Friday, September 30, 2011

Men In Pink

I've heard a friend speak a few times about gender roles, and how you get assigned yours at birth. No one asks, no one waits until you're a little older; they wipe off all the birth gunk, look between your legs, and decide, "Yup, you're a boy."

Or a girl.

Whichever parts you happen to have.

I first heard her discuss this over the summer, and I didn't really give it much thought until I ran into some pretty rigidly defined gender roles maybe a week or two later. See, Jeannie had a baby over the summer, and named her Violet. I decided that I was going to find some adorable violet baby clothes for her, and discovered over the course of a weekend that adorable violet baby clothes are pretty damn hard to come by. You can get a lot of pink, a lot of blue, and then if you really hunt some minty green, lemon chiffon yellow, and slightly-off white, but there's very little of that. For the most part, there's just an endless selection of blue and pink, over and over and over.

I discovered yesterday that it doesn't really change much when you get older.

Today's football game, being the first home game in October, is also the Pink Out Neyland Stadium event for Breast Cancer Awareness month, and participants were asked to wear something pink. I have to wear my white polo, since I'm working, so I needed a long sleeved pink shirt to wear under it. I already have pink shirts, because I need something to wear on Wednesdays, but they're short sleeved, so I headed to Wal-Mart to look for something cheap.

My friend Sandy suggested Wal-Mart, but said I should just get a women's pink t-shirt there. I balked, because I don't know if women's sizes are the same as men, I don't know if women's shirts have extra space up front for breasts and I worried about walking around with droopy extra fabric all bunched up there, but I figured it would at least be a good place to start. I was kind of wrong, in that I paced and paced and paced the men's department for several minutes and couldn't find pink anything. I must have looked suspicious, or they suddenly have a customer service philosophy, because eventually a sales associate came over and asked to help me.

"Yes, I'm looking for a long sleeved pink shirt, a button-down or a long sleeved polo or, you know, even a t-shirt is fine."

"Well, if it's for a lady, the women's department is over..."

"No, I need one in men's sizes."

Blank stare.

"For me."

"Oh. A pink shirt? For you? No, we don't have anything like that here."

Wow. Thanks for not shooting me.

Annoyed, I drove across the street to Target, where I had a similar experience and decided to just cut to the chase.

"The women's department is right over..."

"I'm gay."

"Oh. Well, um, maybe back by the summer stuff."

Yes, I know that straight guys also wear pink, and that I did a horrible job of breaking down gender roles by reinforcing homophobic stereotypes instead, but you know what? I needed a pink shirt, damn it, and I was already irritated by my Wal-Mart shopping experience. And then on top of all of that Target didn't have one.

But I found a nice Izod one at the mall, and it was on sale:

pink shirt

I was all set for the game, but the Pink Out Neyland event kind of turned out to be a bust. Very few people wore pink, although I did see a small group:

pink out neyland

and some random stragglers, but that might also be because very few people came to the game at all. It's fall break right now, so the students are all gone. Plus we played Buffalo, which isn't even in our conference, and we're favored to come out 30 points ahead. It can't really be that much of a surprise that this was projected to be the lowest attended game in the last 20 years.

It looked fun, though:

pride of the southland

tennessee flag

running kick

And I did get a couple of compliments on my pink shirt.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Ruins

In May of 2010, I took my camera for a walk around our off campus apartment complex. The university had just closed it, since it had aged out of usefulness, and over the past few months a construction company has been slowly demolishing it to make way for new athletic fields.

They've gotten pretty far along:

toward the former office

neighborhood(less) watch

but there's a lot of wreckage:

long view of the building piles

double sink with wreckage

sink and faucet

broken bathtub

toilet and lid

balcony and railing

and a few walls left standing:

wall, stairs, balcony, railing

I drive past the deconstruction every day on my way home, and it's been interesting to watch the buildings slowly come down. When I took that walk last year I thought about how odd it was to think that within a year or two everything I was seeing would be gone, knocked down and carted away as if it was never there, but it's somehow stranger to witness it happening. Our lives are so often stories of things that are gone, things that we've lost, and places and people that no longer are, but there's something unsettling about watching a place that is become a place that was.

What does it tell us about ourselves?

