Oh my goll, y’all! (Although I should probably say, “Dios mio!” [With appropriate accents and the inverted exclamation at the beginning if I knew how to make that happen here.]) For those of you who also studied at the Spanish Language School (La Escuela Espanola) at Middelebury in the summer of 2008, I have some thrilling news: I just returned from drinking coffee at….Ruta Maya!
As I mentioned in a previous post, since arriving in Austin, I had already visited one of the sites frequently mentioned in our textbook (Punto y Aparte) that summer, Tesoros Trading Company, and had been super-excited then. Well, that same group of friends who we read about in every chapter also spent an insane amount of time at Ruta Maya Cafe, where they met for coffee, live music, and dancing, as well as to discuss contemporary issues of dating, world politics, and environmental concerns in order to provide us (the eager Spanish language students) with a broad range of new vocabulary terms from which to draw in our daily writing and speaking exercises.
While those of you of you never had the privilege of delving into the romantic entanglements and twenty-something life concerns of these friends might not feel the same excitement at actually entering the location of your textbook dreams, you can probably at least find some interest in knowing that this is a highly intriguing coffee shop, that also functions as a music venue, chess club location, and yoga studio. [In fact, when I walked in this morning, the morning yoga class was just ending, so in the middle of the floor, right next to tables filled with coffee drinkers and sidling up to the later-evening bar, were tens of people flat on their yoga mats, meditating in the dark.]
This coffee shop helped me pin down the theme of this post, as the expression “out there” in it’s various forms certainly ties together my last 24 or so hours in town.
out there [colloquialism/slang]:
- as in, “putting yourself” out there, an expression describing the act of ‘going for it;’ striking up conversations with ‘strangers;’ unabashedly taking every opportunity to encounter new people; attempting to network, make connections, and meet people without regard to appearing intrusive or strange; feigning confidence in new social situations even if you don’t really have it
- as in, “getting” out there, often used similarly to (1), and usually in terms of re-entering/entering the dating scene; however, also could be used to signify exploring new places, new locations, getting outside of your ‘bubble’
- slang adjective used to describe a quirky, unique, perhaps slightly bizarre individual who does not fit into a traditional or accepted social mold; also can be used to describe strange or unusual situations, often involving said individuals
This morning involved putting myself out there, getting out there, and interacting with a rather out there individual.
First of all, the entire reason I was at Ruta Maya in the first place was because, after meeting a girl who had come to look at our apartment to move in and striking up a great conversation/feeling something akin to potential friendship, I decided to invite her to meet up for fro yo or coffee in order to perhaps start on the road to acquaintanceship (if not friendship). I realized I could come across as a total “friend stalker,” but whatever. New place, new people. Go for it.
Secondly, as I moseyed up to the counter upon arrival, the (incredibly attractive, I should point out) barista behind the counter engaged in this exchange:
Him: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Just trying to decide if I should do something crazy or not?”
Him: “Crazy is always the best choice.”
Me: (In my current state of confessing my life story to whomever is around to listen) “Well, I’m not sure I can get any crazier than having just moved across the country.”
This led, naturally, to a very brief discussion of where I came from and how long I had been in town. Despite the fact that I cursed myself for having come straight from the gym and not showered and “fancied myself up a bit,” he gave me my coffee on the house! In this town, putting yourself out there has its rewards.
As I proceeded to snap numerous photos of my coffee on this incredibly cool table, while waiting for my potential new friend to arrive, a rather “out there” guy came over and asked me what I was shooting with. Since I really don’t know anything about how to use my camera, I looked like quite an idiot, but apparently red hair and a smile win you a lot in this town. His name was David, and he had long braided pigtails, a button down shirt with a pack of Camels sticking out, and my grandmother probably would have had some insightful things to say about him were she people-watching in the mall. I, however, ended up following him around the corner of the building where “the background was better” so that he could take my picture.
Did I for a split second think I might just become the story that the latest episode of Law & Order: SVU was based on (despite their claim that none of the episodes are based on real-life events…yeah.right.)? Yes. Did I let him grab my camera out of my hands and leave my bag sitting alone on the bench anyway? Of course I did. And I am still alive. I now have made the acquaintance of David, who plays chess at Ruta Maya on weeknights and who knows of “very interesting natural sites” in which to practice photography. [Don't worry, Mom, I don't want to meet Christopher Meloni badly enough to follow a stranger to these places.]
My second “out there” encounter occurred on a melon-buying spree at Newflower.
The melons are so sweet and ripe right now, that you walk around the produce section and it is like you have entered a department store and rather than being attacked by perfume spray, the shopgirls are infusing the air with melon extract. Or something like that.
As I was picking out a honeydew (or two), an older gentleman walked up and commented that he knew something was ripe over here because of the fragrance. Luckily, unlike this morning, I knew it wasn’t me smelling so ripe, since I had taken a shower before shopping, and I made some offhand remark akin to, “Don’t you just love the summer produce?”
