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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

List of the Missed

Before I left Salt Lake, my old office manager asked me if there was anything about Salt Lake I was going to miss. I said no without hesitation. I may have qualified it by saying I would miss the mountains. But on the whole, I didn't think I was going to miss anything. On the whole, I guess there's really not a whole lot that I do miss, but it turns out I miss a few more things than I predicted I would. Here's the list in no particular order:

(1) Cafe Niche. This is a little coffee shop / bistro cafe / sunday brunch spot / posh wine and cheese dinner joint at 800 E 300 S. I love everything about Cafe Niche. It was literally around the corner from where I used to work, and within walking distance from where I used to live, so I was a frequent patron of the Niche. Their lattes are delicious and cheaper than any of the other coffee shops in Salt Lake. Their quiche is to die for. The sandwiches are unique twists on standard favorites. Their fruit and cheese plate is always good. Their sunday brunch had an amazing french toast in a bread pudding style. God, I miss Cafe Niche! Now, there are a lot of fine places to eat in P-land. Fine places. But there is no Niche.

(2) Late night coffee shops (Roasting Co., Coffee Break, Coffee Connection, et al.). Would you be surprised if I told you that Portland does not harbor a late night coffee shop scene? I would have been surprised if you had told me that before I moved here. I mean, if Salt Lake City has more late night coffee shops than a coffee shop fanatic like me knew what to do with, surely the hip town of Portland would be swimming in them. Not so. All my neighborhood coffee shops (most of which are either Starbucks or Peets [which I do love]) close at around 7:PM or 8:PM. That is precisely the hour that I am thinking a third cup of joe would go really nicely right now, thank you. Now, I guess I should say that I can only really speak with authority about southwest Portland. It is possible that late night coffee shops exist in NW, SE, or NE. But I don't live in those places.

(3) Bosnian Pickles. Before we left Salt Lake, my favorite Bosnian friend had Ian and I over for a visit, and they served us a plate of fabulous European meats and cheeses and some Bosnian pickles. I don't even like pickles, but these were amazing. They were so mild and sweet and tangy, and just perfectly balanced. We did get a jar of them for ourselves before we left town from a Euro deli somewhere out west -- Redwood Road, maybe --, but they are long since digested, though my memory of them lingers. There is a cute little European deli close to us here, and I have looked for the pickles, to no avail. They have other European pickles, but they are not the same. I looked up another Euro deli in town, but when we went over there, they had closed down. That's the jar over there to the left. If you ever see those, buy them immediately. And send them to me.

(4) Bees Baseball. I love watching baseball. Portland had a baseball team in the same minor league as the Salt Lake Bees, but they have left town now. Last summer was their last season, because they kind of lost their place to play now that the Portland Timbers have gone Major League in Soccer and converted the baseball stadium into major league compliant soccer stadium (which I am thrilled about). But I miss my baseball. Ian is not a huge fan of the sport, so it's not a lot of hair off his back. I am planning for us to take the train up to Seattle this summer to catch a Mariners game in order to fill my void.

(5) Mrs. Cavanaugh's Flips/Fluffs. Mrs. Cavanaugh's is a chocolate maker that sells candies at the same rate per pound as solid gold. Or so it seems. But they have a particular candy that is very nostalgic for me. Mrs. C's calls them "Fluffs" and they are made out of that marshmallow fluff stuff coated in chocolate and rolled in toasted coconut bits. My grandfather used to buy them at Christmas time, and he always called them "Flips", so that's what I call them. They are so good. You can order Mrs. Cavanaugh's chocolates online, but for some reason they do not list the Flips online, so once again my desire is just out of reach but within mocking distance.

(6) Monk Honey. In Northern Utah somewhere (exactly where is escaping my mind, but it's North and East of Salt Lake) there is a little modest monastery of Trappist Monks. They keep bees and make delicious honeys. The best, most to die for honey ever, is the Brandy honey, flavored with real brandy. Also excellent is the banana nut honey. I would kill for a jar of this honey right now.