There are people who gather at demolitions to watch the destruction. Every time I see a news clip about an old Vegas casino coming down (this used to happen with steady regularity before the recession; now I think they just bake and crumble in the sun instead) there was always a glimpse of a crowd pressed up against the police tape, cameras in hand, waiting for the building to implode in on itself and drop out of sight like a twenty-story magic trick. Why were those people there? What did they get out of it? Were they memorializing? Bearing witness? Did they find some sort of value in being one of the last people to see the Stardust, or is it more that they found value in watching it come down? A sense that an icon may fall, but they survived?

I'm not suggesting that our off campus apartments were icons, but, like the Biltmore Tourist Court sign or the Knoxville Art Bears, they are a part of our community's shared history, however small. For the past few weeks, as I've seen more and more of the rubble disappear each night as I drive past, I've felt like someone should at least take note of the process even though I'm not sure why.

chair amid the rubble

Maybe it's just the sense that no one will ever see this again, and someday somebody might want to.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Peppered Scones with Pear and Goat Cheese

Back when Borders was collapsing, I picked up this cookbook about "savory baking" off of the clearance rack. With the store closing discount added to the clearance rack discount it came to a dollar, which was more than low enough to pass my cookbook purchasing test. See, I flip through a cookbook at the store, and if I can find one recipe I want to make for each dollar that the cookbook costs, then I will seriously consider purchasing it. So far it's been a pretty safe and reliable rule, other than the breadmaking disaster, and even though I'm not really a baker I decided to give this a try.

Now I think I might make scones every weekend.

Seriously, these are better than the dense, crumbling scones at Starbucks. I am like a master sconemaker now, although, as always, I was filled with doubt.

I decided to make the peppered scones with pear and goat cheese, because I like scones, I like goat cheese, and I don't actively dislike pears. I also had most of the ingredients on hand, and really only had to pick up the perishables (a pear, whole milk, unsalted butter, goat cheese, and plain yogurt) at Kroger. The only thing I had trouble with was the plain yogurt, which apparently only comes in huge vats. I had no idea what I would do with a half gallon of yogurt, so I ended up getting a cup of vanilla flavor, which seemed plain enough.

The first thing I had to do was cube a stick of butter. I did it as fast as possible, and then put the bowl of cubes back in the refrigerator, because the recipe specified that the butter needed to be as cold as possible. Then I set the oven to preheat, and got to work coring, peeling, and dicing a pear:


I guess pears aren't in season right now, or people just don't eat them anymore, because those were the only pears they had at Kroger in the regular produce section. There were several varieties of pears in the expensive, organically raised section, but I was already buying a log of goat cheese, and peeling the pear probably takes off most of the pesticide, anyway.

(That opinion is based on my gut feeling, not on actual science.)

While the recipe specified that the butter should be in half inch cubes, it didn't mention what size dice the pear should be. I thought to myself, "How big a chunk of pear do I want to bite into while eating this scone?" and diced accordingly:

diced pear

I know. My dicing is not even. I have poor knife skills, but I'm not a professional chef, ok?

After dicing the pear, I cubed the goat cheese into "walnut sized pieces" and then put the cheese and the pear in the refrigerator. The recipe didn't say to do that, but since I was going to mix it all together I had this idea in my head that the butter would stay colder until baking if there were other cold ingredients in the dough.

After that, I mixed the dry ingredients: salt, pepper, sugar, baking powder, and flour. As I could have predicted, I ended up with flour everywhere even though I was trying to be careful:

mixing dry ingredients

and then I added in the cubes of butter.

Then I was instructed to break up the butter cubes with my hands until the dough crumbled into pea-sized lumps. Wait, with my hands? I don't like getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. Maybe I could fish the butter chunks out, and then cut them into smaller pieces? Or make the dough with a potato masher? Then I remembered some show on the Food Network explaining once that you mix the dough with your hands because the heat of your hands will melt the butter a little, but not all the way, so I stuck my hands in and started crushing butter.

I immediately got butter and flour under my nails, and was disgusted, but I kept working until the dough crumbled:

crumbling in butter

Then I folded in the pear and goat cheese, and then folded in the milk and yogurt:


I might as well not even have bothered cleaning up the flour after I mixed the dry ingredients. I even had dough on the camera. Using a serving spoon and my hands, I broke the dough into six pieces, piled them on my baking sheet, and brushed them with milk:

unbaked scones

"Brushed" is a subjective term. The milk wouldn't stick to the silicone brush I tried to use, so I ended up more or less slopping some milk on them and hoping for the best.

