously ruined), several handfuls of change (unscathed!), one running sock that had been in there since who even knows when (soaked but salvageable), miscellaneous receipts (destroyed),and the real kicker: two very important referral papers handed to me by the doctor I'd visited just before my ill-fated subway purse drowning situation. One of these papers contains notes from my doctor to a physical therapist who I am to see next Monday for the first time. I need to present this piece of paper to the physical therapist so she knows what my issues are. 

My physical issues, that is. No one needs a paper note to see my mental issues, which will be fully apparent when I hand her a crumpled script that is ripped at one corner and bears the texture of an elementary school homemade paper making project gone awry, having once been soaked and then left to dry on the back of my desk chair. I should just call the original doctor and tell them I need a replacement prescription but I don't want them to think I'm irresponsible. For some reason that seems more embarrassing to me than waltzing into the physical therapists office with a ruined piece of garbage.

Where did I say I was on the unhinged scale again? Maybe we should double it.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, I suppose. My most beloved of possessions, the journal, snuck through generally unscathed with just a few bits of runny ink towards the top of some pages, and after a few days to dry out, my copy of The Warmth of Other Suns now looks rather chic. My assistant saw it sitting on my desk all yellowed, sans dustcover (a tragic casualty, RIP dustcover, I hope you had a great life), and exclaimed "wow, what a cool antique book!" I didn't have the heart to tell her it is not, in fact, an antique, but a relatively new book I ruined. She'll find out I'm a hot mess soon enough, but until that day I'll let her - and the world! - think I'm some kind of intellectual savant whose handbag is overflowing with antique literary works, instead of spilled water, wet socks, and garbage.

The joke is definitely on them! 

And by them, I mean me.

Have a grand week, m'dears. Don't forget to hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE and also always check your water bottle lids. 

Peace, Love, and Clear Pee -

Liz Hott 

Nancy Drew and the Missing Necklace

Any devoted reader of this here blog knows I love a good tale of mystery and suspense. I always have. I can recall being 8 or so on a family trip to Florida. My parents took us to a spring training baseball game and I spent the entire 9 (or is it 900?) innings laying on the bleachers, my face deep in the pages of a Nancy Drew novel. Next came Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing Game and soon I was ransacking the public library for any Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my freakishly long, bony mitts upon. To this day I can't scroll past a "13 Novels to Read if You Loved Gone Girl!" listicle without clicking through and buying at least one of the titles suggested, if not the full baker's dozen.

So it fills me with much glee to find myself in the middle of my very own crime caper! 

It all began this summer when I found a skeleton bured beneath the floorboards.  

Just kidding. That would be legitimately terrifying. And also probably more exciting than my actual mystery but you can't pick your hauntings, they pick YOU. 

It actually all began this summer when I decided to jazz up my wardrobe a bit vis a vis some cute artisan jewelery from the online retailer Etsy.com, specifically from a little shop out of Canada (eh!) called Vintage Acorn. My favorite in the bunch was a necklace with a wooden chevron on a long chain, a versatile piece that compliments everything, be it a professional dress at the office or jorts and a tank top at a music festival, as you can see pictured here in exhibit A: 

exhibit A

Photo shared as evidence that a) I owend and wore the necklace in question and b) after years of doubt, it turns off I can totally pull off a summer hat! 

I had this necklace on heavy rotation, sporting it a few days a week until one morning I went to toss it on and found the hook where it usually hangs was bare. I searched all of the usual spots - every single handbag, my gym bag, the pockets of all of my jeans. Nothing. I overturned the couch cushions, crawled under the kitchen table, pulled the dresser from the wall, turned my hamper upsidedown and vigourously shook it and nada! Well, I found dozens of pens, hundreds of bobby pins and enough loose change to put a down payment on a single family home in the suburbs but not the one thing I was looking for: my necklace. 

I was confounded! Where could it be? Our apartment is not that large, there was nowhere else to look. I swore the last place I'd worn it was to a Mets game (where once again, I watched zero seconds of the actual game, oh, how I've grown since childhood), and worried it must have broken on the commute home, lost forever, fated to become construction material for a new rat motel deep in the depths of the NYC subway system. 

A few days later I was meandering down my street when something caught my eye in a little clothes boutique across the way. Curious, I crossed over. And there I saw it, draped around the neck of a headless mannequin in the window: MY FLIMFLAMMIN' NECKLACE!!!

exhibit b

I couldn't believe my own eyes! It looked 100% exactly like my necklace, right down to the gold chain which I sometimes worried was too shiny, but HOW did it end up in that store? Did they break into our house and only walk away with one $15 artisan small batch Etsy necklace? SEEMS DUBIOUS. And yet...

