Monday, November 21, 2011

Brunching Hard.

When I moved to the mile high city a little over a year ago, I was the farthest thing from a brunch person. Coming from Seattle I was accustomed to grabbing a quick Starbucks coffee and a bagel (or a pumpkin loaf, if I was feeling wild) to go each and every day of the week. Maybe it was the great sense of urgency I felt living there, the constant state of rush, the hurry up and get it done mentality - but rarely did I ever find myself sitting down to eat my first meal of the day, weekend or not.

Denver though, is different. There must be something in the air here that causes people to slow their roll, embrace their hangover and show their faces in public for multiple hours over an eggs benedict and a bloody mary any given day of the week. And as hard as it was to get used to in the beginning- the mid-morning socializing, the fact that my body now rejects coffee as a hangover cure and only permits vodka, as well as coming to terms with looking heinous whilst being out in public in morning- I, after a year here have become quite the brunch connoisseur.

I knew I had made it as in the big leagues not too long ago when I realized that I was able to break brunch down into four categories, all of which I or someone that I am close to has had first hand experience with.

The First: "Rally The Troops" Brunch

It's Saturday morning. 9:30 am. There's three people asleep in your living room and your best friend is passed out next to you fully clothed wearing her boots and cross body purse. You hear people moving around in the kitchen and you know it's time. You call the neighbors with your eyes still closed and beg them to bring you coffee. They refuse. Vodka is coming out of your eyeballs and you begin to get the feeling of impending doom. "If i don't get to brunch right now, I just may not make it" you think to yourself. An hour and nine haggard friends later - you find yourself at an oversized circular table ordering rounds of water, diet cokes and a make it or break it bloody mary. Your waitress hates you all because she's equally as hungover but has it much worse than you do because she's working on a Saturday morning. You hate her because she won't split up the bill. You find yourself inhaling your meal and the meal of the person next to you, only to feel worse than ever before. But the gossip from the previous night keeps your spirits high and you order another bloody. "what the hell else? it's Saturday and we're at brunch" you think. Three hours and six rounds later you're back where you started- in your house, wanting nothing more then to be horizontal, for the rest of your life. It was a successful morning, now you must sleep and regain your strength to hit the town for the second night in a row.

The Second: "This is how we do it in Denver" Brunch

Recently my cousins came to visit me from guess where? Seattle. And in planning out our weekend together and their first time to D-Town, I made sure to put two brunches on the weekend itinerary. When family or friends come and you're trying to impress them - you must take matters seriously and make a reservation somewhere. In this case, I reserved a table for five at a local favorite. We would never dare hit up this place on any old Sunday, as the line is always out the door and when you're hungover the last thing you want to do is sit and stare at people chowing down on french toast, likewise i'm pretty sure the last thing that they want to do, is watch you try to keep your shit together while waiting in line. Anyways, this is the type of brunch where you show off the local cuisine and you say things like "Oh my gosh, the crab cake benedict is to die for!" or "you must try their french press coffee, it's outstanding". Regardless of whether you're feeling hungover or not, you keep it together for the sake of you visitors. You limit yourself to one mimosa - you've got the Coors brewery tour next anyways, and you order mini scones as a pre-brunch snack. "Everyone in Denver goes to brunch" you tell them, and Monday morning you get a text from one of them that reads "my bagel just didn't cut it this morning." Right?! because that's how we DO it in Denver.

The Third: "Why Am I Sitting Across From You Right Now" Brunch

Not too long ago at a "Rally the Troops" brunch, I was enjoying my third trip to the bloody mary bar when a guy walked in followed by a girl that was clearly in her clothes from the night before. "Sucks to be her" we all said as we watched them awkwardly converse and try to stuff down food as quick as possible. "Why do you think she agreed to go to brunch?" we pondered, then we spent the next hour playing the guessing game on what they were talking about and feeling really bad for the poor girl who was in stiletto's and sparkly top. I guess the only thing to say next here is Karma is a bitch, because recently I found myself in a similar situation. Our paths crossed during a day of drinking and football, too much of both actually. Had I actually brunched before we went to a bar to drink and watch the football game, maybe I wouldn't have found myself spending far too much time with a guy who was wearing a camo hat that said "gut deer?" on it. Why "gut deer?" you ask? He went to school in Montana, he can't help it. Not to mention there's something about camouflage that unfortunately, gets me every gdamn time. So there I was, ten am at a bar drinking a bloody mary and breaking bread with this guy. He was wearing the "gut deer?" hat. I was wearing a scarlet letter and my clothes from the night before, wondering how many people in the bar were placing bets on what our conversation was about. It was a nice gesture, to buy my brunch I mean. He really did not have to do that, and in retrospect I most definitely did not have to accept his invitation. But somehow, the experience shed a whole new light on this aspect of brunching. Thus - I am forever indebted to "gut deer?" and though he actually refused to give me his hat at the end of our 24 hour date, I doubt I will ever forget him and if anything, at least now I know what people talk about during these type of brunches.

