Meditations on a Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrito

I’m thinking about you.

I’m thinking about you, Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrito, even though I finished eating you half an hour ago. The carnage of your cardboard tray remains at my desk, your dried-on, mole-inspired guts stuck to my red plastic spork and the comically ineffective knife I borrowed from the office kitchen.

You are delicious every time, but after half a decade of exploring you inside and out, there’s so much I still don’t understand.

You’ve disappeared a few times. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take it personally. But like my high school sweetheart, you always turned back up as though nothing happened. I hope, for your sake, nothing happened.

Frozen in pairs, you make it difficult to eat just one. To do that, I have to remove your solitary roll from the package, place you on a plate, and try to extrapolate the correct cooking time in the microwave at hand (the directions are for two burritos and stipulate that one leave them in the tray, both reducing the amount of dishes needing to be washed and, I suspect, improving cooking results). I fail most times, creating either a Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrisplosion ™ or a meal with its skin intact but its center just thawed enough to make me not bother microwaving it some more.

Why is your tortilla so flimsy, Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrito? Why do you contain no rice to act as a life preserver while you drown in your incredible sauce? And why are you not in the “Trader Jose’s” line, like so many of your other delightful “Mexican food” friends when you are but an American interpretation of Mexican cuisine? I guess I don’t have all the answers.

Your vegetable choice? Excellent — I love anyone who can rock a broccoli. Your spice blend? Perfect, smoky, faintly tickling my nose’s mucus production. Your ability to be eaten as a burrito should be (with two hands) without tearing through the sides and/or bottom rather than with a knife and fork like some common diner with “manners”? Not that good. You could also use some guacamole.

I think you are delicious, Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrito. I really do. But I have to admit that you are a sad burrito. I’m sorry you are sad, Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrito. I am sad, too.

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Look, canvassers, I get it.

Hi there, clipboard-wielding fellow human trying desperately to get my attention as I stroll along the sidewalk. “You look friendly! Want to talk about puppies?” you might say with a smile. Or maybe you’re more straightforward yet weirdly guilt-tripping: “Can you spare a minute to talk about gay rights?” Here’s the problem: You know and I know we’re not here to talk. And it’s going to take much longer than sixty seconds.

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I fell for it once. New to the Bay Area and lonely, I was heading to the subway after a tedious day toiling away for a company in which I had no friends. I had no social life to speak of whatsoever, in fact, nearly ten months after I’d moved with my long-term boyfriend, and it was god-damned depressing. So when two cute young men (one with a skateboard) accosted me outside the 24 Hour Fitness on 2nd Street to ask whether or not I liked whales, I was elated to speak to a new person in any capacity.

Andy spoke to me of the environment and smacked of worldliness. I was (wrongly) flattered; this was my first encounter with a sidewalk canvasser, and I didn’t know where this interaction was going to lead. I had never heard of Greenpeace’s many whale-related campaigns before, and I listened with rapt attention. I had wondered at first why he and his skater pal were holding clipboards, but I dismissed my concerns by telling myself they were surely trying to sign people up for a mailing list or something similarly innocuous. I’d give them my spam email address and call it a day — no, I’d call it a victory, for finally being looked at and spoken to by a sane, put-together stranger.

When signup time came, I was a bit aghast at the request for a donation.

“Uh, I can give you $20 in cash right now,” I stammered.

“Well, the thing is, you have to really care,” Andy smoothly shot back, “which is why we request a small monthly donation — anything you can spare! — with a credit or debit card.”

“So, like, $5 a month?”

Andy shuffled his feet around and stared into the pavement. “Well, the minimum donation is $15 a month…”

I couldn’t say no, I thought, not after this kind, generous mystery man validated my measly existence. So I signed on the dotted line. At the time, $15 per month seemed a paltry sum, signed away in the heat of the moment to a cause that was not in my top five.

Later, though, when I forged out on my own, moved from Oakland to San Francisco, and had to buy furniture and learn how to budget, this $15 a month became the difference between breaking even or overdrawing, incurring scads of fees. I calculate my inadvertent donations to Greenpeace and my bank before I gained the guts to cancel the subscription to be more than $1,000.

