Greetings from Boise!
Dread and breakfast
AirBnB: I don’t think I would do it again unless it was a house or condo specifically purchased and made up for guests where no one lives regularly. There is something really weird about staying in the home of strangers who just happen to be away. I don’t even sleep in my friends’ beds. I don’t even stay with my family when I visit them. Not that I wouldn’t sleep in my friends’ beds or my family’s beds. But like Goldilocks, the bed of a stranger would likely not be the one that feels “just right.”
There are upsides to AirBnB. You can get something pretty spectacular for less money than a hotel. We stayed in this amazing and huge house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle (I found it on Zillow for a “Make Me Move” price of $1.6 million). It had several bedrooms, a sweeping staircase, a piano (out of tune), a huge kitchen/family room combo, interestingly appointed living and dining rooms. And a big, lovely bed and bedroom (bathroom outlets not working) with a deck — that was the best part. There were strict instructions not to go into the wife’s closet (no problem there).
I went to do laundry and noticed the wife had left some of her and their child’s clothes in the washing machine, including a white thong. After I washed my things I put their garments back in the washing machine. Which is weird, I know, but AirBnB is weird. The odder thing happened when I was on the floor getting something out of my suitcase. I noticed an empty wine glass under the bed. So bizarre! And then I spent a good 10 minutes trying to decide what to do about it. Just put it in the dishwasher? Leave it there? Was it a guest-trap — like, if I hadn’t been looking under their bed I would not have seen it? In another flourish of overthinking I decided to leave it there. It might still be there haunting new guests for all I know.
There were French doors in one of the other bedrooms that I didn’t notice were thrown wide open (maybe to air out the place for our stay?) until the end of our visit. I closed that but not without overthinking it. I tried to stay out of sight of the neighbors for the most part — I got a few looks while watering the couple’s legion of plants. I was surprised that even in a huge house you could hear the voice of the little kid next door echoing through the house in the morning in a disembodied howl. Come to find out…the neighbors didn’t have a child at all.
In the end I left the couple a stellar review and the husband did the same for us. My general awkwardness probably says way more about me than AirBnB, but I think it helps to know if you’re even slightly neurotic AirBnB might not be for you.
Jenn Sutkowski thinks even weirder than AirBnB is being expected to make conversation with strangers before coffee — RegularBnB. Spooky.
This Full Frontal column appears originally in the Newport Mercury.
When I was young there was a moment I realized I had to decide how to feel about other women — beautiful women, especially. Would I do that default thing so many of my friends did and tear other women down for being beautiful? Or could I recognize their beauty and celebrate it for what it was? I knew which way felt better and I made a conscious effort not to hate other women because I was jealous of their beauty. It is one of the first practices I added on my own.
I knew what I didn’t believe. Other women were not beasts because they were beautiful. Neither were their lives perfect. I remember being jealous of a new girl because she was exotic looking and attractive to boys. My father ignorantly tried to make me feel better by denigrating her heritage and elevating our own Polish-American ethnicity. I knew that wasn’t right, either. There is so much bad information circulating around being a young woman, what that means, and it’s all very confusing. I also had a friend who was telling me that because I had magazine pages of models and ladies wearing lots of makeup on my walls I would grow up to be “a hooker” and that meant I would “pay people to have sex with me.” Like I said: bad information.
Being from New Jersey I remember feeling like putting on any amount of makeup was never enough makeup. I would dig into my best friend’s cosmetics drawer that she and her older sister shared and play with all manner of Terracotta bronzers and really bright blushes. I loved it but somehow realized that it never would be enough. And that makeup wasn’t the answer. What if this whole system is total bullshit? I wasn’t sure how to untangle it all but I tried to just back away from thinking makeup really had much to do with anything.
Obviously this isn’t just a New Jersey thing. Feeling no amount of makeup is enough and pitting young women against each other happens everywhere. The good news is if I could manage navigating it by following my inner rudder, and how I wanted to hold my heart when I looked at other people of the same sex, then other people can figure it out, too. Socially there was pressure to look at other women as competition but naturally in my body I knew this was wrong. So we have conscience on our side, in that way. And beauty is not in and of itself evil — it is beautiful. And when your face breaks open to someone, smiling, or to just be, just feel, you have beauty on your side, more so than if you are sneering at another woman.
To say you’re more beautiful when you’re not operating from a place of jealousy and competition is focusing on something way back behind the point. It isn’t about beauty at all. It’s about celebrating other people. And you know what? Your eyes are gorgeous. And now I feel prettier.
Jenn Sutkowski didn’t grow up to be a hooker by her friend’s definition (or by the real definition).
This Full Frontal column appears originally in the Newport Mercury.
SUC at TT the Bear's Place
My Valentine is white and yellow.
My Valentine is sweet and mellow.
My Valentine’s name is Deutsch.
My Valentine’s soft and moist.
My Valentine is oddly not from Idaho.
My Valentine is full ‘o potato.
My Valentine is Pennsylvania Dutch.
My Valentine is cushiony to touch.
My Valentine is made of carbs.
My Valentine’s a culinary czar.
My Valentine is mistaken as Amish.
My Valentine > Nature’s Promise.
Thanks, Stroehmann Dutch Country Premium Potato Bread. We love and salute you.
The blind leading the sighted
“Invisibilia,” the new podcast from creators of “This American Life” and “Radiolab,” recently explored a story about blindness, called “Batman,” in which a blind man inadvertently becomes a champion of the blind. Daniel Kish learned to get around by making clicking sounds with his mouth to create a mind picture of his environment. He can even ride a bicycle. Most blind people, however, are not encouraged to click to explore their surroundings and are instead helped too much, Kish would argue, in part because we live in a litigious society that wants to prevent injury.