My hopes appeared rewarded a half hour later (time that I spent cleaning the countertop):

baked scones

Not only were my scones lightly golden, but they looked shockingly like the scones in the book:

comparing scones

And they are delicious. They're light and fluffy, and there's a little bit of bite from the pepper mixed with a little bit of sweet from the pear. I'm already thinking that I could probably follow the same recipe with a diced apple and cheddar cheese and maybe even some bacon, and I've already eaten three of these for dinner even though it only makes six.

It's ok if I eat them all, because I'll probably be making scones again next weekend.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Like most people, I use the bathroom during the day.

Usually I do after lunch, but sometimes before. My schedule isn't really the important point here, though. Instead, I'm writing this to salute someone's achievement, to fling it out into cyberspace where it may or may not live forever, a lasting reminder to echo down the ages.

Someone is Ozymandias, King of kings, and wishes that you would look on his works, ye Mighty, and despair.


Not that Ozymandias. I was referencing the poem by Shelley, in response to the towering achievement that I witnessed today in the bathroom.

See, a few times a semester some poor custodian who makes minimum wage working all night after the offices have closed for the day spends hours scrubbing down the stalls in the men's rooms on my floor at work, removing all record of who's gay, who I should call for a good time, and what other names I can call the police, the president, rival athletic teams and schools, and the people who work at various offices around campus.

That time must have been fairly recent, because I noticed this inside the stall yesterday:

1st one

Congratulations, nameless Sharpee user.

I hope your accomplishment fills you with pride.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rainy Weekend

It's been raining for over 24 hours, but I've tried not to let it interfere with my plans for the weekend too much. Except for my plan to do laundry yesterday, because I haven't wanted to carry a basket of clothes through the rain to the laundry room, and it's too hard to juggle an umbrella and a full laundry basket. We're not into laundry danger territory yet, but in a few more days my reluctance to carry laundry through the rain may greatly lessen.

The weekend didn't start rainy. Saturday was actually sunny and hot when I got to campus for football:

pride of the southland drum

Before we'd even gotten to kickoff, though, for our first home game of the season, disaster struck:

downpour at gate 4

I guess they still play football in the rain, as long as there is no lightning, but if there is lightning then we have to clear the stadium until a half hour after the last lightning or thunder. Evacuating a hundred thousand people is surprisingly smooth and well orchestrated, and we usually send them to the basketball arena to ride out the storm, but this time it happened so fast that we let people stay in the gate areas:


Even with rain blowing in it was still dryer than being outside.

Eventually the lightning subsided and the game resumed, but I left after the end of the first quarter. I love the University and all, but I'm not sitting through rainy football just to prove it.

Sunday I didn't really do anything, other than read a book, watch a movie, play video games, and go to the store. It was a great day, except for the continued inability of the Kroger baggers to not mix hot food and cold food even though I very deliberately split them up on the conveyor belt at the register every single time. If they weren't cheaper than Food City I really might consider switching grocery stores, but I guess the low prices are the tradeoff I make for rage-inducing bagging.

This morning I had to go in to work for a minute.


Because sometimes I do. For no specific reason. And I don't want to say anything else about it, except that my plan for after work was to go walk down the Greenway by the Henley Street Bridge to see about taking some pictures. Although it was pouring, I took an umbrella and went anyway.

The Henley Street Bridge is one of three that connects Knoxville and South Knoxville, and is the one that I used to drive over every week to go to the comic store. Here it is in January 2010:

henley street bridge arches

and here it is now, from almost the same angle:

henley street bridge reconstruction (13)

Pretty much the entire bridge is gone. The arches are still intact:

henley street bridge reconstruction (5)

henley street bridge reconstruction (6)

henley street bridge reconstruction (9)

but the roadway is completely gone, and the renovation and reconstruction is supposed to take two more years. In the meantime, there's a whole bunch of grey concrete, which looks even grayer in the pouring rain, and the whole thing has a kind of destroyed castle/post-apocolyptic feel.

henley street bridge reconstruction (4)

henley street bridge reconstruction (3)

It reminds me of pictures that you see of the bombed out parts of Europe after World War II; there's a lot of wreckage, and it's clear that a lot of things are gone, but the shapes of familiar things remain:

henley street bridge reconstruction (7)

henley street bridge reconstruction (8)

henley street bridge reconstruction (10)

henley street bridge reconstruction (11)

I also think I need to take more photo walks in the rain, even if it is hard to use a camera and an umbrella at the same time. It's peacful and quiet, and the pictures all end up with a streaky, grainy quality that I think I like.