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Look, sidewalk canvassers, I get it. You are young and/or idealistic, and you want to feel like you’re making a positive change in the world. Perhaps you took this job because it’s the only way you’ve found to support yourself in this economy as it flops, flails, and gasps its last breaths on the deck of the New World Order. Or maybe, like me, you’re lonely, and you just want to rub some words from your mouth against someone’s absorptive brain. I’ve been in all of those places.

Please don’t act like I’m a heartless bitch. Don’t emit an exasperated sigh if I shake my head and keep walking. Don’t try to high-five me if I lie and tell you I just signed up with one of your colleagues yesterday. Don’t hold it against me that I will walk up to two blocks out of my way to avoid your line of fire.

I care about your causes. I think they are doing great things. I know that without you, their funding would dry up in mere moments. My urgency to get to the sandwich shop on my lunch break does not trump the legitimacy of your respective organizations’ issues. I’d love to talk about them, if that was all we did — just talking — rather than you guilting me into a monetary prison sentence that, left unchecked, would drive me, too, into sidewalk canvassing… for the Feed Sarah Fund.

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The year of being honest with myself

I need to be fed at regular intervals, wearing ridiculous hats, or I get cranky.

I’m 27. I don’t believe that “old” starts till at least 50, but I am too old to keep living a lie. Or, a bunch of lies, really. Many situations I’ve encountered so far this year have forced me to have a series of small epiphanies about myself, my world, my lifestyle. Whether I admit I don’t want to donate to Greenpeace or I realize I ought to remove my navel piercing, I’m old enough that I don’t feel embarrassed admitting the truth. Here’s a taste:

I don’t like green juice. I don’t like a lot of healthy things, such as barley and most fruit, but I spent a stint as a raw foodist, an experiment that nearly killed me. I love food now, but it was a joyless existence then — green juice, “energy soup” (avocado, sprouts, greens, rejuvelac, seaweed, garlic, probably some other things, blended to a barflike consistency), salads… I’ve learned I need fried things and creamy things to be happy.

I need to wear dresses. They don’t squeeze my ever-expanding middle like jeans do (I said I love food), and I don’t have to worry about matching tops with bottoms. I guess the goal now is to have some nice-ish dresses and not 1,000000000000000 cheap, wrinkled cotton sacks from Forever 21. I’ve learned I want to be taken seriously.

I’m not growing out my hair. ”I’ll totally style it,” I lie to myself every time. “I’ll learn to braid, and it’ll look really good.” WRONG: As soon as it gets long enough to put it in a ponytail, I’ll put it in a ponytail every day forever. The fact remains I’m lazy; I’m not going to blow-dry my hair or spend a lot of time combing and twisting and curling and whatnot. I’ve learned even when I do complete those arduous tasks, it doesn’t look as good on me as a shorter style that I can wash and wear.

I’m not a very good cook. Can I follow a recipe? Sure, it’s like assembling Ikea furniture: Just follow the directions step by step. But I don’t know how to cook off the cuff or how to mix up all our about-to-rot veggies in an appetizing way. I’ve learned I don’t know a lot of basic techniques, either. Like, what is “braising”?

I’m not a hippie. I don’t even know how to relax like a human. I don’t like yoga. I can’t communicate with my own cats, much less the earth. More power to people who can. I’ve learned it just doesn’t appeal to me enough to endure the pain of acquiring a taste for it.

I love bad music. I mean, I don’t think it’s bad, but I sure get lots of eye rolls from strangers when I’m rolling down the sidewalk rapping along to JJ Fad’s “Supersonic” playing through my headphones. Katy Perry, Soundgarden, the Vandals, and En Vogue are a far cry from anything considered “cool” these days. At least, I think. This might be cool again, but I’m pretty sure my friends are sick of coming to my house so we can listen to my ’90s playlist on Spotify. I’ve learned I don’t have to pretend to like the Lens Protectors or Merry Quite Contrary — or even know who they are.

And that’s the short list. Have any to add?

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The best baby names from the cheese industry

Searching for a “unique” name to bestow upon your spawn? You’re not alone. To keep your youngster from getting lost in a sea of Jaydens and Averys, look no further than the world of cheese.

