Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekly Dig: Paul O'Connell of Chez Henri defends himself

This was my first foray into the "Defend Yourself" feature at the Dig (affectionately called the "Def Yo" by staffers). The premise: you ask someone important a few ridiculous questions, and ideally they hand you some ridiculous answers.

This was tough for me, as like Joan Didion, I would say I am "neurotically inarticulate" when it comes to interviewing. My rambling, friendly conversational style doesn't lend itself well to direct transcription. I like to get to know a person, like to find something in common, and then move in with my questions, which are usually vague and basic. I do my fair share of ribbing, but it doesn't all come together coherently in a neat, entertaining way. I don't tend to cover a variety of topics, or ask questions that are designed more for the reader's edification than for my own curiosity. I generally just say whatever I have to say to facilitate the continued rambling of my subject, then get out of the way. Put another way, I allow the line out as far as it needs to go in the stream of conversation, and eventually it snags on something interesting, and I capture it. But sometimes it can take a long while.

So a 250-word interview where I'm required to interrogate and ridicule my subject in 5 questions or less is quite a challenge. But Paul O., the chef at Chez Henri, performed admirably. He was in a good mood for this kind of interview -- that is to say, slightly combative and cranky -- and said several funny, candid things.

One of my favorite parts of this interview was actually cut out. We got on to the subject of rugby early on, and later he mentioned that he was meeting a few female chef friends for dinner later in the evening (I won't mention their names, but they're famous in certain circles). I asked him if they were going to play rugby, and if so, would he let them win?

"I'd let them tackle me, all three at once," he said, and I could almost see him grinning. "And I'd enjoy every minute of it."

Weekly Dig: Buying the Farm

In the midst of my book-writing frenzy, I had to stop and take the time to write about community-supported agriculture. Early spring is the time to sign up for a share with a local farm, and one has to act fast before they sell out. Under the typical CSA system, folks can support a farm and receive a year's supply of produce for a few hundred dollars. Pretty cool. Unfortunately, I did not have the capital on hand to throw down for a CSA myself, nor did I have the guaranteed transportation or time that I would likely need to pick it up from the drop-off location near me every week. But I hope to have a CSA share in the future (as well as a few of my own chickens, but that's more of a long-term goal).

[The full story is here.]

Weekly Dig: Sweat Dreams

This was a story that Christine and I did earlier this year on intense, unusual workouts around Boston. It came after I laid out a conditioning plan for myself that involved me trying almost every "free" or discount trial in the city, from the 3-day newcomer's gym pass at Healthworks to the free week of yoga at Bikram Yoga Boston. Obviously, this is a feature that almost every publication riffs on around New Year's, and before we could run the funny bit about Bikram (an experience I found to be energizing but wholly bizarre), the Improper jumped on it. So we settled on these 4 workouts, complete with photos. I have yet to get the photos which ran in the print issue -- our photog Derek shot me pummelling a speed bag at The Ring Boxing Club and wobbling to and fro in Dancer's pose at Baptiste Power Yoga -- but if I do get them I'll post them here (they're pretty funny).

[click here to read full story]

Q2 updates: work, love, life

Recently, many businesses moved into "Q2". The first quarter of the year is over; the beginning-of-the-year goals have either been accomplished or pragmatically revised; we are all looking forward to the wonderful things we plan to do in the spring and summer. At my day job with Go2 Media, this means taking big steps toward becoming one of the best media sites on mobile - a very worthy goal, but one that will take a lot of work. More importantly, this very modern American time distinction seems to coincide nicely with the ancient changing of the seasons, and with the unavoidably joyful sensation of awakening that comes with warmer temperatures, flowers pushing up through the hard earth, and green shoots everywhere. This sudden blossoming underscores the idea that real change, positive change, is possible.

Luckily one of my "Q1" goals was not "write in my blog every day", because I haven't come close. I have been writing almost every day, however -- I started off the year with a major book project that I turned in last month, and I'm incredibly proud of myself. I'm so grateful for the lessons I took away from this process -- I learned to better manage my time, do research efficiently, manage expectations with an editor, work with multiple publicists on a project, and juggle both a full-time job and part-time gig. It makes me feel confident that I can take on another book project in the future with competence. More details on this first book when I can get them (i.e. publication date, artwork, etc.)

Also, starting in January, I've been working with my girl Christine to do some fun features -- mostly food-related -- for the Weekly Dig. It's been going well. I've been remiss in not adding them to my blog in a timely fashion -- but I expect to be able to keep up with this going forward. While I'm sure that my day job will be requiring much more of me this spring and summer, I hope to keep up with my various writing projects, and plan to continue to write for the Dig, and to contribute to another guide or two this spring.

I'm hesitant to verbalize some of my other bigger goals - having to do with where I'd like to take my writing, and where I'd like to take my person in the coming year - because I'm still weighing my options and learning more about myself every day. I'm moving into a period of my life where I feel much more in control of what happens to me - which has, ironically, allowed me to relax a bit more when it comes to making Big Life Plans.

It's funny -- last year, I thought that moving ahead in my yoga practice meant learning to do a headstand. Now, I realize that most of the work I had to do was mental and emotional. I had to let a few old inflexible ideas and unhealthy feelings go, shore up areas of my heart that needed protection and strength, and discipline my mind so that I could find calmness amidst anxiety and exhaustion. This lesson is far from over, but I am moving forward. (However, it is still exciting that, after four years of practice, I can now do a Crow pose!)

I am also approaching some key milestones in my personal life this spring. My one-year anniversary with my company came along a few months ago, and I received a raise - rare at my strapped-for-cash company, but important in the minds of my bosses, as it allowed them to validate a year of hard work. My four-year anniversary with Roger, my wonderful partner, lover and friend, is today (!) and we are going to see the Red Sox play against the Yankees (this has special significance for us). I am also going to turn another year older on May 13 (not telling how old).

These events are proof that I have survived, that we have survived. Roger and I have spent much of today reflecting on exactly what we have been through - from graduating school to starting a career to launching a business to adopting a dog we adore, while commemorating the passing of a few incredibly important individuals and lamenting the loss of a few important relationships -- and why we still love to be together.

It is Q2. It is a new season. We are alive. And we are moving forward!