The Last and Very Well Respected: Date Brunch

Contrary to the third type of brunch, people here in Denver do actually date over brunch. Take for example, my friend Jenny who went on a brunch date not too long ago herself. A reservation is definitely needed in these instances, as is looking presentable and not smelling like day old booze. She met him at a conference, and being the doctor that he is, mornings worked best with his schedule. Thus, the brunch and the first and last of it's kind for those two. Though I was initially really perplexed by his early morning date offer, I now have come to the realization that morning dates may be the best kind. I mean, it's bright outside, there's natural light and you see things and people for what they really are, nothing is hidden by dimly lit corners, sexy candlelight or red wine. Also, your brain is freshest in the morning, making conversation easier and giving you the potential to seem smarter then you actually are. I've seen them before, these so called brunch dates. Two people, dressed cute yet casual, laughing and sharing a frittata and a seared egg sandwich, discussing their jobs, their dreams, their lives. They always look happy and for the most part genuinely interested in each other, and though I have yet to go on a brunch date of this kind - I get the appeal. And though it did not work out for Jenny and the shorty doctor that she met mid-conference in Kansas, I appreciate the change up and her attempt at early morning, completely sober conversation.

In conclusion, perhaps the best part about brunching is the fact that you're surrounded by people that all fall into one of these four categories. Someone is being rowdy in a corner, someone is showing off, another person is trying desperately to hide their face and that couple in the corner is falling in love over cappuccino's. And as a connoisseur now, I would have to say that being in one of these categories sure beats the hell out of getting a luke warm coffee, a half-toasted bagel, and a simple "good morning" on your daily Starbucks run. And that's how it's done in Denver.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Color Blocking.

3 Boys Who Said They'd Love Me Forever.

The Latin Lover
I was 16 and had been chosen as a delegate from my hometown to attend a international leadership conference in Washington D.C. the summer before my junior year of high school. I had been to both the city and statewide versions of the conference and while spending a week sans parents in the Nation's capital sounded fairly enticing- I couldn't imagine giving up an entire week of my summer with my friends and the 19 crushes I was pursuing at that time. After quite a few back and forth arguments with my mom, I agreed to take part in this "resume builder" and got on my first solo plane ride across the country.
It was just after the opening ceremony on the first night during one of many 'dances' at the conference, that I spotted him. "Umm that guy is staring at you" Dana from Georgia said as I returned the favor and flashed him my best sixteen year old version of a geisha glare. He was standing across the room surrounded by a posse of Puma wearing, dark haired and brown skinned friends, just staring at me. I guess you could say it was love at first sight and despite the extremely difficult language barrier, we spent the rest of the week wrapped up in each other's company. His name was Alfredo and he was a soccer player from Mexico, sent by his own school to better his English and represent his country. Alfredo and I spent hours together, post-conference sessions, just being together. I would watch him school his buddies in soccer and he would listen to me intently as I desperately tried to explain to him what fettucini alfredo is and why his name was so funny to me. At the end of our seven days in D.C. we had one final formal dance. Alfredo showed up at my door with flowers and a TY beanie baby dog, asking to escort me to the event. "He loves you, I can see it in those eyes" my roommate Shira from Israel said.
And, well it turns out he did. Or at least he said he did. That night Alfredo and I danced 'til dawn, we stayed up until my early morning flight in the dorm hallway holding hands, kissing and trying to make sense of our whirlwind romance and the deep feelings that had come from it. Upon my return home, I had 17 love interests waiting to be pursued and the flame that burned between Alfredo and I faded with time. He frequently expressed his feelings for me via AIM for months after the conference and I often times led him to believe that I still felt the same, though I really had no intention of trying to make an international relationship work, especially before Skype was even on anyone's radar.
Alfredo called me the summer after I graduated college, proving two things. One - yes, I still have the same phone number that I did when I was 16. And two, I found myself thinking that his love really was endless- that when he said he would never stop loving me, he meant it. It was endearing and made me feel needed, unforgettable even. That is, until last year when I hadn't heard from him in a while. I had been going through a dry spell and needed a little positive affirmation that I was still on someones (anyones) mind, so I bit the bullet and reached out to Alfredo via Facebook just to say hi, see how he was and to maybe check to see if the love was still there.  I dont exactly know what I was expecting him to say, after all- it had been years.  I guess I should have seen it coming when to my dismay, Alfredo wrote me back a four line message only to say that he was seeing someone new, they were in love and that he wished me a nice life. Right...he really let me down easy that Alfredo, and that was when I told myself that the language barrier we once encountered as love struck high schoolers, still existed.