Girls:

Boys:

  • Roquefort
  • Fynbo, Danbo, or Tybo (very easy to nickname)
  • Caseus
  • Herve
  • Croque-monsieur (it has “mister” right in the name, you see)
  • Rodoric
  • Marcellin
  • Tomme
  • Fondue (you can call him Dewy)
  • D’Whey

Unisex:

  • Colby
  • Anari
  • Monterey
  • Dil
  • Roumy
  • Urnebes
  • Edam
  • Korall
  • Bluvayne
  • Pule (it’s like naming your kid Diamond, but tastier)
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10 New Year’s resolutions I didn’t make

The Ghost of New Year's Resolutions Past

The beginning of the new year is a perfect time to think about changing your life for the better. I prefer to set a simple goal or two (previously, each New Year has heralded a resolve to find a new job before its end, for example), but I am no stranger to attempts to make sweeping changes to my life. Here are 10 I didn’t make this Jan. 1:

  • Take up running (again).
  • Write the Great American Novel, or its lesser-known cousin, the Passable Indianan-turned-Californian-and-aspiring-future-Seattleite Novel.
  • Capture each food memory on Instagram. Every. Last. One.
  • Quit doing nangs.
  • Toilet-train the cats, or at least Baroness. That one already loves the bathroom.
  • Live each day like it’s my last (LYLASBAWLM).
  • Win a donut-eating contest.
  • Win a bacon-eating contest.
  • Win a sneaker-eating contest.
  • Get a new couch (just kidding, I am totally doing this).
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8 things I do not remember putting in my Netflix queue

Pig Hunt
A guys-only hunting weekend dissolves into insanity when the boys run up against fields of marijuana, crazed hicks, a hippie commune, a 3,000-pound killer boar and other high jinks in this unpredictable horror comedy.

World’s Greatest Dad
After his son dies in an awkward freak accident, high school poetry teacher Lance ghostwrites a suicide note to spare the family embarrassment. But when the note becomes an unexpected hit, Lance sees a chance to resurrect his writing career.

Mesrine: Part 1: Killer Instinct
This blistering biopic stars Vincent Cassel as notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine. The first in a duology, the film details the genesis of Mesrine’s career, including an incident in the army that gave him his first taste of violent power.

Where Are All the UFOs?
Through first-person accounts, archival footage and shocking photographs, this program probes the controversial topic of UFOs, a subject that gained immense popularity after a pilot spotted a formation of flying disks over Washington state in 1947.

Thor
In this Marvel Comics-inspired action flick, thunder god Thor finds himself banished by his father, Odin, and forced to live among humans on Earth to learn humility. Can Thor regain his powers and return home?

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
Ayn Rand’s controversial bestseller is the basis for this potent drama about Dagny Taggart, a fiercely independent railroad tycoon determined to use innovative technology and enterprising partners to revive her business, no matter the personal cost.

Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia: IMAX
Donald Sutherland narrates this larger-than-life IMAX production that explores the history, evolution and extinction of the dinosaurs. Travel to the Patagonia region of South America to witness some of paleontology’s most amazing discoveries.

Season of the Witch
In 14th-century Europe, a courageous knight leads a group of weary warriors across impossibly treacherous terrain in order to transport a suspected witch believed to be responsible for spreading the devastating Black Plague.

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A drinking game for outdoor music festivals

Drink if you encounter…

  • cultural misappropriation (Indigenous headdresses, bindi, harem pants, etc.)
  • a dude in a tank top
  • a dude in no shirt at all
  • a contact high
  • a portapotty with toilet paper
  • a girl wearing cutoffs and cowboy boots (two drinks if tights are involved)

Take a shot if you come across…

  • a conversation containing “It’s all about the music for me”
  • a conversation containing “I just wanna DANCE!”
  • your ex
  • a barefoot person dancing
  • Rambo
  • a t-shirt from another outdoor music festival

Go to the bottle if…

  • you see more than one of your exes
  • a stranger succeeds in giving you a high five
  • a beach ball hits you in the head
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A brief etiquette guide for buying and selling on Craigslist

Read the ad. Often, the questions you have about the item being offered are answered by the ad. “What size is the bed?” you ask. Do a quick skim for words like “twin,” “full,” “queen,” or even just “size.” No one wants to enter a financial exchange with a person who can’t read.