Blind people are often discouraged from clicking because it makes the sighted uncomfortable. But a study of Kish’s brain shows the parts that register vision light up when things are waved in front of him. Please forgive my layperson’s description. The point is Kish, through training, has a certain type of vision that any blind person’s brain could develop, according to experts on the show. It “looks” similar to our peripheral vision. The brain responds to learning where things are through sound and the more a person learns this the more he or she can “see,” if you will, in what sounds very much like the mind’s eye. This is why Kish can ride a bike. It’s no party trick.
The show goes on to discuss how hard it is to give blind people this training because it requires allowing children to run into poles and the like. Our first instinct is always going to be to pull a blind loved one back from a busy street, even if he or she can hear it. Love makes us reach out to help and, as such, love is the very thing that can also shackle a person to a life of needing assistance. If we don’t give people a chance to fail, and all that, they might not succeed to the furthest degree of their potential.
I’m the first person to admit a desire to control in order to protect. This story makes me want to be better about that. Let my loved ones develop their own senses instead of pulling them back from the brink. Let them run into poles. It’s hard, though. But the other piece of the big picture to which this story points is that we are so very adaptable. It’s a total cliche at this point to say we only use a fraction of our brains. But when you hear a story like this, about a blind man riding a bicycle, it makes you wonder just how much of our brains we could use if we, ahem, put our minds to it. In what ways might we be able to expand by learning more? Maybe this is why the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Our brains would love something new.
So one of our challenges is how can we expand? And how can we let go to let others expand as well? I’m pretty sure we can surprise the hell out of ourselves. Let’s take it past the end of our noses, the end of our streets, the end of our belief systems.
Jenn Sutkowski is going off-road to explore this more. OK, maybe not literally off-road. Baby steps to big thinking.
This Full Frontal column appeared originally in the Newport Mercury.
For the love of fat
Everybody is itchy, hairy, impatient under this winter cast. The snow persists and I am lulled into majestic hibernation. A cozy glow is the wind to my gale, peanuts to my ale, the blubber to my whale. And while we’re on the subject — fat: it’s what’s for winter.
As a woman who grew up in the low-fat, nonfat haze of the ’80s and ’90s I’m glad fat is back (and hopefully back isn’t fat though fat-back is a good stew enhancer). Fat is no longer “wack,” margarine is frowned upon (because it causes the lips to curl downward), raw milk is in, cream’s a dream, and while irony may be the order of many a day, it seems people actually want to be in a good mood these days. Fat will help with that.
I’m not suggesting to go headfirst into the jiggly wiggly pig trough — though be my guest if you please. I’m never one to stand between a person and a feast and I do have a gushy spot in my heart for a fatty sheen, or poetically, at least, the idea of a fatty sheen on a hobo-cooked can of beans with a precious sliver of pork. Which brings me to this: I think we’re in a weird spot culturally. We have a tremendous obesity epidemic, which in some ways is a backlash of Great Depression-era famine beliefs passed down to generations swathed in burger-availability, if you will. The other side of that coin is utter deprivation. And so fat scares us even though we need it for health.
Don’t worry — I lift weights and do a gentle pas-de-deux with that which is fatted. But I’m embracing fat because my body wants it. Butter, whole milk, yes, in moderation, egg yolks, oh precious egg yolks — I break thee with great ceremony and gaze upon thy sunny disposition and do thee the honor you deserve as a could-have-been chunky chicken.
When I was younger I didn’t like duck because of the layer of fat under the skin. Even though a lot of it should be rendered while cooking it is one of the aspects of duck to which I now look most forward. If you can give me some mousse made from its liver I’m even happier. But the power of pure fat is to be understood, respected, savored. But a good slather, a good schmear, is a true temptation.
That little ribbon of translucence at the top of a piece of bacon used to turn me off, too — the crispier and curlier the bacon, the better. But I’ve found over the past year my enjoyment of that morsel has grown. Maybe because I’m getting older the fat is going to lubricate my aging joints. Yeah, that’s it. So bring on the chunk of pork belly at my favorite restaurant. Lamb ribs. And I know it’s trendy but cheers to broth that has been boiled for so long the natural collagen rises to the top and solidifies when it cools.
Fat, I salute you.
Jenn Sutkowski can pump the brakes on fat anytime by watching “The Supersizers Go,” a BBC reality show in which a couple eat copious amounts from various eras seemingly always accompanied by claret. Find her at www.jennsutkowski.com.
This Full Frontal column was originally published Wednesday February 11, 2015 in the Newport Mercury.
Author Andra Watkins says, “Make a Memory is a movement, a challenge to turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did in 2015.”
When Andra asked me about a time I’d made a memory I was moved to share this piece about spending time with my Granny when my Mom was dying. You can read it here.
And now I’m looking for ways to make more memories with people I love. Besides making the memory another sweet thing about this experience is that in writing it down I got to experience it again — the sad and the happy, of course — and now I have it to return to.
Andra’s memoir, Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, has just come out. Somehow she finds the time to launch a book and generously share her website with fellow writers and humans. I guess it’s true when you’re doing what your heart wants you can find seemingly unlimited energy stores.
Additionally, I am so pleased that Andra found me through my guest post on Darcie Cameron’s Belle of the Carnival site! The Internet is a strange and sometimes wonderful place.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.