(7) Italian Village. A cult classic in Utah. I once described it as the Italian Dee's. But that really doesn't do justice to the joint, because their food is much better than Dee's. Their decor, on the other hand... well, it could use a little less early 90's flair. But I miss the tossed salads with oil and vinegar dressing. These are my favorite salads in the world. So simple, and so right. And the pizzas are damn good too. Damn it, I miss that stuff.

(You may have noticed that most of the items on this list are food. I am surprised about that, because I still think Utah has crap food on the whole. Crap. I mean crap. But there are gems out there, some of which cannot be easily replaced even in the gastronomically rich town of Portland.)

(8) Acai Frozen Yogurt from Au Naturale in Sugarhouse. It's just so good. I get brain freeze every time I eat it because it's too delicious to eat slowly. No comparison here. We have a lot of self-serve yogurt joints, and they are ok, but they don't have acai flavor, and they overcharge for something I have to fix myself.

(9) Chinese food. There is Chinese food in Portland, but it is all bad. Ok, we recently found a couple establishments that are pretty alright. One is even pretty good. But none of them are even close to things like Canton Village in Salt Lake -- which is admittedly pretty crappy as it is, but so much better than the Chinese food here. I miss this place called Kwan's on South Temple that I was convinced I was keeping in business. Every time we went in, the owner remembered us and said it had been a long time since she'd seen us. I guess now it's been a really long time. In Portland, the best Chinese food is probably Panda Express, which is like saying the best pizza is Little Caesars. I mean, sure, they are good, but Panda is not really Chinese, and Little Caesars is not really pizza. They are both pseudo. There is a P.F. Chang's here, but every time we go in, they ask for our reservation and when we say we don't have one, they tell us the wait is two hours. Seriously? I mean, P.F. Chang's is good, sure, but have you ever had to wait two hours to get into the one in Salt Lake? No, you haven't, because there are plenty of other decent Chinese joints in town.

Those are the things I miss. I may have forgotten a thing or two, but those are the ones that pop up in my head on a regular basis. Of course, my list is glaringly missing any mention of people. But, yes, there are people I miss too. Some quite a lot. Maybe even you.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Things I have been told

I went to the eye doctor today and had my eyes dilated. All day I looked liked a crazy squirrel bent on hoarding some serious nuts, so wild were my eyes.  Anyway, I was told some things about myself during this exam that reminded me of other things I have been told in life. Here's a list:

1) My eye doctor told me my eyes are spaced slightly wider apart than the average person's, and I have slightly larger than normal pupils. Ian says that it's not that my eyes are farther apart than most people's; it's that my head is larger than most people's. I have to agree.

2) My dentist told me I have abnormally large saliva glands under my tongue. He wanted to know if anyone had ever told me that. Who the hell would have ever noticed?

3) My physician's assistant told me my ears are almost a little too clean, if I know what she means (and I really, really don't).

4) My very short-lived 11th grade fling told me my hair was so soft and touchable and would be perfect if only my part weren't so straight. He was the king of back-handed compliments.

5) An old boyfriend once told me I had a very elegant wristwatch, which was so very unusual for my otherwise non-elegant image. Another one of those compliments that would have been better left unsaid.

6) Another old boyfriend once told me I had the cutest stomach. (I can't imagine a time when that ever could have been said truthfully about my stomach, but it still makes me feel good to think about.)

7) An old boss once told me that my work, when she actually gets it, is practically perfect. I kind of want to feel good about that, but I can't get over the time-delay issue. She had never told me she thought I was taking too long on anything, and I wish I had known she had felt that way, because sometimes a little sacrifice in quality is worth increased timeliness. But I am not a mindreader.