Don’t be an entitled jerk. When writing an ad, there’s no need to say things like “I will not respond to anyone who asks me if the item is still available” or “I will only sell to someone who will stay for dinner” or my personal favorite, “I will not respond to emails” (hello, you are on the internet). But this can go both ways: Don’t email presuming that this person wants to sell to you. Try saying “please” and “thank you” and heck, simply spelling words properly. Manners go a long way, you will see.

Communicate. That means responding to emails and clearing your voicemail if you ask people to call. If you’re going to be late to pick up the item, let a sister know, OK?

Don’t flake. If you email a buyer 10 minutes before you’re supposed to show up to say that sorry, you got caught up with work and cannot come to view or pick up the item at that time or ever, anyone can tell you’re lying. When you email the same person “anonymously” via Craigslist the very next day about another item they’re selling, they’re going to remember your record.

Don’t ghost. Email once with a question or an information tidbit and then disappear? Exchange a few emails, but when the time comes to set a meeting, drop off the face of the earth? Not cool, dude. I know you have commitment issues, but if you’ve changed your mind, just say, “I’ve changed my mind.” They’ll understand. It’s so easy!

Don’t Internet-stalk people who are just trying to have an ordinary goods-for-cash exchange. Normal human relationships eventually involve a certain amount of Googling. But Craigslist is not a place for normal human relationships. Don’t call multiple times, ask the same questions over and over, and comment on the website of your potential buyer or seller. If you do, don’t be surprised when you get an email saying that oops, the item is no longer available and a TRO has been filed.

Don’t post pictures of your penis. You’re welcome.

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Potential titles for memoirs, treatises, and autobiographies

This is a list in progress.

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ALL OF THE KITTENS

At Least I Have the Apostrophe

Beer in My Hair: Reflections on America

Just Trying to Get Married, LOL?

The End of Garlic

No, Seriously, ALL OF THE KITTENS

Lyfe on the Wyld Syde

MODERN TECHNOLOGY: No Typewriters Allowed

Sandwich by Sandwich

FOREVER 99: or, How I Learned to Stop Hating Fashion and Start Loving When Things Don’t Have Holes in Them

An Examination of Straws

My Astral Pregnancy

2Bizzy4Romance

On Eating Bugs by Accident

Biblical Knowing: With a Vengeance

Is This Really Life at the Outpost?

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10 things to do when you’re sick

1. Make a hot cup of herbal tea. Wonder whether your upstairs neighbors have a child or a particularly heavy Chihuahua.

2. Prick open a capsule of Nyquil. Squeeze out the liquid and spread it onto your cuticles because hey, why not?

3. Let dirty dishes pile up until a family of raccoons moves in. Then provide shredded newspaper for them to build nests and raise babies. Remember to keep your Theraflu out of reach.

4. Brainstorm titles for your reality television show. My working title is “1,000 Cats Later.”

5. Have conversations with commercials. “No, I don’t need another reason to call.” “Yes, your ‘Jumbaco’ idea was moronic.” “Wow, that is reasonably priced.”

6. Open a can of soup. Pour it into a microwavable dish. Slurp it up cold because it’s been days since you ate anything besides Hall’s and you just can’t wait any longer, god damn it.

7. Use your arms to drag your limp, phlegm-soaked body to the closet in search of a pair of clean underwear. This should take the better part of a day.

8. Have lucid nightmares about the Snuggles fabric softener teddy bear. You’d think there’d be a lot less blood, for his size.

9. Run a bath, and light some nice-smelling candles nearby. Forget you had done that and fall asleep on the rug. The bath water will act as a natural extinguisher of the inevitable fire.

10. If you do make it into the bath before the water gets cold or your house burns down, put your face in the water and inhale. If it doesn’t clear your sinuses, it will make your situation more comfortable.

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