The High School not-so Sweetheart
I met Dan at youth group during high school. Being the party loving jock that he was, i'm fairly certain his parents forced him to go every Wednesday and even more so- forced him to attend the spring break mission trip to Tijuana. We were in the same housing group in Mexico and became infatuated with each other while building a home for a family of four that greatly needed one. It was real love that we created while spending nights talking in the courtyard at the orphanage where we were staying. I say it was real because at the time, I had cornrows and neither of us had showered for the better part of a week. We were vulnerable, broken by the reality of the circumstances around us, we were open to the experience, to emotion and to each other. I loved the way he interacted with the kids at the building site and he loved watching me try to hammer something together, most always failing. We became inseparable that week and upon our return home, immediately began dating. Time passed, and unfortunately Mexico became a mere memory, the feelings became harder to conjure and with the pressures of modern day high school we began to encounter problems that any typical high school couple faces on the reg. He would drink and make out with other girls, I would drink and send him hate/breakup text messages, only to get back together with him days later. We struggled daily to get back to the place where we had started, to the realness we felt in Mexico and one rainy night we met in a parking lot, both knowing full well what was coming. We sat in my green Jetta and sighed as we both finally accepted the inevitable - it was over, we were done. And as he got out of my car to head home he said "I love you and always will". It was the first time he had ever said those words in such a way and for a moment I saw a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, that glimmer was short lived and I don't know why exactly I was the least bit surprised to hear that he had sucked face with some hussy that night at a party only hours after our break up and his confession of love, while I most definitely was simultaneously drowning my sorrows in a bucket of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream and a chick flick on my couch.
I went away to college soon after that and though our communication was sparse, it still existed at times. That is-until I got word that he had a new girlfriend, quit drinking and became the committed boyfriend that I had always wanted him to be. Dan sent me his personal statement to edit one day during my first semester at college, signing the email "can you edit this for me? love ya girl" and I edit it I did - rewriting everything and fixing the thousand or so grammatical errors found on the first page alone. I mailed it back to him, including a personal statement of my own, and never heard from him again. It's been six years since then and while I sometimes wonder where he ended up or who he loves now, I mostly just wonder if he used the personal statement that I wrote for him to get into his dream school.

The One That Went Away.
"You're going to be an actress someday Miss America" he used to say to me when we were riding through the orchards and hop vines in his white pick up truck. "You show all of your emotion through your eyes" he'd say smiling at me from the drivers side, chewing on his ever present toothpick. I would giggle and ask him if we could stop to pick an apple before heading home. Summertime was our time. Every year, my parents would drive me the three hours to my grandparents farm in central Washington only to leave me there for weeks at a time. It was during these summer visits that my grandpa taught me everything about life and it was during those life lessons, that I loved him the most.   He calmed me, he brought me back down to earth and he showed me that shared silence is powerful and more importantly, okay. We would drive through the hills, monitoring the harvest and sharing our favorite- peanut butter and honey sandwiches in complete silence. He would stop at the lake so I could run out my energy, then we'd head to his bird sanctuary to check on the soon to be hatched eggs before returning home for dinner. We would watch TV together, and plan out my life.   
Though we were close, my grandfather rarely told me he loved me, or anyone for that matter really. As much of a softy as he was, he had a hard time expressing his feelings and was very intentional when he did. When he got sick we made the all too familiar trek to the farm to visit him in the hospital. True to form, he made me laugh as I walked in the door, making faces at me and smiling through the tube that was placed down his throat. He communicated at that time through writing on a white board that was on the nightstand in his hospital room and while I was visiting we would play tic tac toe and draw pictures of the freaky nurse that was tending to him. But it was on the last day of my visit, just before I left that I told him how much I loved him and that I would see him soon. He then grabbed his mini white board and wrote "I love you always Miss America".
Weeks later, I gave the eulogy at his funeral. A young girl shaking at the microphone, I spoke to friends, workers and our extremely large family, reminding them of all the incredible attributes my grandfather possessed. Losing him was like losing a piece of myself, and I always wonder if he'd be proud of me today, if still thinks I should be an actress and if he could still read my emotion through my eyes.

*Though these three boys don't talk to me anymore by choice or by circumstance, they are all still very much a part of me. Whether they think of me on a random day and care what I am doing or not, or whether they even remember the time in their lives that they loved me, I remember them. Our timing may have been off or cut short, but at one time they made me happy and at one time they told me exactly the exact words that I needed to hear.