8) One of my very best friends in life, before I was sure if we were even friends (because I thought she thought I was some stupid American dummkopf), once said, "Do you want to know what I really think? I think you are a very smart girl." It's one of the only times in my life when I really did feel dumb. But I'm grateful for it.

What have you been told?

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Passion returning

It's nearly 4:AM, I guess technically Sunday morning. It is not all that unusual for me to be up this latearly because of my weird-ass schedule this semester. It's cool, though, because I get to sleep in 5 days a week. Oh the luxury, you say. Yes, yes, but remember, I am up until 4. I don't really sleep any more than you do. Ok, not much more. Maybe a little.

Actually, I usually go to bed sometime in the hour of 2:AM, but this evening I started to get excited reading one of my cases, and then I took it upon myself to post about the case on my online class discussion board (for which I do get participation incentive, but I didn't have to force myself to do it, that's the point; I was actually passionate for once). If you are curious, it was a Supreme Court constitutional case about whether there is a fundamental right to physician-assisted suicide (short answer: no). The thing that excited me about the case was actually a concurring opinion, in which the concept of substantive due process in constitutional law became clearer to me at last.

[Warning, I'm about to geek out for a couple paragraphs; you may be in danger of your eyes glazing over]: Substantive due process is about identifying the types of liberty, property, and life interests that the government is not supposed to deprive you of without due process of law, per the 5th and 14th amendments. The court characterizes your interests as either "fundamental" or not. If fundamental, the court applies a strict scrutiny analysis to any state or federal regulation that impinges upon that interest. When they do strict scrutiny, the governmental regulation usually fails as unconstitutional because it is a high standard to meet (must be a compelling state interest and the regulation must be narrowly tailored toward furthering that interest). If not fundamental, the court applies a rational basis balancing test, weighing your interest against the state's interest in regulating, and all the state has to have is some rational basis connecting its interest to the means it uses to further that interest, and the law is constitutional. That is an easy standard for the state to meet.

Anyway, the caselaw on substantive due process (usually fun issues like abortion, birth control, sodomy, contraceptives, etc., [I just noticed that I listed both birth control AND contraceptives, so don't go pointing it out to me]) usually focuses on trying to identify these fundamental rights, as if there is some abstract fruit tree hanging over our heads with all the fundamental rights dangling down, and we need only pluck them and call them out by name. But in this concurring opinion (Justice Souter in Washington v. Glucksberg, if anyone is interested) Souter characterizes substantive due process as more of the court deciding which issues are properly decided by the courts, and which issues are better left to legislatures and the political process. The backdrop for making this decision is a consideration of our nation's "history and traditions", which is also nebulous and certainly constantly changing, and therefore not that helpful. But to me, that is a much more honest expression of what these kinds of cases are really about than labeling something as a fundamental right. The truth of the matter is that the outcome of a case can easily turn on how the court chooses to characterize the right that is purportedly fundamental. Do you call physician-assisted suicide the right to have someone help you die, or the right to personal autonomy/dignity/bodily integrity? The answer is really that it depends on what our society feels about the subject. If there is a lot of heavy debate, the court will generally let the legislatures and political process duke it out. If things seem pretty settled, the court will call it a fundamental right and suddenly any law going against that is unconstitutional unless it is narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest. We hide behind words and tests and pretenses that there is some absolute right out there that is codified in our constitution. The reality is that what is right today might not have been right yesterday and may not be right tomorrow. I appreciate that the substantive due process theory allows for a kind of flexibility to be applied to the constitutional analyses the court undertakes. I don't think Scalia or Thomas would agree with that sentiment, but that's alright.

So it's really great to feel excited about the law again. I thought for sure it was gone, all the interest I once had. Last semester it seemed like I had dreamed the whole thing up. But no, it was just the shitty classes that sucked my soul and enjoyment away. I really wasn't intending to make this whole post about substantive due process, but I just got excited about it because I feel a little like I see the man behind the curtain suddenly. It's pretty fun to feel that way after feeling so lost for so long.

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