Y’all know I’m obsessed with the OJ Simpson story and trial and believe it is America in microcosm. So when Friend Liz surprised me with a personalized video message from KATO KAELIN you can bet I totally lost my mind, collapsed into a heap of laughter, tears and delight on the sidewalk, and made so much of a ruckus that my neighbor came rushing out thinking I needed an ambulance.
I’ve arrived. An LA coffee shop is selling a new sandwich — the “Elise Hu.” So exciting!
They’re made by the local sammie startup, Wax Paper Sandwich Company, and feature radish, miso butter, preserved lemon vinaigrette and dill, on Bub and Grandma’s baguettes.
That it’s a vegetarian sandwich with radishes is clear evidence that they don’t know me at all! Comments from my friends ranged from, “You’re more like a muffaleta, something that’s more of a hodge podge of ingredients and flavor explosion!” to “You look like you’re miso butter on the outside, but you’re all roast beef dipped in au jus on the inside,” to Liz Taylor’s spot-on take:
On one hand, I’m thrilled to have a sandwich and be able to tell people to “Eat me,” because, how fun. The Elise Hu sold out today in ten minutes, I’m told.
But damn, I’d like to be a totally different sandwich. I’d like to be Texas BBQ brisket sandwiched between two scallion pancakes, you know? That would be more on point.
I was grousing about this at tennis yesterday and my friend Drew goes, “This is a Curb [Your Enthusiasm] episode.” And lo and behold, it actually is!
At his favorite deli, Leo’s, the owner, Leo has named a sandwich after him but Larry is disgusted by the contents: onions, capers, white fish, sable and cream cheese. He tries to get Ted Danson to switch sandwiches with him but he is unwilling to do it.
The “Elise Hu” came out along with a chorizo-filled sandwich named the “Anthony Kuhn,” after the current NPR Seoul bureau chief, who succeeded me on the Korea/Japan patch. I wonder if Anthony and I could trade?
Columbia, Missouri is vintage shops and cheese-laden appetizers and the state’s flagship university columns at dusk. It’s downtown streets no wider than a driveway. It’s ice cream shops with so many yarn dolls as decor that the ones that aren’t on display are “sleeping” in an extra fridge. It’s hair stylists from Utica.
I called Columbia home for only a blink of time, so few semesters that I really only remember the final one, and the summer that followed it which my tribe refers to as “the lost summer.” It was wedged in between a time of school responsibility and work responsibility. For that summer, there was neither. I never have spent a summer like that since.
You do get to go home again, and ideally it’s under the circumstances I went back this weekend, as a sage advice-giver type. The new dean, David Kurpius, asked me to be the commencement speaker for the Missouri School of Journalism’s May graduating Class of 2019.
My remarks focused on things I’ve learned in the 15 years since leaving Columbia. The main thrust of anything I talk about regarding my adult life is how accidentally lucky I’ve been; how timing and circumstance have collided to go right, without much planning at all.
Being back after so much time away meant a nostalgia tour of the things that I loved eating and doing, so, to review:
Toasted ravioli (many times) ✔️
Lakota coffee ✔️
Tiger Stripe ice cream ✔️
Chokes ‘n cheese at Flatbranch ✔️
ΠΒΦ house ✔️
Drunkenly leaving wallet at Harpo’s ✔️
(Country Kitchen is closed, so, sadly, that couldn’t happen. Never did get drunk enough for Gumby’s Pokey Sticks, but thought about it.)
Friend Liz, who has a history of gamely going on random weekend trips, is also a Mizzou alum and a former Pi Phi, so she joined me in the trek to the middle of Missouri (and the arduous journey back home, which required extra nights in sad hotels and a lot of time sitting idly on tarmacs).
I can’t express how meaningful it was to be back in Missouri, and have Liz there to enjoy the old haunts together, to marvel at the newness of the student center and rec center (which is basically a five-star resort now), and to share the memories of yesteryear.
I wouldn’t go back in time if you offered, because I did as I said in the speech and inhabited those moments fully when I lived them. But it’s nice to drop in on the past when you can, especially if it involves toasted ravioli.
Shooooooot, if I don’t start speeding it up I’m not going to be able to keep that New Year’s Resolution about blogging a certain number of times a month. One day, the relentlessness of the North Korea beat will end, but not before it ends me, first.
I took a sojourn to the states last week (DC and then New York), which at first was awesome but now that I am back and only sleeping in three hour bursts, and only sometimes at night, my despair is rather acute. My brain feels like a bowl of soggy instant oatmeal. I took very few photos, so there’s really nothing to aid my collapsing memory of many things that happened last week.
There was plenty of patio-drinking, random run-ins in the street and lingering breakfasts. Also: trying our friend Rose’s new restaurant, reunioning, making the rounds of the think tank circuit, speaking about sexism in South Korea to young policy wonks, a comedy show where I discovered the knock-down hilarious Michelle Butreau, a board meeting for Grist and a last minute meetup with Texas friends weekending in New York thanks to Instagram.
In an embarrassment, I set up my friend Matt on a blind date and then ruined my own matchmaking by bringing him to a party the night before the date. At this party he met SOMEONE ELSE that he decided he liked so much that he canceled the date. I am awesome.
Felt a lot of highs and lows and now I’m just feeling really, really exhausted.
A rare confluence of circumstances led to an epic Wednesday night out: My friend Liz (Taylor, natch) was back on her feet after back surgery and really jonesing for fried chicken and doughnuts, my always-entertaining and ever-brilliant friend Michael Maness was in town after his recent month-long hiatus from work and was brimming with stories and rants and, I had nowhere to be besides eating fried chicken and drinking with two insanely fun people. We did some varsity level boozing and got home just before 1am. Consequently, I was in a daze all day, but it was worth it.
Then, my dad came in from Holland! He’s here for the spawn’s first birthday this weekend (god, time flies) and he brought me two gifts that encapsulate a.) how awesome my parents are b.) how well they know me and c.) how much they love me.
Mom sent a liter of 100 proof vodka (50% alcohol), and these amazing Michael Jackson Russian dolls. Because, Michael Jackson Russian dolls.