Suddenly memories rushed back to me, like I was that guy in Memento getting over his amensia or whatever. IDK I've never actually seen that movie. I had completely forgotten that after the baseball game, in a low self-esteem frenzy, I had frantically swept through a few stores, on a hunt to find a new dress for a wedding the following weekend. I was going to be seeing a bunch of folks I hadn't seen in years, and thus decided I needed to fully reinvent myself sartiorially and otherwise by spending a lot of money on a new dress I didn't need. (Spoiler alert it did not work and I just wore a dress I already owned and was my usual wine-soaked, weird self, but also now with a $140 Anthropologie dress that I don't even like burning a hole in my bank account. Someone plz remind me to return that before the month is up!)

And then it all made sense. I must have taken off the necklace while in the dressing room and forgotten to put it back on when leaving. It could even have gotten tangled with one of the dresses I'd tried and been mistaken for merchandise. I'm not accusing this store of stealing, per se, but I'd swear on a dogeared copy of Moonlight Becomes Her that was my necklace.  

I sprinted home armed with cold, hard, grainy iPhone photo evidence that the greatest heist of all time was happening right under my very nose. And I was going to crack the case.

The next day I dressed myself in my cofidence outfit - jorts (natch) and a grey t-shirt (double natch) with the word "unapolagetic" emblazoned across the front in black script. The tee is made my a designer and blogger I admire, Jolie Ankrom, a mantra and a reminder to stop apologizing, to be more fearless. 

I took a deep breath and marched into the store and...immediately apolozied. 

"I'm SO sorry, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I can't find my necklace anywhere and I think it's here, in this store? Like, for sale? Over there? SORRY FOR BOTHERING YOU."

I yammered, I stammered. I finally got to my point. She politely (perhaps too politely, covering up her obvious criminal guilt???) opened the cash register to reveal a drawer full of lost jewelery. Was any of it mine?

NO but also all of it was ugly so of course you would hide it an not try to re-sell it. You think you're a criminal master mind? 

I'M ON TO YOU.

Finally I got her to take me over to the manequin and show me the necklace. It did not have a price tag (!) or anything identifying the designer (!!) but she assured me it was store stock - from a shipment that had arrived "Tuesday or Wednesday, I think?"

TUESDAY OR WEDNESAY! That is some pretttty conveninet timing, considering I'd been in on Sunday. 

Nothing was adding up but, what was I to do? I realized I had one card left to play, to demand to see their invoices, proving they'd actually purchased the necklace. Nancy Drew so would've done it, and probably uncovered some document forging in the process. But I folded.  Maybe if it was my wedding ring or some priceless family heirloom I would have pushed for it, but I decided that a $15 Etsy necklace, cute as it may be, was perhaps not worth launching a full-on slander attack and criminal investigation of a lovely local botique.

I apologized, again, for taking up her time and slunk out of the store, defeated. It was then that I realized my "confidence shirt," the one with the bold UNAPOLOGETIC slogan had been inside outthe whole time. GOOD GRIEF. I mean, what would you do if a deranged woman marched into your store with her clothes on the wrong way and started stuttering about stolen jewelry? I'm lucky she didn't call the cops on ME! 

When I got home, I did a little more searching and convinced myself that my life as a crimefighter was over, I'd just lost my necklace myself, case closed. 

BUT! The next day I couldn't help crossing by on that side of the street, just out of curiosity and when I came to the window, the necklace was gone! They still had the same outfit on display but they'd changed out the necklace. Every single other manequin was dressed exactly the same, accessories and all, the one and only thing amiss was a new necklace, in place of the one I suspected to be mine.

COINCIDENCE? Ok, probably yes. 

ORRRRR, I was right the whole time! They are running a largescale crime ring, re-selling the jewels left behind by flaky neighborhood ladies making frenzied shopping sprees after consuming a few too many gigantic beers at Mets Stadium. It's genius! Right under our noses like that, who would suspect a thing?? 

They were getting away with it but I got too close. They saw me sniffing around and knew the product was hot and they needed to get rid of the evidence, and fast. 

But I'll get the last laugh. If I've learned anything from a lifetime of consuming mysteries it is that no crime can stay buried forever. I can wait. I live right across the street and have no hobbies and plenty of time on my hands and soon enough they'll slip up and oh, the case will be finally closed. 

In the meantime, I'll be keeping my detective skillz polished by hiring out my investigative services. Any takers? If interested, email me anytime, no case is too big, too small,  or too clearly imaginary for me! 

Sincerely Yours,

Liz HottSauce, P.I.