His response: “Fresh melons are better than sex.”
And then he walked away.
Perhaps because he looked like he could have been my grandfather, I found this incredibly amusing and not at all strange or creepy. But perhaps, in retrospect, it should have made it more so? All I thought of, instead, was, “Goll, I love this town.”
Putting myself out there and getting out there led me to a spontaneous (and delicious) lunch at Crave, a Thai and sushi bar/restaurant near UT. I forgot to take a picture of the outside of the restaurant (probably because it was doing that awful misty rain thing where you just can’t quite figure out whether to open up your umbrella or if it is even worth it), but I did take pictures of delicious food!
This was delicious, but y’all know that Sarah’s stomach + fried food = unpleasantness, so I only had one piece…I focused instead of this:
Spicy Sake Don: spicy salmon, salmon sashimi, avocado, cucumber, scallions and tempura flakes, with a spicy mayo drizzle…all over a HUGE bed of rice. I definitely attacked the salmon like a champ, but left most of the rice behind, preferring instead to concentrate on the pickled ginger, which is really the whole reason I eat sushi in the first place.
Shockingly, I was in a Thai restaurant and did not order Tom Yum Soup [gasps from the audience]! Luckily, a small cup of (fabulous) miso soup came with the Spicy Sake Don.
Best question from my lunching companion: “If you were suddenly required to cook a three-course dinner for someone, what would you make?” Oh my goll, I had no idea. What would you make?
The “getting out there” festivities continued as last night was Book Club. I did something uncharacteristic (and therefore a little out there…for me anyway) and simply re-made a dish I had already made before!
That would be the Green Apple & Pear Tomatillo Salsa I had made last weekend for my friend Kathleen’s Summer Solstice Housewarming. Since I had leftover ingredients (chronic overbuyers, raise your hands), and I am trying to make a conscious effort not to be left with excessive food that goes to waste and/or gets pushed aside for years (literally), I decided it would be OK to not wow everyone with an entirely new creation. After all, they would still like and accept me even if I simply pulled a half open jar of peanut butter and brought that along with 7 spoons. [Actually, that's not a bad idea for next week....] I did add a little extra apple and a little less onion this time, and it turned out much more beautiful than before since my pear was not as overripe, and rather perfectly ripe and pretty.
I served it with the new obsession in my life…
Blue Ginger Multi-Grain Brown Rice Chips in Black Sesame & Sea Salt, produced by Ming Tsai…
…whose endearing smile on the back of the package just makes you want to trust the yum factor of these chips.
I do not know if you can tell, but I mutilated the package when opening them because I was so eager to eat ‘em up. Happily (or perhaps detrimentally), they came in a SUPERSIZE GINORMOUS package, as I bought them from the grand-mama (I’m pretty sure she’s a woman) of bulk stores:
Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, Costco, the biggest ‘time suck’ in the world of me. I think I spent a good 90 minutes in there, wandering the aisles, picking up products and putting them back, marveling at the size of containers of Mango Nectar and black olives available for purchase…at one point I had not one, not two, but FOUR different bags of chips in my cart. I finally narrowed it down to two:
Both just happened to be in the “sample rotation” that day, and not only did the Blue Ginger ones taste better, when I compared the ingredient lists, I was much happier to note the shorter, whole grain (rice, oats, corn)-based content of Ming Tsai’s creations. [Not that he actually manufactures them himself, but I like to think he spreads a little "famous chef love" on them before they are packaged. Allow me my disillusions, please.]
Also, you can eat 33 of the chips in one serving. Done, and done. [But they are addictive. Oh my goll, y'all...be careful.]
If you are wondering, I was able to restrain myself immeasurably at Costco. I didn’t even buy a huge cup of their nonfat frozen yogurt, which is part of the reason I even go to Costco in the first place. I was unable to resist the incredibly large bag of ground golden flax seed (with scoop inside!)…
…nor the double-pack of insanely large jars of hearts of palm. [Hearts of palm...be still my stomach (and heart)*.]
*Yes, I just made myself laugh with that one.
That was a long transgression, but I could probably talk about Costco adventures in multiple, extensive posts, and then I would lose any blog-readers that are still hanging on, despite the rambling tendencies of my mind and writing.
Back to Book Club, which, although is not necessarily “out there,” it is a Book Club where I have yet to discuss an actual book (OK, not true, we talked about books last night, but not ones that we were communally reading), and instead have learned a lot about yoga through actual demonstrations in the middle of the living room….so perhaps it is a little out of the ordinary, although that’s what makes it great.
Also great? The food…
(That would be a lovely salad dressed in champagne vinaigrette, featuring cantaloupe and pine nuts…as well as Shannon’s Pesto Lasagna: Two Ways…one veg-friendly with mushrooms, and the other made with prosciutto. Both incredibly delicious, made only more so by the crispy Pecorino Romano blend topping!)